How to Prevent Toilet Clogs
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
- "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.
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!
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Liz Elias