As the cold weather starts to creep in, it’s important we look after our plumbing. Temperatures can play their part in encouraging leaks which is beyond our control. However, hope is not lost, there are things we can do to take back control and make a difference. The time to make these changes, is now. This month we’re going to talk about the infamous unflushable items. Ones that are often put in our drains causing more harm than you may think. It’s time for a little rethink on how you dispose of these items and start creating new eco-friendly habits.
Unflushable items: Cooking oils and fats
Possibly the biggest culprit of causing blockages and drainage issues in your local area are cooking oils and fats. When we cook, we often end up with liquid fats. Let’s be honest, they’re a bit gross and we certainly don’t want them on our plates. As a result, many people wash them away in the sink before washing up or popping items into the dishwasher.
But why can’t we wash away fats? Because they solidify. The heat from cooking is what transforms them into a sticky liquid state. When they cool in the pipes, they become solid. Creating all sorts of havoc. Instead of washing away your cooking fats, pour them into an empty jar and wait for them to cool. Once your jar is full, empty the contents into your food waste caddy (or waste bin if your local authority doesn’t collect food waste).
Unfortunately even biodegradable floss isn’t ideal for flushing. The word ‘biodegradable’ can be misleading especially as the parameters under which a product can break down are not always specified. Biodegradable floss doesn’t necessarily break down in water. It may require high heat or organisms that are found in compost heap.
The fact is, no floss should be put into your drains. There’s a number of things that it can get wrapped around. From parts of your septic system to plumbing and other debris in drains. Floss is great at tying it all together and creating a nightmare. Instead, simply pop it in your waste bin – or if it is compostable corn starch floss, your compost heap or food waste bin would suffice. If you’re unsure, ask your local council who can advise on which bin is best for you. The last thing you want to do is put it in your toilet!
A surprising unflushable item: Hair
Human hair, especially long hair. If you’re guilty of emptying your hairbrush and putting the hair down the toilet this one is for you. Hair is similar to floss; it is awful at entangling other items in your drains. It is our most surprising unflushable item, especially as hair naturally goes down the drain while showering.
To avoid your drains becoming clogged with hair; empty your brushes into the bin and brush your hair before going in the shower. This way it is captured and disposed of safely. Pop your hair in your waste bin, it cannot be recycled or put into your food waste bin.
This is a big one! It doesn’t matter what type of wet wipe you buy it is an unflushable item. Even those that are advertised as flushable. Despite what manufacturers say, wipes that are deemed flushable and biodegradable don’t always disintegrate when they end up in the sewers. Creating all sorts of madness. The only ‘wipes’ that are flushable are those accredited with ‘Fine To Flush’ certification granted by Water Research Centre and Water UK.
The issue is – wet wipes are incredibly handy. Spill? Grab a wipe. Baby puke? Wipe it is! Makeup smudge? Wipe wipe wipe! They’re so versatile and cheap. But we’re not changing out actions to benefit ourselves, some eco-friendly actions at first will seem a little bit inconvenient. However, swap your wipes out for reusable cloths and you’re onto a winner. You’ll quickly see how versatile reusable towels are and they’re perfect for keeping drains clear and decreasing waste.
A very unflushable item: Nappies
Over time, we have been shocked by the varying items found in drains. One that continues to baffle us is the nappy. The nappy is used for the same purpose as the toilet, yes. But that doesn’t mean the whole thing can be flushed?! There aren’t any flushable nappies or anything remotely close on the market.
The best option? A reusable nappy. That will at least minimise your waste and prevent anything from going in the toilet. With reusable nappies, the insert is often debated as flushable. Officially it is not (although the contents may be!). So, pop it in your waste bin. It will still save space on your bins, but our initial aim is to stop blocking our drains.
Removing these five unflushable items from your drains is just one step to keeping plumbing clear and costs down when it comes to repairs. Other common items found in drains include sanitary products, medication, paper towels, condoms, plasters, food, contact lenses, chewing gum, and even dead pets like your pal Goldie the Goldfish. Keep an eye out next week as we look at the implications these items are having on our homes and our wider community.