Public Officials: Don't Flush Anything But Toilet Paper

Mar 15, 2020

Products other than toilet paper can clog the pipes, but it can be hard to find toilet paper right now.
Credit Pixabay

There aren't many places to get toilet paper right now thanks to stockpiling in response to COVID-19. Some people are having to use alternative products, like baby wipes, facial tissue, and paper towels - but not all paper products are made the same and flushing something besides toilet paper can cause plumbing problems.

"They absorb water, they don't break apart, and they actually meet up with other items in the sewer system and they can clog your pipes," Beth Andress at the Casper Public Services Department said. "You [can] get a clog in the toilet where you're going out to plunger it, you [can] get a clog later down your line possibly backing where your sewer hits the main for the city sewer system or it could actually lead to mainline backup."

Despite what some labels might claim, Adness said only toilet paper is made to dissolve in water. Other products may go down your toilet, but they're not designed to dissolve. All non-toilet paper products should be thrown in the trash.

You can also test a product to see if it will dissolve in water by putting it in a mason jar of water and shaking it around. If it starts to break apart and look like confetti, it should be okay to send down the toilet.

"We've been doing this campaign for four or five years now, but we really want to get the message out because there is a shortage of toilet paper," Andree said. "And at some point, you may not have a choice and have to use something else, and we just want to make sure that people don't have to call a plumber or have a sewer backup because they don't have a choice in what they're using. So don't let one problem lead to the next problem."

Public health officials say stockpiling toilet paper isn't necessary.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.