Thought it was perfectly fine to flush your tampons down the toilet? Think again. Many items that frequently get flushed or washed down the sink drain actually shouldn't be, and they're contributing to microplastic pollution and other contamination of our waterways as well as clogging sewer systems—at a cost of billions in maintenance and repairs. The New York Times spoke to wastewater management experts about what should and shouldn't be flushed:
- "Flushable" wipes. Disposable wipes usually contain rayon or viscose, which can't be effectively degraded in our waterways. They take a minimum of six hours to break down, compared to just one to four minutes for toilet paper.
- Dental floss. It might seem like just a little bit of string, but it's actually very strong—typically made of nylon or Teflon—and can wrap things up and create large wads of garbage.
- Tampons. Their absorbent materials make them difficult to break down, and contrary to popular belief, the official advice is that they get thrown in the trash instead of flushed.
- Cat litter. Even so-called "flushable" litter can clog septic systems, as it does not dissolve.
- And more: Don't flush facial tissues, paper towels, or cotton swabs. Unlike toilet paper, they're chemically treated to stay intact longer rather than disintegrating easily like TP.
Read on to see what you can flush.
Those are the only things wastewater treatment plants are designed to handle, experts say. See the Times for the complete list of don'ts plus much more
, including how flushing the wrong stuff could impact your water bill. (Here's why you shouldn't flush contact lenses