Few things cause as much panic as settling into the bathroom and only then discovering you are without toilet paper. This fear prompted many in the US population to hoard the precious commodity during the pandemic, so that many were forced to discover toilet paper alternatives.
Although cowboys in the wild west found natural toilet paper alternatives for necessary use on the range, they didn’t have to contend with clogged plumbing fixtures and pipes. The Internet is filled with information about soft alternatives for this necessary chore, but are these toilet paper alternatives safe for your plumbing?
Toilet Paper Alternatives and Your Plumbing System
If you have not researched toilet paper alternatives, you are probably one of the few. Many choices exist, from natural plants to running water. However, among the different options below, NONE of them are suitable for flushing down the toilet. If you choose to reduce costs by purchasing or locating toilet paper alternatives, have a plan in place to dispose of soiled materials and avoid the inevitable plumbing repairs from flushing foreign objects.
If you have ever wondered what people used for personal cleaning after eliminating waste before toilet paper was first available commercially, the answer is completely natural — they turned to nature. Simply washing with soap and water is the best answer, and for those times when water is not available, certain leafy plants growing nearby were a ready source. These included (depending on your part of the country):
- Sycamore leaves
- Silver maple leaves
- Cigar bean tree leaves
- Southern magnolia leaves and flower petals
- Wooly mullein leaves
- Corn lily petals
- Thimbleberry leaves
- Large leaf aster leaves
- Wooly lambs ear leaves
Although you may think that natural materials like leaves could be safely flushed down your toilet, beware. Septic and sewer systems are designed to break down and dispose of certain substances, not every kind of organic material. Leaves can stick together and cause clogs in drains and pipes, as well as take much longer to decompose.
These natural toilet paper alternatives are best used in outdoor settings, like camping or hiking, where more traditional options are not available. Then, it is suggested that you dig a hole to cover your waste and any materials used for personal cleansing.
Flushable wipes are simply a lie. While they provide a better cleaning material than dry toilet paper, especially for children and those undergoing toilet training, their title is misleading. They should NEVER be flushed down the toilet. Flushable wipes do not break down like toilet paper, despite the claims of their manufacturers. Even The New York Times suggests that you do not flush alleged flushable wipes. These products are popular, regularly used for:
- Cleaning dust from real and artificial houseplants
- Removing household dust from furniture and other items
- Cleaning up leather or vinyl furniture or vehicle upholstery
- Removing stains from clothing and upholstery
- Quick kitchen counter and appliance cleaning
- Clean mud or sticky substances from shoes
- Quick pet cleaning
Flushable wipes take a significantly longer amount of time to break down in sewer systems, and they often create difficult clogs in pipes. Flushing these products down the toilet is a sure prescription for costly plumbing clogs and toilet backups.
When choosing flushable wipes as a toilet paper alternative or for other cleaning uses, of which there are many, place all materials in the trash and seal in a garbage bag for prompt disposal.
Towels & Other Products
Towels, cloths, or other fabric materials are excellent cleaning solutions, but also should never be flushed down the toilet. Sanitary napkins are thicker than toilet paper and will cause clogs quicker than almost any other toilet paper alternatives. Paper towels and napkins cause similar problems when introduced to your bathroom plumbing.
If there are no other toilet paper alternatives available, resorting to the earliest practices of good old fashioned soap and water is the best choice. Modern refinements can include adding a bidet to your bathroom to facilitate this option. While this has traditionally been more of a European adaptation, it is gaining popularity in the United States. Another option could be to provide a perineal irrigation bottle, or peri bottle. This is an affordable type of plastic squirt bottle fashioned to facilitate personal cleansing.
Toilet Paper Alternatives and Other Items to Avoid Flushing Down the Toilet
Toilets are often mistaken for garbage disposals, and are forced to accept numerous items and materials that are not meant to go down the pipes (although many of these items should not be placed in the garbage disposal). Here is a list of toilet paper alternatives and other items that you should avoid flushing down the toilet.
- Facial tissues
- Baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, any type of wipes
- Toilet bowl scrub pads
- Napkins or paper towels
- Dental floss
- Eggshells or nutshells
- Coffee grounds
- Fats, oil, or grease
- Sanitary napkins, personal products, or any non-organic material
- Cotton balls or Q-tips
- Vitamins, medicines, or other pharmaceuticals
- Plastic of any kind
- Harsh chemicals
Many parents have dealt with the occasional strange object being dropped into the toilet and flushed, from plastic toys to cell phones. Accidents can happen. When toilet clogs occur, Plymouth Plumbing & Heating can provide emergency plumbing services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Alternative Uses for Toilet Paper
For those of you who hoarded massive amounts of toilet paper during the pandemic and now find yourselves with an over abundance that you will likely never use, here are some suggested uses for toilet paper. After all, you don’t want to waste it all, right?
- Cleaning oily residue from your face
- Unclogging nasal passages
- Cleaning up after your pet
- Wrapping a house as a prank
- Making paper flowers
- Baby shower games
- Decorating the bathroom (with various printed varieties)
- Making a mummy Halloweeen costume
- Killing/disposing of bugs
- Taking measurements (a typical square is 4.5 inches)
- Art projects
- Covering the toilet seat for increased sanitation
- Making temporary bandages
- Extra padding for troublesome shoes
- A ready place to dispose of used gum
- Emergency coffee filters
- Quick covering for shaving nicks
- Keeping the cat busy
- Cheap party streamers
- Wrapping for gag gifts
- Extra under-clothing insulation for cold weather
- Giving away to family and friends
- Trading with neighbors for other necessary commodities
We realize that many of these alternative uses for toilet paper are tongue-in-cheek, but aside from its number 1 and number 2 uses (pun intended), toilet paper is quite versatile and handy to have around the house.
If you have clogged pipes from flushing toilet paper alternatives, help is available in eastern Wisconsin at any time of the day or night. Call Plymouth Plumbing & Heating for professional service when you have any type of plumbing problems.