Flushable Wipes Create $16000 Plumbing Repairs Bills

Flushable Wipes Create $16000 Plumbing Repairs Bills

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.

Whywait Plumbing flushable wipes blocking drainsAs 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.

flushable wet wipes blocking drains cleared by Whywait PlumbingBut 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.

Whywait Plumbing flushable wipesCHOICE 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. 

Flushable Wipes Win “Shonky Award” from CHOICE

Flushable Wipes Win “Shonky Award” from CHOICE

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.

Whywait Plumbing supports the Choice campaign against flushable wipesIt 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

Whywait Plumbing campaign against flushable wipesAs 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.

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