As a plumber for more than 20 years now, I find it fascinating that – although people pretty much know that there are certain things that shouldn’t be flushed down their toilets – one of the main calls we get in our day-to-day business is still about – you guessed it: toilets that have been plugged up with things that aren’t supposed to go down toilets.
Kids are one of the main perpetrators, of course, and they can be excused on the basis that:
- They’re kids; they don’t know any better.
- They’re kids; they may know better – but they just cannot help themselves.
- A kid has got to do what a kid has got to do.
But kids can only take so much of the blame, and then we just have to ask the adults to step up to the plate, and own some responsibility.
So here’s my annual list of “What Not to Put Down Your Toilet.” This is something I write about at least once a year, and it’s become a tradition here at Moon Valley Plumbing. Some people call it “Travis’s Toilet Sermon on the Mount” behind my back, but I’m not going to call them out here [Pam].
So – the list really consists of three parts; we’ll start with a list of the things that everybody knows should not go down toilets, and then we’ll go to the things you may never have thought would be a problem if they went down a toilet – but they are, and we’ll finish with our very own list of – “seriously – somebody put that down a toilet?” Looking for new wild, weird, and wonderful things that have been flushed down a toilet is kind of game we play around here; we suspect there are other plumbing companies that do the same thing.
1) The things you know you shouldn’t put down a toilet (but humanity apparently needs constant reminders of):
- Feminine products: any kind, any shape, any thickness, any anything – these are kryptonite to toilets, and yet – down they go, century after century…
- Bathroom wipes: this has been pointed out often enough that it’s beginning to creep into public awareness; now most people vaguely know that they shouldn’t be flushing these things – but still, it’s just darned confusing because manufacturer’s continue to print that they’re “flushable” on the packaging because – well, they are flushable – it’s just that when you flush them – they cause clogs…. The packaging really needs to say: “Flushable – but will cause clogs”
- Paper towels: people – there is a reason why paper towels are kept in the kitchen. And – no – paper towels are not made of “the same stuff” that toilet paper is made out of. And no, again – they do not “break down” the way toilet paper does. Anyone who tells you they do is lying to you. Tell them to stop it. Please.
- Disposable diapers: yes, we know, ewww, same stuff, same idea – but – these diapers are made from toxic plastic that actually expands when you put it in water. If it does go down the toilet, it’s going to stop somewhere along the way and back up traffic. This is virtually guaranteed.
- Grease from cooking: you may be congratulating yourself because at least you’re not putting it down your garbage disposal, but trust us – it will a similar problem if you do.
2) The things you shouldn’t put down a toilet that make sense if you think about it:
- Cotton swabs, Q-tips, and cotton balls: we know, they do seem harmless, don’t they? But they don’t break down, they get soggy, they expand, and they tend to band together in the bends of your pipe. Trust us, they may look innocent, but they can be vicious in packs.
- Band-aids & other small pieces of plastic: we know, how picky can you get? But really, small pieces of plastic like band-aids, tiny pieces of make-up packaging, condoms – these are all non-biodegradable and they “catch” other stuff and create terrific problems. The issue is that these things are cumulative, so people aren’t really aware that these items are what’s causing the problem. However, we’ve discovered this is the culprit in beauty salons, emergency rooms, and the like – so this is how we figured this one out.
- Dental floss: dental floss? Really? Yes, really. Dental floss never degrades, it’s string, and it’s strong – it will wrap itself around things and cause problems, guaranteed.
- Kitty litter: like the disposable diaper rationale and again – ewww – same stuff, same idea – but, no. It’s a really bad idea. Kitty litter is basically like shoveling dirt into your toilet, and that’ all we’re going to say on that. Plus – the waste it contains contaminates our water supply with toxins and parasites and other terrible things.
3) The things that shouldn’t go down the toilet but not because they plug up the drains – but because they’re bad for the environment:
- Prescription medication: there was a period of time when it was advised to flush meds down a toilet, but then it was discovered that this did terrible things to groundwater, the environment, and wildlife. One way to get rid of a medication is to mix it into old coffee grounds and seal it in a bag or coffee can; or you can just call your pharmacist and ask what to do – they’ll give you all the advice you need.
- Cigarette butts: ok, we’re not even bothering to explain this one.
Finally – we come to our list of things that go down toilets that are truly unbelievable. As stated,
in addition to the regular, sort of “logical” things that regularly make our list, there are always new things that I get to add every year – things that go down toilets that are so amazing and/or unbelievable that no one would believe it if there weren’t witnesses and/or pictures.
Disclaimer: we understand that there are a lot of crazy things that go down toilets, but we now gather data only on the unusually odd. For example – cell phones & wallets no longer make our cut because thousands of those go down toilets daily. Also – toys aren’t unusual, the number of toys that go down toilets per year is literally astronomical, because, as noted above: a kid’s gotta do what a kids gotta do. Finally, we don’t list jewelry anymore unless it qualifies as serious jewelry; again, the amount of jewelry that goes down toilets per year is virtually incalculable, but there is data that suggests that the majority of it is wedding and/or engagement rings. We have no comment on this statistic.
So, for your reading pleasure, here is:
4) Moon Valley Plumbing’s 2015 list of crazy things that people have flushed down toilets:
- false teeth (many, many, many, many, many sets of these)
- shark (smallish, unfortunately – expired)
- automobile parts
- fish (different kinds)
- money (American, exact amounts unknown, but many instances)
- 87,000 euros (in one lump sum, which is a bit over $96,000 American dollars, so – basically, $100,000 dollars)
- scepter (yes – as in a “scepter” that a king or queen might use – and not a “fake” one either)
- squirrel (fortunately – alive!)
- 6-pack of beer
- $10,000 14 karat bracelet (this needed it’s own entry apart from simple “jewelry”)
- $78,000 engagement ring (this one truly needed it’s own entry)
- Groucho Marx glasses – with nose & eyebrows intact
- civil war cannon ball
- alarm clock
- bright red wig – with tiara
- 14 pairs of men’s xl briefs (notable because all found in one toilet)
- snakes (too many kinds & so many instances that they simply need one category)
- training bra (this does not seem odd until you consider that it was in a men’s restroom)
- miniature liquor bottles (again, not odd unless you consider that there were a great many bottles & they were all found in one office)
- puppy (alive! 7 year old was giving puppy a “bath” & accidentally flushed the puppy but puppy rescued and OK!)
- live hand grenade
- large block of cheese (sharp & cheddar, to be exact)
- gold bar (originally mistaken for cheese, but discovered it was much heavier)