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14 Things You Should Never Flush Down the Drain

Edited By: Natalia Jones
 If a clogged up sink, shower, garbage disposal or toilet are a regular or semi-regular occurrence in your home, it might be the case that you’re flushing one of these 14 things down the drain and toilet, which often doesn’t only clog up your pipes, but may even be an environmental hazard. Plumbers report that these items are the main culprits behind blockages so keep reading to find out what they are and how to dispose of them correctly below.

1. Chewing Gum

things not flush down the drain chewing gum
Chewing gum is one of the most dangerous items you can flush down the drain or even the toilet, as it essentially works like glue, sticking to the pipe surface and adhering other items to the pipe, creating a blockage. Make sure to always dispose of chewing gum by throwing it into the trash bin.

2. Kitty Litter

things not flush down the drain Kitty Litter
You may read on the packaging on many cat litters that they're safe to flush down the toilet, but this doesn't mean you should do it. If the litter works by clumping to the cat urine and feces, it will do the same in your pipes, creating a sticky and very difficult-to-remove blockage. But even if you're using the non-clumping kind of cat litter, always throw it into the trash, and not into the toilet, as many litters use chemicals that can contaminate water and be dangerous for the environment.
3. Coffee Grounds
things not flush down the drain Coffee Grounds
We've heard many opinions on this matter, should or shouldn't you flush coffee grounds down the drain or garbage disposal? Some people claim that coffee actually scrubs down all impurities from the pipes or garbage disposal, much like eggshells. But the truth is, both coffee and eggshells tend to settle on the bottom of the pipes, and combined with some grease, they can create blockages. Instead of just tossing the coffee grounds into the trash can, however, try one of these handy and creative ways of reusing coffee grounds in your home.

4. Paper Towels and Tissues

things not flush down the drain Paper Towels and Tissues
One of the main culprits behind clogged pipes are paper towels and tissues, as many people think that these will dissolve in water like toilet paper, but they don't. But even if they get to the sewers without affecting your home, they can create serious problems down the line and are a known problem at water treatment facilities.

5. Q Tips

things not flush down the drain Q Tips
It doesn't matter if you're using plastic or wooden Q tips, throwing them into your toilet or sink can cause a serious problem. Of course, the wooden variety is better for the environment and marine life in particular, but even these can get stuck in the pipes and slowly collect bits of paper, hair, floss, and pieces of food, inevitably leading to a clogged up sink or toilet. Make sure to discard Q tips into your trashcan. 

6. Dental Floss and Hair

things not flush down the drain Dental Floss and Hair
We have reached the two things that contribute to the vast majority of clogged up drains - dental floss and hair. Both of these substances tend to tangle together, forming huge balls that are simply bound to create a plumbing problem. And while hair is biodegradable and floss is not, both are equally dangerous for your sinks and showers, as even hair takes a long time to dissolve. When cleaning your brushes of excess hair, always make sure to throw away the hair into the garbage. The same goes for dental floss, it should never be thrown into the drain or toilet.

7. Wet Wipes

things not flush down the drain Wet Wipes
The printed instructions on many wet wipes nowadays state that they are safe to flush down the toilet, but this is not entirely true. By wet wipes we mean a whole variety of products, by the way, both cleaning wipes, baby wipes, and makeup removal wipes made the list. All of these products are way too sturdy and thick to disintegrate in water and are a frequent cause of clogged toilets, sewers and often cause septic tank problems. If you're using these, simply throw them into the trash after use.

8. Bleach

things not flush down the drain Bleach
Many of us use bleach to clean our showers, toilets, and sinks on a weekly basis, so we were personally very surprised to learn that it can actually cause a lot of damage to your piping and septic system. The truth is that bleach is way too strong and can cause corrosion, plus it can react with other substances and create toxic fumes. If you want to keep your toilet sparkling clean, it's best to use cleaners that don't contain bleach or even just white vinegar. 

9. Disposable Diapers and Period Products

things not flush down the drain Disposable Diapers and Period Products
As any parent will know, modern diapers are made of gel substances that expand when they come in contact with water, that's exactly how they manage to keep the baby clean. For the same reason, you shouldn't throw them into the toilet, as they will expand, inevitably clogging your pipes right away. The story is identical with feminine hygiene products, as they too, expand in water and don't dissolve in the toilet, plus they can stick and get tangled to a Q tip or some hair, which makes them the more difficult to remove.

10. Car Fluids

things not flush down the drain Car Fluids
Automobile fluids are a necessity in every home that has a vehicle, but at the same time, they are toxic chemicals that pose a danger to the environment and human health. In fact, they're so dangerous that t's illegal to wash these chemicals down the drain in many countries throughout the world.

11. Paint

things not flush down the drain Paint
Like car fluids, some paints, too, can contain toxic compounds, but not all paints affect human and animal health. Water-based paints are usually safe to use, but oil-based paints have been shown to jeopardize human and animal health, so they are particularly hazardous. If you have leftover latex paint, let's say, after painting your home, it's best to dry the paint out in the sun before throwing it out. You can always take it to the recycling center near you as well and let the professionals handle it. 

12. Food

things not flush down the drain Food
We all know that pieces of food, such as bones, fruit and vegetables can clog up the drain or even the garbage disposal and often cause an unpleasant smell, but even liquids, soft and water-soluble foods can be problematic. Foods that expand in water, such as flour, cereals and grains, for example, can also clog up the kitchen sink. Dairy products, such as milk, too, can harm your sewers and the environment, as the consume a lot of oxygen while breaking down, which can deprive marine and freshwater life of this essential element. Try not to throw out milk and dairy products and try to use them by their expiration date.

13. Medications

things not flush down the drain Medication
Medication, too, can affect the animal world, so it's a really bad idea to throw expired pills and other medications into a sink and forget about it. Instead, you can drop the excess pills off at a local pharmacy and they will be able to safely dispose of the medication for you.

14. Cooking Oil or Grease

things not flush down the drain Cooking Oil or Grease
Did we save the worst for last? Maybe, as both cooking oil and grease (both vegetable and animal derived) are extremely dangerous for the pipes, be it a dirty frying pan or salad bowl. Oils tend to coagulate and form a thick white substance when they mix with water, and it's no different when they're in your pipes or the sewer. Cooking oils and grease continuously cause problems both in private homes and water treatment facilities. To prevent this from happening, simply wipe down the dirty dish with a paper towel to get off the majority of the grease and proceed washing as usual.
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