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How to Prevent Toilet Clogs

Liz grew up as a "grease monkey" to her father, who taught her to fix and work with many things. She also enjoys watching auto races.

Everyman's Throne

Everyman's Throne

Preventing Toilet Clogs Is Easy

Preventing the dreaded clog and overflowing toilet is simple if you just use a bit of common sense and the proverbial ounce of prevention.

What Goes in the Toilet

Without being disgustingly graphic, we all know the two main things that are supposed to be flushed. The simplest rule if someone has "a problem" is to use the two-or-more flushes rule. Better to flush once or twice while you're still sitting, than deal with a mess later.

What many people don't think about are items commonly flushed that never should be. Just remember this: the toilet is designed as a single-purpose facility, and is not, and should not be used as, a wastebasket or garbage can.

Even some items sold and touted as "flushable" really are not, and should not be flushed.

The otherwise general list of no-no's includes:

  • disposable diapers (dump out the waste; dispose of diaper wrapped in a plastic bag)
  • dental floss
  • hair
  • "sanitary wet-wipes" (they do not actually break down, and cause many plumbing headaches)
  • cotton swabs
  • "feminine products" (yes, even the ones (you ladies know what I mean) that most women flush down--please don't--your plumbing will thank you)
  • "scoopable/flushable" cat litter--especially if you have a septic system! (Use a 'doggy-scooper bag' instead)
  • uneaten/spoiled food

When You Need a Plumber

A few years ago, we had a rather unsettling problem with a back-up. It was quite disgusting. A toilet or plumbing clog originating from the toilet does not always cause an overflowing toilet. In this case, it backed up into the bathtub. "Ugh!" does not begin to describe my reaction.

We did our best to fix the issue ourselves, but in the end, did not have the right tool, and had to pay a plumber. What he found was that the clog was caused by those so-called "flushable" wipes. He told us that those account for over 80% of the calls he got for toilet problems! 80%!! That was enough for us. We don't buy them anymore.

The other major culprits are dental floss and hair. People don't realize that the insides of pipes (especially the old cast-iron pipes) are not smooth. This stuff can hang up on a rough spot, and then collect other things that pass by, eventually resulting in a major problem; it can also eventually hang up on the seams in PVC pipes.

Other Things to Keep Out of the Toilet

In addition to the items above, many people use the toilet to dispose of other things, that while they will not cause clogs, should not go down the flusher for other reasons.

We have to go back to elementary school science class and the lessons about the water cycle. That's right. This planet came with a certain amount of water, and that is it. It gets recycled constantly.

What goes down the drains, through the sewers, to the treatment pants, and back out to sea eventually evaporates up into the clouds and returns as rain, supplying fresh water once again. If you spend too much time thinking about it, you may get grossed-out, but it is a fact of life. Yep, you may be drinking million-year-old dinosaur pee!

Relax. Mother Nature does an excellent job of filtering and purifying such things, as they are natural in and of themselves.

Mother Nature Doesn't Do Drugs!

What she has a harder time with are man-made chemicals. This explains problems like acid rain.

When you use the toilet as a disposal medium for expired drugs, old make-up, and other such things, they end up in the water supply. Filters take care of organic waste. They don't filter out drugs. And drugs are being found in our water! Fish are even being affected, which means drugs that have been prescribed for others are ending up in the food supply!

So, if it isn't what is intended to go down the toilet to start with, don't put it there. Old makeup belongs in the trash bin. Discarded drugs should be taken to a collection facility in your area. Oftentimes, local law enforcement agencies may sponsor take-back events, as explained below.

What Do I Do With Old Medicines?

Inquire at your local pharmacy—some accept unwanted medicines.

Also, in some areas, the police or sheriff's department hold drug-drop-offs every so often. They will take all legal expired or no longer used drugs, whether prescription or over-the-counter, and have them incinerated. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has a comprehensive list of questions and answers about this issue.

Ask ahead, though; they will not accept injectable medications in pre-filled syringes. You need to get a 'sharps' container, and inquire at your pharmacy how to then dispose of those. In our area, they have to be handled as hazardous material, so we would have to take them to the hazmat collection facility.

Down the drain free and clear!

Down the drain free and clear!

A Clog-Free Life

The easiest prevention if small children are in the home is to keep the lid closed. Very young ones won't be able to open it fully, thus prevening "experiments" to see what might fit. For slightly older kids, there are easy-to-open (for adults) latches to prevent the toilet being used for playtime.

Pets are another good reason for keeping the lid shut. Perhaps you've seen this hilarious video of a cat amusing himself.

Just follow these simple guidelines, and I'll bet you never have another bathroom clog again!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2011 Liz Elias


Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on May 06, 2012:

Hello, qmfaisal--

Glad you liked the article. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

qmfaisal from Dhaka on May 06, 2012:

Indeed I'm having a 'clog-free' life now! Thank you @DzyMsLizzy :)

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 13, 2011:

Hi, Minnetonka Twin-- indeed not. The irritating thing is, they are marketed as being "flushable," meaning they should disintegrate, but they don't!

I have to wonder if the manufacturers of these kinds of products are in cahoots with the plumbers, and get a kickback! :-O

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on September 13, 2011:

Oh, now I know what your talking about. Not a smart thing to put down the toilet.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 12, 2011:

Hi there, Minnetonka Twin-- Isn't that cat a scream? I laugh every time I see that!

And no, not TP--I'm referring to those "moist or wet wipes" that are sold as personal hygiene wipes or sanitary wipes...I forget all of the brand names, but I think Preparation H makes one of them....

Glad you enjoyed the hub!

Linda Rogers from Minnesota on September 12, 2011:

DzyMsLizzy-That video with the cat flushing the toilet is hilarious! Thanks for a great and useful hub. It's amazing what some people will flush down the toilet. What wipes are you talking about? You don't mean toilet paper I'm guessing.

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 03, 2011:

Hi there, K9keystrokes!

Thanks very much for the input. Glad you enjoyed the video. ;-) That one makes me laugh every time.

India Arnold from Northern, California on September 03, 2011:

I know what you mean about those wipes, they are a terrible thing to flush! great tips here and I love the cat video! Nice job as always.



Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 03, 2011:

LOL, Nell--I can well understand!

Nell Rose from England on September 03, 2011:

It was just sheer panic! ha ha even if it had melted the stupid loo, I didn't care!

Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on September 03, 2011:

Hi, Nell!

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad that worked for you. As mentioned, we're on septic, so cannot use the chemical stuff, but otherwise, it's worth a try as a last resort before spending the big bucks on a plumber!

Thanks for the vote!! ;-)

Nell Rose from England on September 03, 2011:

Hi, I know the feeling! lol a few years ago this happened to me! yuck! we tried everything, and we were going to get the plumber, then I had a brainwave! ha ha doesn't happen that often! I bought the really heavy duty toilet cleaner the one that says it will take off scale and everything else! I tipped two bottles of it down the loo, and voila' it worked! good advice, rated up! cheers nell