Indoor plumbing is one of the most crucial public heath advances of modern times. The toilet, in particular, offers a seemingly miraculous waste disposal system – just pull the lever, and whatever is in the bowl is whisked away and out of your life forever. Unfortunately, that's only a partial truth. In reality, there's no better way to ruin your bathroom toilet plumbing than flushing trash or other things that aren't meant to go down your pipes. In fact, the only things you can safely flush are human waste and toilet paper – anything else and you could end up with an expensive and disgusting mess on your hands.

Serious Problems for Homeowners

The dangers of flushing foreign objects came to light in a recent lawsuit, in which a couple is suing CVS for selling “flushable wipes” that turned out to be nothing of the sort.

“Because flushable wipes do not disintegrate immediately upon flushing, like toilet paper, they cause serious problems for homeowners and municipalities alike,” the suit claims. “Through the ordinary and/or directed use of flushable wipes, consumers across the country experienced plumbing issues, including clogged toilets, clogged pipes, flooding of home basements and other plumbing problems.”

The lesson is that even if something advertises itself as flush-friendly, you would be wise to keep it relegated to the trash can. Among other items that people commonly flush are dirty diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper towels and tissues. It certainly is tempting to use the toilet to dispose of anything gross, but it’s not worth the risk of damage to your bathroom. Toilet plumbing can only take so much of a beating before it clogs – or worse.

The Messy Consequences

If you're lucky, attempting to flush foreign objects will just clog the toilet and you can fix the problem with a plunger and a hard lesson learned. More likely, however, will be a clog deeper in your bathroom toilet plumbing, which will require a rather unpleasant clog clearing job with a plumbing snake or a call to a plumber. If you're really unfortunate, the clog will cause the toilet to back up and overflow, potentially causing damage to your bathroom and even the room below. In perhaps the worst-case scenario, the clog could occur underground in the outlet pipe to the sewer, requiring a very difficult and expensive repair job.

The problems don't end in your house, either. Even if the wipes, pads and diapers successfully navigate through your plumbing and into the sewer system, they can clog up the municipal works, damage the environment and cause problems at the sewage treatment plant.

Stop Clogs Before They Start

You can avoid all these problems just by remembering that your toilet is designed to handle waste, and toilet paper is made to break down easily in water. Anything else is a no-no.

If you do slip up and flush something else down your bathroom toilet plumbing, call an expert plumber for help ASAP.

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