An Interesting Start: Bathroom Talk

wipes checkoutI had a relatively exciting weekend- I hosted a good friend’s bachelorette weekend at my new house in Charleston. I definitely enjoyed it, although I felt semi-guilty at the state the house is currently in. We did all of the typical bachelorette things I’m sure you’re thinking of, which is always fun. The weekend didn’t start all dancing and champagne though (okay, of course it started with champagne!). On Friday evening, a few guests (I had eight) had taken showers in the upstairs bathrooms. Upon entering the first floor bath, I noticed that the shower was full (to the top) of very questionable-looking water. Oh boy.

Upon further investigation, we realized that the toilets wouldn’t flush. The evening had gone from hanging in the screened porch to full-fledged plumbing nightmare. After a frantic call to a 24 hour plumber, we settled in to have another drink (we had to celebrate the bachelorette) to wait on him.

Once the plumber arrived (he was very nice), he did some investigating and eventually asked me to come see what he found. Apparently a root had grown through the main pipe out of our house, but what he really wanted me to see was the pile of wet ‘flushable’ wipes that had created a dam against the roots. The pipe would have needed to have been repaired down the road, but the wipes had gotten stuck (they don’t break down like toilet paper does) and caused the whole house to back up.

If you know me, you probably know I loved using wet wipes- my thoughts were if babies were getting them, why couldn’t I?  I liked them so much that I bought them from Costco. Since the packages said flushable, I assumed they were…flushable. Turns out they really aren’t.

There are two big issues with these wipes. The first one is at your house, they can easily clog up your pipes even if you don’t have roots in them. I read here about the times for toilet paper to break down in the toilet (~8 seconds), in the same test a wipe “didn’t so much as fray after half an hour”. That same article goes on to discuss what all of these wipes (and other things we flush) do to our wastewater treatment plants…it’s not pretty, the second reason why they aren’t so good. These wipes are a major cause of expense, downtime, and pollution for cities and towns all over the country (and the world).

I was shocked to learn that these wipes are meant to go in the garbage (yuck!), not in the toilet, and if that’s the case, why do they claim to be flushable? Is a sock flushable? What constitutes flushable…simply that it can indeed go down the toilet?

The plumber tried to sell me on the idea of no longer using them which was an easy decision to make. I had just ordered (and had my wonderful husband install) a bidet attachment for my toilet. Every time I had traveled to someplace with a bidet I enjoyed having it. Using toilet paper as a drying device as opposed to a cleaning one is a much more pleasant (and effective) experience. Ours came from Costco, but they seem to sell the same one on Amazon. It has adjustable water pressure and dual nozzles…even a mode for cleaning the nozzles.

bidetOnce it was on and in use, it was one of those things where I wished I had been using it my whole life. I feel better not dumping all of those synthetic fabric wipes into our wastewater system (and eventually landfill), and it’s a much cleaner operation to use the bidet. There is one limitation to the way this works. It’s very easy install and requires no electricity. However, if your toilet isn’t situated next to the bathroom sink, the bidet can only use ‘ambient water’, which is fancy talk for tap water. It can be a little cool, but nothing outrageous. If you have your toilet next to your sink, they have dual temperature models, you lucky duck.

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