The Unflushables: How to Avoid a Clogged Toilet
Two years ago, the EPA awarded San Francisco $513 million for improvements to our largest wastewater treatment plant. We’re now in the process of investing $3 billion into upgrades as part of the Sewer System Improvement Program. But for all the amazing capabilities of our city’s new plumbing infrastructure, it’s still vulnerable to damaging and costly clogs—the same ones that can lead to a clogged toilet or wreak havoc in your own backyard.
You’re probably not thinking about the city’s facilities when you flush, but everything that goes down the toilet ends up there—or stops on its way. The last thing anyone wants is an overflowing or clogged toilet, much less sewage backup in their home.
So let’s talk about how to protect your pipes, what to do if something harmful gets flushed, and when to call a plumbing pro for help!
The Three Ps to Think About Before You Flush
We know we’re probably some of the few people with a real passion for the city’s sewer systems. Understandably, most people just want to know how to avoid expensive plumbing repairs! So no matter if you’re a homeowner, renter, or anything in between, it’s important to think before you flush.
Only three things should ever be flushed down the toilet:
Yes, really—that’s it!
What Can’t Be Flushed Down the Toilet
Everything that isn’t one of the 3Ps needs to be thrown in the trash. That includes some common products that have misleading names or labels, like cat litter and paper products that aren’t toilet paper.
Let’s start with cat litter. Even though it may technically be one of our 3Ps, cat poop contains parasites that our wastewater systems can’t filter out, which can contaminate the water supply. What’s more, the litter itself can combine with fats and oils in the sewer to create large clogs—even organic, natural, or so-called “flushable” brands of litter.
When it comes to paper, only toilet paper should be flushed. That means you need to throw any other paper products in the trash can, including:
- Feminine hygiene products (including tampons)
- Paper towels and napkins
- Wet wipes (baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, etc.)
- “Flushable” wipes
But Wait… Why Can’t You Flush Flushable Wipes?
Because they aren’t actually flushable! The problem is that these wipes don’t break apart in water like toilet paper does. Wet wipes tend to be made of synthetic materials, and even in the harshest sewer environments, they remain intact, causing destructive backups.
Cities across the country have spent millions of dollars clearing so-called “fatbergs”—massive, solid chunks of wet wipes combined with fats and oils. San Francisco alone spends $3.5 million a year clearing these greasy masses away.
These fatbergs have consequences for individuals, too. Whether you’re on a septic or sewer system, wet wipes can create “softball clogs” in your system. These clogs can lead to thousands of dollars worth of plumbing repairs—and cleanup efforts if the sewer pipe is damaged.
When Do I Need to Call a Plumber for a Clogged Toilet?
If you’ve accidentally flushed any large items that get stuck in your U-Bend, naturally, you’ll want to call the plumbing pros at George Salet straight away. Similarly, if you know you’ve been flushing wet wipes, sanitary products, or any other unflushable product regularly, a stubborn clog may require an expert eye and solution.
For more routine clogs, it’s safe to try a plunger if:
- You’ve closed the rubber flapper in the back of the toilet
- The toilet isn’t actively overflowing
- You’ve waited 10 minutes after the last flush to let the water level drop
- You have a good flange plunger specifically designed for toilets
If plunging doesn’t solve the problem, call George Salet Plumbing for an inspection. We may use a drain snake to help break up the clog mechanically.
Flushing What’s Safe Keeps the Plumber Away
It happens to the best of us—our toddler sneaks in and flushes a toy, or we get distracted and flush a paper product that we shouldn’t have. When an accident does happen or an unexplained clog rears its ugly head, trust the experts to handle the job. We can help you get your plumbing system back in working order safely and mess-free.
Fix Your Clogged Toilet with Skilled, Clean, and Honest Plumbers in the San Francisco Bay and Peninsula
Since 1978, George Salet and his expert team have been the plumbing pros that San Francisco trusts. In over 40 years of serving the communities in the Bay Area and Peninsula, we’ve encountered our fair share of UFOs: UnFlushable Objects! Thankfully, we have the tools and expertise to get the job done right. When your home’s safety and sanitation are on the line, contact George Salet Plumbing.