Consumer Alert: “Flushable Wipes” are NOT Flushable

August 30, 2010 · 31 comments

Consider this a very important warning if you use flushable moist toilet paper wipes or flushable toddler wipes in your home!  These products will ruin your home’s septic system!  After weeks of issues with our sewage drains and a $325 service call  to the local septic service company (see the pictures below), my family knows about this issue all too well!

Flushable Wipes My A$$: One phone call and a $325 check to my local septic tank service company was "all it took" to take care of my flushable wipe problem! A special thanks to John (my home builder) for also stopping by to check out all the action!

This article is dedicated to eliminating the terms flushable, septic safe, and sewage safe from moist wipe packages being sold in US stores. 

Toilet paper manufacturing companies have been knowingly marketing these products as flushable over the last few years when even the most simple tests demonstrate they are not safe for any septic or sewage system.  These companies receive complaint after complaint from angry consumers who trusted the reassuring labeling on these products, yet they continue to sell these products with no additional warnings on the packages!

Brands such as Charmin Freshmates, Cottonelle Fresh, Scott’s Flushable Wipes and a variety of generic store brands are all responsible for potentially millions of dollars in premature septic system maintenance, repair, and overhauling.

What the Flushable Wipe Packaging Labels Say:

Charmin Freshmates: It says “septic safe” in bold letters right on the package!

Cottonelle Fresh: It says “You can flush Cottenelle Fresh wipes with confidence because they break up like toilet paper after flushing.  They’re safe for sewer and septic systems.”  This is a lie! 

Scott Flushable Wipes: Scott is bold enough to even use the term “flushable” in the product name!  “Flushable wipes are safe for sewer and septic because they break up like paper after flushing“.  More  deception!

Up and Up Toddler Wipes Flushable (Target Generic Brand):  “These flushable moist wipes are alcohol free, and safe for sewers and septic systems.”

What Happened with our Septic System:

We first noticed water seeping out of the newly installed water softener system vent in our our basement.  Our first instinct was to blame the water softener company. After multiple service calls to “correct” the problem, the plumber assured me the water softener system was functioning properly.

Our next step was to consult with the plumber who helped build our home.  He checked the lines and assured us that everything look good and suggested we contacted the local septic company to inspect our system. 

This Crap Sucks: Here I am digging up the access covers on my home's septic system in my fancy bib overalls!

Following our plumber’s advice, we immediately called the local service company to inspect our septic system. 

I explained that our house was just over three years old but water was backing up in our sewage line and seeping out of a vent in our basement.  We made arrangements to meet the septic tank technician the next day.

In order to access the septic tank covers I needed to waste an otherwise beautiful day digging holes in my lawn. 

Following the instructions from the septic guy, I needed to dig up all three covers on my septic tank including the inlet, outlet, and clean-out covers. 

Additionally, we would need access to the septic tank filter to ensure that it had not been clogged up.

The three covers on my home's septic tank. You can see the channel just below the hole on the right side that became clogged with more than two feet of mushy, fully intact, flushable wipes.

Once I had the covers off the septic tank it was obvious what the problem was!  The “inlet” side of our septic tank (the first chamber that sewage enters after leaving the house) was clogged full with a tw0 foot later of thick, compacted wipes!  This clog prevented liquid inside the tank from flowing as designed.

A closer look at the filter device on the outlet side of my home's sewage tank. Fortunately, the filter can be easily cleaned with a garden hose.

It was a disgusting mess to say the least!  Fortunately, the vacuum system unit on the septic truck was powerful enough to suck all the wipes out and clear up the tank so it would drain and process the sewage properly.

These flushable wipes had also worked their way into the filter unit that is on the outlet side of our sewage tank causing even more problems. 

These filters are great for keeping most items from entering the more “sensitive” areas of your septic system, but if someone in your family is using flushable wipes in your home, you can forget about going 3-5 years between septic tank cleanings!

What if My Home Uses the City’s Sewage System:

If your home is connected to your town or city’s sewage system, its even worse! While you may never need to directly deal with the problem, many towns, cities, and and municipalities have seen a large increase in the amount of preventative maintenance needing to be performed on their sanitation equipment.  Some have already increased their fees either in the form of higher taxes, or increased sewage fees.

If you flush flushable wipes into the public sewage system, you’re helping to cause rate increases for everyone in your town! Just don’t do it!

Use Flushable Wipes at Your Own Risk:

Many people I’ve spoken with have never had a problem with their septic tanks after flushing “flushable” wipes down the toilet!  Having experienced the consequences first hand, I can assure you they will not be used anytime soon in our home!

As Consumer Reports has noted, if moist wipes are an essential part of your family’s hygeine routine it is much safer to simply bag wipes and dispoise of them [properly] in the trash!

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Marie March 22, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Keep your receipts and contact the company. In the end Huggies paid for my plumber, shopvac, and husband’s missed work. If I had known they’d pony up eventually I would have hired the carpet cleaning service and had that taken care of from the flood. I paid that out of pocket. They wouldn’t take responsibility and told me I must have tree roots growing into my sewer system but as a gesture of good will ….

Anyway my house was 2 weeks old and I can guarantee you there weren’t any tree roots but if they were going to spam me with form letters it must be a widespread problem.

Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black March 22, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Wow, we only use these occasionally, but never again! At least not unless we plan to throw them straight into the trash…

gharkness March 23, 2010 at 8:48 am

I also learned of this the hard way. And our clog was in the pipes under the house. We’re on city sewer, but we are responsible for the pipes out to the street. Very expensive repair and now we have a dedicated trash receptacle. Even still, the occasional one gets dropped, to the tune of much wailing and gnashing of teeth!

sn August 11, 2010 at 10:23 am

We use these, but not in the place of toilet paper. It says on the Cottonelle package to only use 1 wipe per flush. Is that what you guys were doing?

Megan August 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Oh, yes I know the problems of these damn wipes and other things people think can go down the drain all too well being in the biz! These wipes are a nightmare in the collection systems and wastewater treatment plant. I have seen problems with swiffer pads, tons of grease and other material people think they can flush. Just use toilet paper people!

Joshua November 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I am a master plumber who specializes primarily in service work. In all but one case of sewer backup in the past year, the backup was caused by these wipes. I always hope to pull something more interesting out of a drain line but no, it’s always the wipes! Buyer beware!

Ben November 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Thanks for the comment Joshua! On the one hand, these damn “flushable” wipes are costing homeowners millions $$$, however, they certainly add job security to your profession!

Tommie December 29, 2010 at 7:27 am

We just paid $150.00 to have a “sausage” of flushable wipes removed from our sewage pipe.

Ben January 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Yummy! Sorry to hear about your troubles! Please help spread the word that “flushable” wipes suck!

Avery February 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm

The best alternative is Wipe Aide, the revolutionary toilet paper moistener. only tp is flushed so there’s no clogging or backups. Go to wipeaide.com. This product is AwesomE!!

Linda April 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Thanks so much for the info. I am unfamiliar with septic systems about to buy a house with one. This saved me from making a huge mistake!

Don't wish to leave name this time April 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Normally I sign my posts, but due to the costs I caused my apartment community to incur, I don’t want to take any chances that they might trace this back. A few years ago I bought these for potty-training kids. There were SEVERAL late-night, all-night stints of huge trucks and men digging out the “main line” slightly down the block from us. The maintenance man said someone must have flushed diapers or something. I thought, “Not us, all we have is those FLUSHABLE wipes.” Well, the all-night dig-outs happened exactly when we bought each box of wipes.

OOOOOPS! You speak the truth, that’s all I’m going to say (and I thank heavens that we were renting, not homeowners.)

ackpoohbear April 26, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Damn hand, is that Cajun Distress overalls?

Ben May 2, 2011 at 8:54 am

That’s just how I roll hand!

Swan May 12, 2011 at 12:44 am

Yikes! I have a septic tank AND I’ve been flushing flushable wipes. Well, technically they are flushable, because they flush every time, however, NEVER again in my house after I’ve just read this!! Thanks for raising awareness, and thanks for the helpful input everyone. Many things labeled as ‘Safe for septic tanks.’ are not so. If you’re not sure, call and ask a professional first. Also, did you know tampons should never be flushed (septic or public sewerage)? These do not break down either.

Mary May 24, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I wrote to Kimberly Clarke here is their response. I only used one wipe at a time. I suggested to them to place a warning on the lable.
Dear Mary, Thank you for contacting us about COTTONELLE FRESH® flushable moist wipes. We are sorry to learn that you experienced a problem with your sanitary system. The flushability of COTTONELLE FRESH flushable moist wipes is based on the dispersibility of the wipes and the quantity used per flush. We have conducted tests in accordance with trade association guidelines that demonstrate the wipes break apart once flushed and will move through properly designed plumbing systems in good working order. In sanitary systems, obstructions such as tree roots, broken drain tiles, or plumbing equipment malfunctions can inhibit the movement of material through a waste system. We are sympathetic to those who experience such problems; however, Kimberly-Clark cannot accept responsibility for all sanitary system failures. Therefore, it would be very helpful for us if you would send a copy of your plumbing bill and a statement from your plumber as to the nature of the problem. We are sending you a prepaid mailing label through the mail for your convenience in sending these items to us. We value you as our customer and appreciate your interest in our products. IvyConsumer Services, Kimberly-Clark Corp.Lead the world in essentials for a better life. 016126277A
I would like to add here that my toilet was an older one that used a lot of water more then the 1.5 gallons on the newer toilets. As you can see from their email to me they are aware of the problems.

Barbara August 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm

We just paid $1800 to clear our sewer lines from a rental home to the street 36 days after new tenants moved in who admitted to using and flushing “wipes” I had never heard of “wipes” before, except for babies or invalids. Wipes are a public nuisance and I am glad to see awareness growing. The tenants think that there is somethng wrong with our plumbing because they “never had this problem before,” and have been using and flushing wipes at other residences for about 5 years. We never had this problem before either and I have been a landlord for nearly 40 years. But I did not know this sort of product was even in wide use Roto Rooter pulled a LOT of wipes out of our sewer line. Both of the Roto Rooter technicians said that they get at least 2 or 3 calls per day to clear lines blocked by wipes.

tony lanza October 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm

We are investigating these allegedly flushable wet wipes. Do you know of any homeowners in California whose drains have been clogged by “flushable” wet wipes? If so, we would like to talk with them. 949-221-0490. We are in Irvine, California. Thanks. Tony Lanza.

Cathy March 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm

After just getting off the phone with my landlord who accused me of flushing “paper towels”, I know now what the problem is – WIPES! There have been problems with the sewer lines from tree roots in the past, and it happens regularly once a year. When clearing it this time he said he found “paper towels”. We just started using the wipes. We won’t ever be using them again!!

albert April 6, 2012 at 7:30 pm

GAH!!! stupid wipes. We don’t even use them and they’re clogging up my sewer main. It’s gotta be one of my neighbers since i’m on a cul-de-sac and it’s gotta be getting in to my sewere main from the city sewer acces. But my City refused to do anything since i didn’t have a city side access at the curb of my house.

I can’t do anything but waste my time fixing the plumbing ever other month

Ben April 16, 2012 at 10:36 am

I hear ya! “Flushable” wipes need to be outlawed!! They are one of the worst consumer products ever that is still available for purchase!!!

Sarah July 7, 2012 at 1:20 am

I agree…we just paid $400 for this problem. How did you get Huggies to reimburse you!?? I am writing in to the company that we purchased the wipes from but I know they will put up a fight. I was curious what action you took? Thank you!

Pat August 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Had our septic tank cleaned this morning and was advised against using these “flushable, safe for septic” wipes because they were all wadded up in a ball at the bottom of the tank. If our household had multiple family members using these, we would have had a major problem eventually. Now that they have been cleaned out, our tank is in good working condition and we will not be flushing them in the future. Safe for septic systems and biogradeable my eye!!! Glad we found out before we developed a very expensive problem with our system.

Ben September 2, 2012 at 10:02 am

Ah! Sorry to hear that Pat! We should all get together and file a class action lawsuit against these people for destroying our septic tank systems!

Dave October 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm

AH! Cottonelle Fresh Care: I just spent over $2,000. to have 20 feet of my cast iron pipes replaced.
My tenant had been using them (Cottonelle Fresh Care ) for over 6 months.
They snag on the insides of cast iron pipes and collect.
The plumber could not even snake through them.
They do not break down like toilet paper, It has a plastic mesh that holds it together.
Over 4 feet of the wipes were cut out.
What a mess.

City sewer departments should ban the sale of them as they clog the sewer treatment screens costing taxpayers money.

Corbett January 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I’m very upset about today’s plumbing bill due to these Natural Choice wipes. Do not use them! I’m sure plumbing companies love the extra work. The wipes will catch on the smallest root in an older pipe and will not break down.

dave in California January 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Been using Septic Safe wipes for almost a year now After taking care of my grandfather who can’t take care of himself.
Just got done paying $235 to pay for Snaking & scoping to make sure no other issues. Everything pulled out was Wipes. including the top of the septic. Hopefully we don’t need to Have it pumped again as It will take a 4×8 section 2.5 feet deep of soil to dig out. Otherwise the piping was fine.
So now we will no longer be flushing them as they do not truly break up. We also use less then 5 wipes a week. So that tells you how bad they truly are. Each wipe was fully intact & hard to rip off the snake. The plumber snaked it a dozen or so times including scoping it each time to verify it. I should contact Costco About it which is where I buy them.
We will continue using them but for now on Put in trash bags Like we use to with regular wipes. (These to me are exactly the same as regular wipes)

Bev Rutledge January 30, 2013 at 7:58 am

Please pass this on to Cathy…THX
No way she can flush them up her(or anywhere for that matter)….

Johnny March 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

I’m a master plumber and when these things first came out I started getting more calls. Not on septic lines but commodes clogged and main sewers clogged. Some so bad I had to use a larger sewer jetter to clear the lines. Those companies making flushablez should be sued. Add a bidet seat it’s actually way cheaper than buying gross wipes.

Angie October 30, 2013 at 5:57 pm

My husband was addicted to them until our pipes backed up and our house was only 5 years old. We now use Tidy Tush or Balneol. Balneol is available in most stores but is more expensive, I believe Tidy Tush is only available online. Both work very well.

Mal December 16, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Exact same problem with my septic – cost $750 to fix. But was our fault – wipes clearly said NOT SEPTIC SAFE on the side but we didn’t spot it! Expensive lesson :)

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