While it may be tempting to dispose of certain items by flushing them down the toilet or sink, doing so can lead to clogs, backups, and other plumbing issues. Not only can this be inconvenient and costly to repair, but it can also be harmful to the environment and your local community’s sewer system. By taking care to watch what you flush through your plumbing system, you can help ensure the integrity and longevity of your plumbing system, while also doing your part to protect the planet.

Environmental Implications

If debris such as grease, oil, baby wipes, cotton balls, makeup sponges, or chemicals are flushed down your plumbing system, it can harm the environment by contaminating water sources and wildlife.

Cotton Balls and Baby Wipes: Especially Problematic for Plumbing

Cotton products such as cotton balls and baby wipes can damage your plumbing system. While these items may seem small and harmless, they can easily get caught in your pipes and cause clogs over time.

Unlike toilet paper, which is designed to dissolve in water, cotton products and baby wipes do not break down as easily. Instead, they can clump together and create blockages in your pipes, leading to slow drainage or backups.

Damage to Your Septic System

Additionally, these items can cause damage to your septic system. Cotton products and baby wipes do not decompose in the same way that human waste does, which can result in buildup and blockages in your septic system. This can be costly to repair and may require professional assistance to fix.

Pumping your septic system and cleaning out your leach field are significant repairs that cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to fix. Doing your part to protect the integrity of your septic system will be an integral part of preserving its function for years to come.

City Sewer Troubles

Even if you are on a city sewer system, flushing cotton balls and cotton wipes could have significant consequences. City sewer systems do not tolerate flushing cotton balls and baby wipes into the system. These items can easily get caught in pipes and pumps, causing blockages and backups in the system. This can be costly to repair and can result in environmental damage if sewage overflows into waterways or other areas.

You may be liable for damage to city main lines and sewer connections that aren’t even on your property if the flushing of these items can be linked to your home. Many cities and municipalities have strict guidelines on what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet or put down the sink. These guidelines typically prohibit the flushing of items such as cotton products, baby wipes, and other materials that do not dissolve easily in water.

It is important to be mindful of what you flush down your plumbing system, both for the integrity of your own system and for the health and safety of your community. By disposing of these items properly in the trash, you can help protect the environment and avoid costly plumbing issues.

Other Things to Avoid Flushing Into Your Sewer System

In addition to cotton products and baby wipes, there are several other items that you should avoid flushing into your sewer system. Being mindful of this list will help to protect the condition of your plumbing and septic system, preserving its longevity and function.

Grease and Oil

Most homeowners are aware that you shouldn’t pour grease or melted cooking fat down the drains in the kitchen. However, pouring them into the toilet and flushing them isn’t an option either. Cooking fats, oils, and grease can quickly solidify in your pipes after rinsing pans, causing blockages and build-ups in your system. The best way to dispose of leftover cooking oil and grease is to wait for it to cool and pour it into a big container that can then be thrown away, such as an empty coffee can or a large takeout soup container.

Feminine Hygiene Products

Tampons, sanitary pads, and other feminine hygiene products should be disposed of in the trash as they can cause clogs and damage to your plumbing system that lead to complete obstructions over time. Even the smallest and thinnest of feminine protection products could easily damage your plumbing.


Flushing medications down the toilet can contaminate water sources and harm wildlife. It is recommended to dispose of medications at a designated collection site or through a take-back program. Also, if you flush a lot of medication at once, it takes time to break down completely, so it can cause a clog until it dissolves and maybe even after.

Paper Towels and Napkins

Paper towels and napkins should never be forced through your plumbing. These items are not designed to dissolve in water and can cause clogs in your pipes. Additionally, they are thicker, so they can do more damage.

Dental Floss and Hair

Dental floss and hair are especially detrimental to a plumbing system. These items get caught in your pipes and attract other debris as it flows through, causing blockages that are very difficult to remove.

Cat Litter

Flushing cat litter down the toilet leads to blockages and damage to your plumbing system. Even the best chemical solvents won’t chip away at a clump of cat litter that has decided to lodge itself in a pipe. Many newer, more advanced varieties of cat litter say that they are flushable, but they are not. Never flush cat litter, regardless of what it says on the package.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds should not be flushed down your plumbing system because they can cause blockages in your pipes and drain system. Coffee grounds do not dissolve in water and can accumulate in your pipes over time, leading to clogs and backups.


Flour should not be put down your drains and into your plumbing system because it can cause clogs and blockages. When flour comes into contact with water, it can create a thick paste that can cling to the sides of your pipes and build up over time. As this paste accumulates, it can trap other particles and debris, such as food scraps and grease, leading to more severe blockages that can cause slow draining or even backups. Once the paste hardens, it’s extremely difficult to remove and could require you to replace pipes.


Paint contains chemicals and pigments that can be toxic and can contaminate the water supply if they are not disposed of properly. Flushing paint down the toilet or drain can also harm aquatic life as the chemicals can build up in waterways and disrupt the natural ecosystem. Also, the paint can dry and harden inside your pipes, leading to clogs that can cause backups and potentially costly repairs.

It is important to be mindful of what you flush down your plumbing system. If you are unsure whether an item is safe to flush, it is best to dispose of it in the trash. This will help protect the environment and ensure the integrity and longevity of your plumbing system.

Professional Service, Every Time

Plumbtree Plumbing & Rooter has been proudly serving valued clients in the San Jose area and beyond; we offer valuable services such as water, sewer, and gas services, drain cleaning and repair, hydro jetting, sump pump inspection and service, and plumbing installation and repair. Your comfort and convenience are our ultimate goals; we design repair and maintenance plans that work for you, your home, and your budget. If you suspect that your flushing habits have caused a plumbing issue, we can help! Enjoy the benefit of 24/7 emergency service and courteous, friendly staff that can attend to all of your plumbing needs. Contact us today to set your appointment!

Josh Gibson

Hi, I’m Josh. I’ve been around plumbing my whole life. When I was 5-6 years old my family built a home where I did a lot of the sanding of copper pipe and definitely some playing in the mud. Plumbing is a major part of my family as I am a fourth-generation plumber. The skills I bring to the job are a good technical knowledge of plumbing and code requirements. I am often complimented on my hands-on problem-solving skills.
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