Flushable wipes are an environmental nightmare which is what I termed them in September 2015 when we here at Whywait Plumbing were seeing a horrendous increase in blocked drains.
At the same time, consumer advocacy group CHOICE published the results of their dirty testing of “flushable” wipes and cleaning cloths in their testing labs. CHOICE came to the same conclusions that plumbers had long learnt and that was that “flushable” wipes were in most cases NOT FLUSHABLE.
Last year we promoted to Whywait Plumbing clients to join the CHOICE campaign to get rid of “flushable” claims on products that aren’t safe to flush.
The worst offender in everyone’s eyes was the Kleenex brand. In fact, the website for Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths For Kids claimed that the cloths break up in the sewerage system like toilet paper. As a result of this claim, CHOICE put it to the test and found that while toilet paper dissolves in a few minutes but the Kleenex wipes held together for over 21 hours.
Kleenex has responded to the CHOICE campaign by releasing an allegedly new and improved “flushable” wipes product. As a result, CHOICE has tested this new product and found nothing has changed. Kleenex new flushable wipes will still block your drains because they do not disintegrate like toilet paper.
CHOICE is now advocating that you don’t let your friends and family get caught by Kleenex and here’s what you can do:
1. Share on Facebook
2. Share on Twitter
When the CHOICE lab tests were widely published in all media last year, and the false Kleenex claims were exposed it sent a strong message to Kleenex. In fact, the message was so strong they apparently felt they needed to reinvent their “flushable” wipes.
But as CHOICE testing has found the “NEW” wipes are nowhere good enough to be considered safe to flush down your toilet. They are NOT FLUSHABLE, and they certainly do not disintegrate like toilet paper. As CHOICE states companies such as Kleenex need to deliver on their promises and should be prohibited from selling products that mislead consumers.
These Not-so-flushable Kleenex wipes put your homes sewer drains at risk of blockage still. As a community, we can and need to get these falsely marketed products off the supermarket shelves. That is why I urge you to tell your friends and family about the dangers of these dodgy Kleenex products to help keep your house drains, and the City of Gold Coast sewer drains flowing.
Like every other Gold Coast plumber, we here at Whywait Plumbing are seeing a horrendous increase in blocked drains due to the skyrocketing popularity of so-called “flushable” wipes. The term “flushable” is a catchy phrase and a favourite sales pitch presenting an image of convenience and hygiene.
But the reality of what happens to flushable wipes once they are flushed down a toilet pan is that they do not dissolve like toilet paper.
In fact, they remain intact, and these pieces of non-woven fabric when regularly used are blocking toilets, blocking house drains and blocking the City of Gold Coast sewer system.
It is gratifying to see local media taking the lead and highlighting the absolute disaster that flushable wipes are to our local Gold Coast environment. In a recent interview with Robyn Wuth that I did for the story “Gold Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant Wiped Out Once A Week” which was published in the weekly Gold Coast Sun and online at the Gold Coast Bulletin I was accurately quoted as saying wipes are an “environmental nightmare”.
Frustratingly for many businesses such as restaurants the increase in customers using their toilets and flushing wipes down the toilet has seen an increase in the number of blocked drains they are experiencing. For many businesses, the repeated flushing of wipes has resulted in costly and inconvenient consequences.
The photo on the left clearly illustrates the problem where the toilets were all blocked at a Gold Coast McDonalds restaurant. Retrieving them in this instant was critical as they had created an interwoven tail of toilet paper held together with flushable wipes from the blocked toilet all the way into the sewer drains.
Wet wipes or disposable wet wipes are a new phenonium having only gained popularity in the last ten years. The early versions of these wipes were slow to gain widespread acceptance until manufacturers re-introduced them for a broader range of applications other than being just baby wipes.
Now they are available for multiple cleaning and hygiene tasks in the home and in workplaces with them being packaged in convenient carry cases that fit into handbags, glove boxes etc. and as a result, their popularity has skyrocketed.
Frustratingly for ourselves and many Gold Coast plumbers, the durability of new generation wipes has seen blockages increase as the disposable wet wipes now come with confusing names. As you can in the photo on the right, they collect together in a drain very quickly and are a nightmare for us to remove in commercial high rise buildings.
Sadly flushable is assumed to mean biodegradable to consumers who love their convenience. As a result, when wipes are flushed down the toilet, there is a misleading assumption that the wipe will be the same as toilet paper and dissolve.
For many of our clients flushable means just that, until the problems begin from repeated flushing of wipes. If they are lucky they only experience a toilet blockage but often it is a complete blocked drain that would never have occurred but for those appallingly named flushable wipes which are in reality non-flushable.
Trust me the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces. If you wish to continue flushing wet wipes or flushable wipes in all their forms down your toilet, then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner.
Flushable wipes or wet wipes are creating havoc all over Australia with the cost of removing them from the main city sewer systems and sewer treatment plants now exceeding $15 million. This does not include the cost to individual property owner where the cost of repairs ranges from $500 up to $16000.
As you can see in the photo to the right the flushable wipes travel all the way through the city sewer system. Along the way, they block sewer pipes, pump stations and manholes costing ratepayers money that could be better spent on other services. This photographically illustrates the huge “fatbergs” of flushable wipes that have to be physically removed from sewer treatment plants.
Commercial building owners, restaurants, apartment blocks and factories are all having to post signs warning people not to flush flushable wet wipes down toilets.
Flushable wipes come in many guises and are available for multiple cleaning and hygiene tasks in the home and in workplaces. Unfortunately for our sewer drains they are now being packaged in convenient carry cases that fit into handbags, glove boxes and even school bags. As a result of their convenience, their popularity has skyrocketed.
For many homeowners, the repeated flushing of wipes has resulted in costly and inconvenient consequences. A simple blockage may only cost around $500 to clear.
But there have been numerous reports of these flushable wet wipes “fatbergs” so badly blocking household sewer drains as can be seen in the photo on the left that the only way to remove them is to excavate and remove the damaged section of the drain. The cost to excavate drains quickly runs into $1000’s of dollars with reports of $16000 plumbing repair bills not being uncommon.
Gold Coast Water like all of the nation’s water utilities is battling to warn people not to flush the badly named flushable wet wipes down their toilets. Around 70% of blockages in Gold Coast Water pump stations are now caused by not-so-flushable wet wipes.
The repeated warnings come as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched an investigation into whether the marketing of wet wipes as “flushable” is misleading consumers.
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has been raising the alarm bells for the last year over not-so-flushable wet wipes. Last year they particularly highlighted the very popular Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths For Kids which still held together after 21 hours of agitation in their testing lab.
The CHOICE campaign was so successful that the Kleenex has now introduced a new “flushable” wipes and again CHOICE has tested the reformulated Kleenex CleanRipple Flushable Wipes. And despite all the claims by Kleenex, the CHOICE tests found the CleanRipple wipe failed to fully disintegrate after an hour in an agitator. In comparison, toilet paper continually dissolved in a few minutes as its designed to do.
CHOICE state, “Although the new ones break down faster and are an improvement, we argue they are not entirely safe to flush and we still believe they pose a blockage threat.”
Giant multi-national Kimberly-Clark the manufacturer of Kleenex CleanRipple Flushable Wipes state that the claims made by CHOICE were disappointing as both its new paper-based and previous generation flushable wipes met “widely accepted industry guidelines”. Although no one can show approvals for these guidelines.
Even the Kleenex website puts up a smoke screen where it states Kleenex flushable wipes are “only suitable for use in properly maintained sewerage systems and commercial septic systems” and to “flush a maximum of two wipes at a time”.
Currently, the Water Services Association of Australia, (WSAA) is developing a standard for safe “flushable” wipes. However, until that standard has been completed there is no Australian Standard or industry guideline that could allow any manufacturer to market or endorse their flushable wet wipes as FLUSHABLE down your toilet.
I can only repeat what I have said many times and that is the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces. If you wish to continue flushing wet wipes in all their forms down your toilet then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner as you will need the benefits.
We were happy and astounded that we received so much positive feedback about our September newsletter and blog on flushable wipes being an environmental disaster.
A few people felt the photos were a bit too graphic. But let me assure you there is no other way of illustrating what a flushable wipe looks like that is blocking up a drain or toilet.
It was gratifying to see that a week after I wrote the newsletter about the disasters being caused by flushable wipes that Choice announced their 2015 “Shonky Awards” with Kleenex flushable wipes being one of the 8 “winners”.
Like every other plumber worldwide we at Whywait Plumbing are continuing to see a horrendous increase in blocked drains due to the sky-rocketing popularity of these so-called “flushable” wet wipes.
Unfortunately, the term “flushable” is a catchy phrase and a favourite sales pitch presenting an image of convenience and hygiene with the wipes being flushed down the toilet.
But the reality remains that the flushable wipes, once they are flushed down a toilet pan, do not dissolve like toilet paper. They stay intact, and these pieces of non-woven fabric when regularly used are blocking toilets, blocking house drains and blocking the City of Gold Coast sewer system.
It is positive that Choice has continued with their action to stop the sale of ipes labelled “flushable” by producing a very informative and graphic video titled “Flushable wipes – Are they flushable?”
But the facts are that flushable is assumed to mean biodegradable by consumers who love their convenience. As a result, when wipes are flushed down the toilet, there is a misleading assumption that the wipe will be the same as toilet paper and dissolve.
In fact, Choice surveyed 1679 Australians in July and asked: “If a pack of disposable wet wipes is labelled as ‘flushable’, would you expect the wipes to not cause any blocking or clogging of the toilet?”
As we would expect 73% of those surveyed answered yes with 67% saying that they would expect flushable wet wipes to disintegrate “like toilet paper”.
Choice, as you can see in the video, put the flushable product claims to the test. They used an agitation device designed to provide an environment similar to your sewer drain system.
Choice put 12 brands of wet wipes made up of 11 which were labelled as “flushable” and one that was labelled “do not flush” into the agitator along with standard 4-ply toilet paper. The agitator then ran for six hours.
The brands Choice tested that were labelled as ‘flushable’:
- Sorbent Clean and Fresh Wipes
- Sorbent Flushable Wipes – Kids
- Kleenex Cottonelle Cleansing Cloths
- Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths for Kids
- Confidence Adult Wipes
- Woolworths Select Flushable Toilet Wipes
- Coles Bathroom and Toilet Wipes
- White King Flushable Bathroom Wipes
- Vagisil Feminine Flushable Wipes
- Harpic White and Shine Flushable Toilet Wipes
- Naty by Nature Babycare Flushable Wipes
As expected the toilet paper started to break up within 90 seconds, then disintegrated entirely as required. All that was left was milky opaque water.
But all the wipes remained completely intact with no sign of them breaking up or losing any strength.
Choice is now running a campaign asking you to be a flush buster and wipe misleading claims off supermarket shelves. Click on the link below to register your support.
Trust me the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces.
I can only repeat if you wish to continue flushing wet wipes in all their forms down your toilet then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner.