Q: I use a lot of those flushable wipes. Recently there has been talk that these clog up drains with Water Corporation asking residents to stop flushing these. Is this true and should I stop using them?
As Plumbers we see many things stuck in our customers’ drains. Things such as toys, animals or jewellery, and I have even found a set of dentures. However flushable wipes are certainly one of the most common items that gets stuck in drains.
These wipes are extremely strong and do not break down in the same manner as toilet paper. When the wipes are flushed down the toilet they tend to become snagged on cracked pipes and tree roots. Once they are snagged they then catch other items such as household fats. These fats congeal around the wipes and form a hard block that is sometimes referred to as the less than appealing term – fatberg.
Once a fatberg is in place the drain quickly becomes blocked, and it is often very difficult to remove. Mechanical devices like electric eels and water jets must be implemented to try and cut through the blockage.
If the eel or water jet are unsuccessful, your plumber will be left with no option but to start excavation and remove the blockage by hand.
While it may be a short term convenience, flushing wipes down the drain will always be an expensive issue for the home owner or the water authority. In fact, some authorities, including Sydney Water are threatening legal action to prevent manufacturers from saying that wipes are flushable.
Clearing blocked drains is a huge part of a plumber’s job and some even enjoy the challenge, however I am yet to find a customer who enjoyed calling because they have no useable toilets.