Flushable Wipes

What can flushable wipes do?

  • They clog pumps and pipes and can cause blockage.
  • They cause sewer overflows. (Expensive to repair this damage)
  • They can cause sewer backups into homes. (Again another expensive repair)

Why is this happening?

  • Improper labeling and false advertising of the word “flushable”.
  • Companies blame consumers.
  • Many wipes that are not designed to be flushed are flushed anyways.

What needs to be done?

  1. Have a set definition for what constitutes a flushable wipe. *Currently there is no definition or testing process approved by the water quality industry.
  2. Make sure consumers know what to flush and what not to flush. QUOTE: “When in doubt, throw it out” –Aubrey Strause, Verdant Water PLLC (Scarborough, Maine) owner.

Nondispersibles clog pumps, pipes, valves; overwhelm screens and bar racks; and block sewer mains. They can cause sanitary sewer overflows and require expensive repairs and replacement of pumps, screens, and other equipment.

Nondispersible items also cause problems in private plumbing systems; they can cause sewers to back up into basements, leaving homeowners holding the bill for costly repairs.

Many in the wastewater sector have argued that improper labeling and false advertising of some wipes as “flushable” is causing the problem. They put the responsibility on wipe manufacturers. Meanwhile, many wipe manufacturers contend that consumer behavior is the problem. They say individuals need to follow packaging instructions.

“Some nonwoven-wipe products are not designed to be flushed but get inappropriately flushed anyway, so INDA is working together with NACWA, APWA, WEF, and CWWA to develop improved flushability guidelines and other efforts to help alleviate the problems caused in the wastewater systems,” said INDA President Dave Rousse in a March news release.

United Utilities conducted research on consumer perceptions related to misleading labeling of products that cause blockages and found that 82% of those surveyed thought it safe to flush items labeled as “flushable.” Wipes and other nondispersable items contribute to 53,000 blockage call-outs handled by the utility each year and cost the equivalent of 26 million dollars, according to a United Utilities News Release.




Fulcher, Jennifer. “Stop, Don’t Flush That.” WEF Highlights. Water Environment Federation, 12 June 2013. Web. 7 July 2016.

Fulcher, Jennifer. “WE&T Magazine – Water Environment Federation.” WE&T Magazine – Water Environment Federation. Water Environment Federation, n.d. Web. 07 July 2016.

Gunderson, Jeff. “Can’t Flush This.” WEF Highlights. Water Enviornment Federation, 29 June 2016. Web. 7 July 2016.

Water Environment Federation. 2014 03 20 WEFMAX Non-Dispersibles Update. N.p.: Water Environment Federation, n.d. PDF.

WE&T Magazine. “Flushing Away the Discord.” Wef.org. Water Environment Federation, June 2015. Web. 7 July 2016.