Imagine life without a toilet.

Pretty bad, right? These unsung heroes save the day with every flush. But what exactly can you flush down the toilet? When we flush things that we shouldn’t, they can clog the pipes in our home as well as sewer systems. They can also find their way into waterbodies when combined sewer systems overflow.

During the novel coronavirus outbreak, it can be especially tough to know what to flush. Face masks? Rubber gloves? Tissues? Paper towels? Disinfectant wipes?

You’ve heard of “Will It Blend?”, now get ready for “Will It Flush?”

Disclaimer: Do not take this as a personal challenge to see how many non-flushable items you can send down the drain unless you want to be dealing with a clogged toilet right now.

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have enough to worry about without adding sewer system backups to the list. If sewage blocks cause flooding, emergency services may be pulled away from other important work.

Wipes that were raked off a bar grate in a lift station in Eagan, MN. Photo by MPCA photos

So, what can you flush down the toilet?

The simple answer is that toilets are for human waste and toilet paper–that’s it. Always adhere to the ‘5-P’ rule, and only flush the following five things down the toilet:

1. Pee
2. Poop
3. Puke
4. Period blood (but not pads or tampons)
5. (toilet) Paper

If you’re flushing anything other than the ‘5-Ps’ down your pipes, you can clog sewer systems and contaminate our environment and waterbodies.

Here’s a special COVID-19 edition of “Will It Flush?”

Can you flush face masks?

No! Face masks may keep COVID-19 out of respiratory systems, but flushing these masks isn’t healthy for sewer systems and ecosystems. Dispose of them in the garbage.

Photo by De an Sun

Can I flush rubber gloves?

No! Hand your rubber gloves over to the garbage when you’re done with them. You definitely don’t want them gripping the sides of your pipes and clogging your toilet or ending up in a sea turtle’s stomach.

Can I flush tissues and paper towels?

No! Tissues and paper towels are chemically treated so they do not break down in sewer systems like toilet paper does. Tissues cause issues when they build up in the drains. Throw them out in the garbage.

Photo by sweetlouise

Can I flush disinfectant wipes?

No! Wipes (even ‘flushable’ ones) can clog sewers. The wipes will eventually disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces, but they never truly disappear. Their synthetic fibres (like rayon or viscose) accumulate in our waterbodies. Wipe away ocean pollution along with germs by putting your wipes in the garbage.

What else won’t flush?

All types of wipes, such as:

  • Baby wipes
  • Makeup wipes
  • Flushable wipes
  • Cotton swabs and cotton pads
  • Photo by Kelly Sikkema

    Feminine hygiene products, such as:

  • Pads
  • Tampons and applicators
  • Diva cups
  • Medications, such as:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Birth control
  • Painkillers or other pills
  • Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko

    And also:

  • Dental floss
  • Bandaids
  • Condoms
  • Contact lenses
  • Cigarettes
  • Diapers
  • Hair
  • Cat litter
  • Remember your ‘5-Ps’ now more than ever, and when in doubt, throw it out.

    More Articles Like This

    Swim Guide
    is supported by
    * The RBC Foundation

    Swim Guide shares the best information we have at the moment you ask for it. Always obey signs at the beach or advisories from official government agencies. Stay alert and check for other swimming hazards such as dangerous currents and tides. Please report your pollution concerns so Affiliates can help keep other beach-goers safe.

    Swim Guide, "Swim Drink Fish icons," and associated trademarks are owned by SWIM DRINK FISH CANADA.| See Legal.

    © SWIM DRINK FISH CANADA, 2011 - 2022