5 Things You Thought Were Safe to Flush Down the Toilet But Aren't

Nearly everyone knows that you should never flush cigarette butts, plastic wrappers or cotton swabs down the toilet. But you may be surprised to learn that some items you thought were perfectly safe to flush down the toilet can actually cause toilet clogs or pose a threat to the environment. Think twice before you flush the following five items down the toilet.

1 Old Medications

Although flushing old or expired medications down the toilet was once a common practice promoted by medical professionals as well as the media, scientists now know that it isn't a good practice. Medications disposed of via the toilet can leach into the groundwater or into sources of freshwater and pose a risk to both humans and wildlife.

But there are exceptions. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), drugs that are potentially life-threatening with one dose it they are accidentally ingested by small children or pets should be disposed of immediately when they are no longer needed. The FDA recommends flushing some drugs down the drain or the toilet if you do not have access to a medicine take-back program or to an authorized DEA collector. Check the FDA list of drugs recommended for flushing before you toss your old meds in the toilet. Otherwise, local clinics can advise you on where to dispose your old medications.

2 Flushable Cat Litter

Flushable cat litter may seem like a solution to disposing of used litter, but according to Mother Nature Network, the problems with flushable cat litter are twofold. Cat feces contains a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which causes the disease toxoplasmosis. The parasite is not destroyed during water treatment and poses a risk to marine wildlife, especially the sea otter. Cat litter, even if it is labeled flushabl,  may also cause problems with clogs in the toilet as it may cling to toilet issue or other debris in the drain.

3 Flushable Wipes

Like flushable cat litter, wipes labeled as flushable may be misleading. While they may contain the label of flushable and are designed to disintegrate in water, they often do not dissolve quickly enough. That means they can contribute to clogs in the drain, especially when they contact other debris.

According to the Michigan State University Extension, flushable wipes contribute to a condition called "ragging", when the wipes combine with other objects, such as heavy toilet paper, dental floss or other items that have made the way into the sewer system, and can clog pipes and sewer pumps. It further explains that the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission recently spend over $1 million to install special grinders to shred the wipes and other debris to prevent clogging the pumps at the water treatment plant.

4 Food

It may seem logical that because food it biodegradable it is safe to dispose of in your toilet, but this really isn't true. Chunks of food do not dissolve or breakdown quickly in water and may pose a risk of clogging the toilet drain or getting lodged in your pipes. It may also combine with other debris to form a sticky mass. Grease in foods may also coat the inside of your pipes making it more difficult for toilet paper and wastes to get through.

5 Paper Towels

Because paper towels break down in water, many people assume they are safe for the toilet, but paper towels are not toilet tissue. The fibers in paper towels take longer to break down and can form a large clog in your pipes. If you typically clean up spills in the bathroom with paper towels, resist the urge to toss them in the toilet. Dispose of paper towels in the trash instead.

Toilets are not designed to to be a quick way to dispose of trash. Use the trash can for everything except toilet paper and you won't need to worry about frequent toilet clogs. If you run into issues, contact companies like Rob's Septic Tanks Inc.