What Happens to What You Flush?

hand about to drop wipe in toilet

Have you ever thought about what happens to the stuff you flush? Although this may not be a very glamorous image, it’s important to understand how wastewater exits your home and what effects it can have on the world around you. Remember, a toilet is just a small part of the plumbing system.

What Happens After You Flush?

After you flush, your “business” immediately starts to flow through the home’s drain-waste-vent system. If you have a septic tank at home, the main drain will transport wastewater to this underground container. Anaerobic bacteria then begin to break down the solid waste. Clean water eventually seeps down into the ground.

Many other homes are connected to the city’s sewer system. The wastewater flows through the sewers to the local treatment plant. Before being released into the local waterways, the treatment plant processes the wastewater to get rid of any dangerous pathogens and harmful contaminants. Eventually, most of the leftover sludge will end up in landfills. Some of it will also be converted into fertilizer and fuel.

What Happens If You Use Your Toilet as a Trash Can?

For some households, the toilet is nothing more than just another trash can. Unfortunately, this behavior can cause some big problems in the long run. Aside from your “business” and bathroom tissue, nothing else should be tossed into the toilet. Some of the worst things to flush include paper towels, feminine hygiene products, personal wipes, diapers, dental floss, and cigarettes.

When materials like paper towels and wipes clog your drains, two problems can happen. Leaks can occur because of the extra stress the clog is placing on your pipes. Sewage might also back up into your drains because a blockage prevents the waste from exiting through your home’s sewer line.

Not only can flushing the wrong things wreak havoc on your plumbing system, but it can be bad for your city’s sewers and wastewater treatment plants as well. The ingredients in some disinfectant wipes can kill the good bacteria that wastewater treatment plants and septic tanks need to treat sludge.

Paper towels, personal wipes, and other types of trash can also form massive clogs in municipal sewer systems and wastewater treatment plant pumps. For instance, in March 2020, wastewater workers in Rockwall had to remove an enormous blockage made up of “about 80% flushable wipes combined with twigs, sticks, a plastic soda bottle, feminine hygiene products, and even a pair of underwear.”

Bottom Line

The only trash you should be flushing is toilet paper. Flushing anything else can lead to costly repercussions for you and your city. If you notice signs of trouble in your drains or sewer line, such as bad smells or slow-draining water, a professional plumber can clear your pipes. In most cases, a plumber can bust open a clog with a manual or motorized drain snake. However, hydro-jetting equipment may be needed for a more stubborn blockage.

For top-of-the-line drain cleaning services, count on our expert team of Tyler plumbers at Rudd Plumbing: (903) 290-0851.

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