With the recent insanity that is running rampant in our communities resulting in people hoarding toilet paper, I’m now starting to see people talking about buying up paper towel, facial tissue, and baby wipes to use as an alternative. Just cut that paper towel in half, and voila ! Easy peasy NO ! If you hear of someone doing this STOP THEM NOW!

I am not a plumber. I am only an engineer who has spent the past 30 years designing, among other things, sanitary mains and service connections. And as a fringe benefit of that, dealing with the more complicated cases of sewer blockages and backups that result when people make bad decisions.

Stop and think about it for a second. Toilet paper is made for the sole purpose of cleaning oneself, and then tossing it into a water filled toilet where it is then flushed into a small pipe. That pipe is maybe 3 inches in diameter in your house… leading to maybe 4 inches exiting your house, and then entering the sewer main on your street and joining all your neighbours t.p. and bodily waste – and that pipe is only maybe 6-8 inches in diameter.

How can all of your neighbours t.p. and waste join with yours and somehow be crammed into a pipe just 6 inches in diameter, and still keep moving entirely by gravity? Because human waste – and toilet paper – begins to disintegrate the instant it enters that pipe and joins in the water.

Toilet paper is designed to disintegrate quickly once it touches water. Remember that.

Now think about facial tissue. You’ve got a cold and you blow your sweet little nose that is filled with a semi-liquid gel like substance – i.e. it has a certain liquid/water content. The last thing you want is for that facial tissue to start to disintegrate at that moment, right ? So manufacturers make facial tissue to withstand a certain amount of water and make it more durable so it can even withstand your Uncle Art’s big honking nose-blowing fest without breaking.

Or whoops, the kids spill their milk – so you reach for the good ol’ paper towel. The last thing you want is to put a piece of paper towel on that milk and zap, it disintegrates. What good is that ? So manufacturers actually make paper towel thick – and *absorbing* to help you clean up the spills. Absorbing water is the exact opposite of disintegrating in water.

Baby wipes or hand wipes or cleaning wipes ? They’re designed to sit in a liquid with some mix of chemicals in it and wait for you to pull them out to clean the baby or your hands or the kitchen counter. So shall we guess what happens when you toss one of those wipes into a toilet and flush ? Do we think it disintegrates once it hits the water ? Do *not* believe it if the packaging claims they are flushable. (for proof of this, just google flushable wipes and see the numerous studies proving they’re not)

Now imagine if 10 of your neighbours stop using toilet paper that dissolves when added to water. Imagine instead that they use nice absorbing paper towel, toss in a few facial tissues, and follow that up with some baby wipes or cleaning wipes. And instead of disintegrating they all hold to their original make up and start to travel down that wee little 6 inch pipe in the street along with all the other unmentionables that are flushed down the toilet that we don’t discuss in polite society (until we’re 95 and whether or not we’ve had a bowel movement becomes the topic of discussion at breakfast every morning)…..

That clogged pipe might happen in the street outside your house. It might happen 10 blocks away. Or it might happen in your private sewer line right outside your front door – or even inside your house. But believe me, it will happen.

The cost to unblock your private line ? $500-10,000 depending on the location and severity. The cost to communities across Canada each year to unblock pipes ? at least $250,000,000.

So please, for your own sake if not your community’s sake – don’t flush anything other than toilet paper down the toilet ! Not even the old Sears catalogue, tree leaves, or moss. Our modern sanitary systems aren’t as tough as the ol’ out house in your grandma’s back yard. The insanity from this virus is going to be costly enough to everyone – don’t add an emergency plumbing repair to things.

And for the love of pete – stop hoarding toilet paper and if you have extra share with your neighbours !

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