14 things you should never flush down the toilet

A hand about to drop a wet wipe in a toilet bowl

Alice Piper

Posted July 19, 2022


When you flush things down the toilet that you shouldn’t, you’re risking serious damage to your pipes that might require a professional to fix. Many common household items should never be flushed down the toilet.

Pipe blockages occur more often than you might think. In 2021, RACV Trades plumbers were called out 8,742 times to unblock a pipe or drain in homes across Victoria.

Like your kitchen or laundry sink, being careless with what you flush down the toilet can result in blocked pipes that not only require a costly repair by a licensed plumber but breed nasty bacteria that puts the health of your household at risk.

“Items that don't break down easily are at risk of getting caught on joins in pipework when flushed down the toilet, causing an obstacle for anything following behind,“ says Head of RACV Trades Kieran Davies.

"Blockages can also lead to the toilet water building up in the pan and flooding onto your toilet or bathroom floor, causing water damage to the room.” 
 
Davies also has some advice about items you think might be okay to be flushed but are not, such as those branded as 'flushable'. 

“Just because it says ‘flushable’ doesn't mean it should be flushed,” he says. 

“If you do flush something down the toilet and water doesn't drain, continually drains slowly or excessive gurgling noises can be heard, as tempting as it might be to try and fix it yourself, it’s time to call in the professionals.


Common household items you should never flush down the toilet

1. Can I flush tissues? 

You can’t flush tissues as they are designed to be strong and absorbent, and don’t break down when wet like toilet paper. This means that tissues can get stuck and block pipes when flushed down the toilet. 

2. Can I flush paper towel? 

You can’t flush paper towel as it’s made to absorb water, so flushing it down the toilet can cause it to clump together in wads and block pipes. 

3. Can I flush baby wipes and wet wipes?  

You can’t flush baby wipes. In fact, baby wipes are a textbook case for items that may be marketed as ‘flushable’ but should not be flushed down the toilet. Baby wipes don’t disintegrate in the same way that toilet paper does. Always dispose of baby wipes in the garbage bin. 

 

A white toilet with the lid closed

Wet wipes and baby wipes may be marketed as 'flushable' but should not be flushed. Image: Getty


4. Can I flush tampons and menstrual products? 

You can’t flush tampons and menstrual products down the toilet as they are designed to absorb water and will further expand if flushed, causing blockages.

Disposable menstrual products also aren’t biodegradable, so flushing them down the toilet is an environmental concern, too. 

To dispose of tampons and menstrual products, conceal them in a waste bag or tissue paper and place them in the garbage, or a designated bin that’s usually found in women’s bathroom. 

5. Can I flush nappies? 

You can’t flush nappies down the toilet because much like tampons and menstrual products, the primary role of nappies is to trap liquid, meaning there is little chance of these breaking down if flushed. 

In fact, nappies will continue to absorb water in the toilet and can lodge in the plumbing system, leading to clogged pipes. 

6. Can I flush dishcloths and sponges? 

You can’t flush dishcloths and sponges down the toilet as they are made to retain their strength when wet and will expand when flushed. 

If a dishcloth or sponge does get flushed down the toilet, Davies says it’s important to call a plumber immediately.

“Unless a sponge is so small that it can easily get through toilet pipes, it will get stuck. This will mean the toilet could flush sluggishly, clog or possibly overflow.” 

7. Can I flush ear cleaners and cotton pads? 

You can’t flush cotton pads and other cotton products down the toilet as they don’t break down when flushed and can accumulate in pipes, contributing to a blockage. 

 

Person cleaning outside of toilet with a sponge

It's ok to clean your toilet with a sponge – just don't flush it when you're done. Image: Getty


8. Can I flush dental floss? 

You can’t flush dental floss down the toilet. When dental floss is flushed, it can turn into a ‘net’ in your pipes and hold onto other debris, causing a blockage. 

9. Can I flush hair? 

You can’t flush hair down the toilet because like dental floss, hair creates a ‘net’ effect when flushed, catching other debris and causing blockages. 

Hair also never dissolves, meaning it is can potentially sit in your pipes for years, slowly causing damage – so always put stray bathroom hairs in the bin or vacuum them up.

10. Can I flush condoms?  

You can’t flush condoms down the toilet as latex doesn’t break down in water. 

11. Can I flush chewing gum? 

You can’t flush chewing gum down the toilet as it doesn’t dissolve. Due to chewing gum's sticky consistency, it can accumulate in your pipes over time, leading to a blockage. 

12. Can I flush chemicals and detergents? 

You can’t flush oils, paints, lubricants, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers down the toilet as they all contain chemicals that can damage plumbing systems and corrode pipes. 

Flushing chemicals down the toilet also means they have a direct path to groundwater, such as lakes and streams, potentially endangering wildlife. 

13. Can I flush cooking oils and fats? 

You can’t flush cooking oils and fats down the toilet, or pour them down your kitchen sink, because when they cool down, they quickly solidify, sticking to the walls of pipes and clogging them up. 

Instead, let cooking oils and fats cool down after cooking and dispose of them in the rubbish bin. 

14. Can I flush fish? 

You can’t flush fish down the toilet because they don’t break down in water, leading to blocked pipes.

Not only that, but flushing fish down the toilet can spread bacteria in your bathroom and may be detrimental to wildlife and waterways. 

 


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