January 8, 2021

It’s a terrible idea to flush “flushable” wipes

Throw them in the trash. Your plumbing will thank you. So will the Medical Center’s.

Maze of metal pipes background

VUMC has 1,580 toilets, along with miles of sewer pipes in its buildings, so it’s no surprise that sometimes things get clogged.

But especially since the beginning of the pandemic, the use of wipes – those sold under brand names such as Clorox, Lysol and Super Sani Cloth – has increased, which has led to an increase in sewer problems at the Medical Center.

Gary Streaty, Vice President for Facilities Management at VUMC, has a very simple message about all kind of wipes: “All wipes should be trashed,” he said. “Not flushed down the commodes. That includes personal hygiene wipes.”

And, Streaty adds, this includes wipes that say on the label that they are “flushable.”

Wipes do not disintegrate like toilet paper does; instead they stay in one piece until removed at a sewage treatment facility, or, unfortunately, they get clogged somewhere along the line.

The increased use of wipes, Streaty said, means that “we’re now at a great risk for sewer blockages in our hospitals, clinics and other buildings.”

In an effort to keep Medical Center pipes clear — and this is good information for home plumbing, too — Streaty referred to a “Do Not Flush” list compiled by the Colchester Public Service Corporation in Virginia:

  • Baby wipes
  • Adult wipes
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Makeup remover wipes
  • Women’s hygiene products
  • Diapers
  • Paper towels
  • Facial tissue
  • Cotton swabs
  • Cotton balls
  • Hair
  • Gum wrappers
  • Candy
  • Facial pads
  • Dental floss
  • Cigarettes
  • Kitty litter scoops
  • Adhesive bandages

Photo illustrations by iStock