The #1 Thing You Should Never Buy, According to a Plumber

published Jul 29, 2022
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Toddlers standing by toilet next to wooden vanity with wicker baskets
Credit: Shutterstock

A couple months ago I had to call the professional that a homeowner never wants to have on speed-dial: A sewer guy. (Yes, shudder with me.) The sewer line to our old 1920s bungalow was thoroughly blocked, which we discovered in ways that were dramatic and not appropriate for any kind of public disclosure. I’ll spare you but if you’ve been through this, you get it.

When our knight-in-shining-armor — ahem, I mean sewer professional — arrived, he immediately told my husband one thing: “It’s probably wipes.”

He meant “flushable” wipes, the wipes that nearly every parent buys at some point to wipe a baby’s bum or clean up after toddler messes. “Flushable” wipes (the quotation marks here are heavy with pregnant meaning) are responsible, I’ve learned, for a great deal of the average plumber and sewer professional’s daily work. According to our sewer guy, there’s actually no such thing as a flushable wipe.

Now, this did prompt a little indignant defensiveness from me, because I was fortunate to learn early on that flushable wipes are not a thing. Why is this? “Flushable” wipes may flush OK down your toilet, but they don’t decompose or flush well through the rest of your waste system. Instead, they tend to build up in pipes and systems, creating huge clogged masses that eventually manifest as a backed up sewer.

It doesn’t matter whether you live in an old house with a delicate plumbing ecosystem like ours, or in a brand-new build with robust pipes. Wipes are for the trash, not the potty.

But this is not apparently common-enough knowledge, hence this PSA-style post for all parents out there in the Target aisle pondering the possibility of easily-flushable wipes. All you need to do is ask your friendly local plumber, or scan Reddit’s r/Plumbing community. You’ll find gruesome photos (click at your own risk) under headlines like Flushable wipes my Ass! Sunday night plugged toilet call….turned into this 4 hrs later. Or the horror show video under the headline of FYI “flushable wipes” are not flushable. The first comment just reads: “Bread and butter.”

So parents, take it direct from plumbers: Flushable wipes are not a thing unless you would also like to be a plumber’s bread and butter. I’m all for supporting our local economy, but not like that.

Our sewer story came to an educational ending (wipes were not involved, but we do need to flush our lines more often). And take it from us here at Cubby: we will tell you all the things you need and will love as a new parent, but you’ll never find flushable wipes on the list.

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