Your average septic system is pickier than a toddler at lunchtime. Sometimes we run out of toilet paper, and you may find yourself looking around the house for a quick solution. While the term “biodegradable” may seem like it can make a paper towel the perfect solution, but that does not always mean toilet or septic friendly.
Can You Flush Biodegradable Paper Towel? Although it seems like a decent option, just because a paper towel is biodegradable does not mean it is safe to flush down your toilet. The main reasoning behind this is that the average paper towel is much more durable and thick than toilet paper that you can purchase. Is one going to ruin your septic system? Probably not. Continued use can lead to severe septic tank problems.
Although the name of a paper towel may seem similar to toilet paper, the way they are created and their intended uses are different. While biodegradable paper towels may be a better choice for the environment, they are best left out of your toilet. Let’s talk about the differences between paper towels and toilet paper.
Can You Flush Biodegradable Paper Towel?
The quick answer is no. While you technically can flush a paper towel down the drain, you are likely going to run into some serious problems down the road. Even biodegradable paper towels can cause blockages or backed up pipes that can be costly and difficult to repair. They are also an unnecessary issue that you can easily avoid by understanding that paper towels should only be used to clean your toilet.
The reasoning behind this is that paper towels and toilet paper are not created equal. Toilet paper is designed to break down easily in water and rarely can cause septic issues. A paper towel is designed to absorb water and maintain its integrity to clean up messes without ripping. The materials that are used to create a paper towel is much different than what is used to make toilet paper.
The only recommended thing to flush down your toilet is toilet paper. There are instances where you may have to use a paper towel in place of toilet paper, but you should be disposing of it in a wastebasket, not your toilet. Using a biodegradable product sounds like a safe bet, but just because a product is meant to be kinder to the environment doesn’t mean that it will break down in time, not to cause problems.
Flushing any kind of paper towel down your drain will result in a big ball of paper that will either be stuck in your pipe system or your septic tank. Often called fatbergs, these blockages form as a result of items that should not be flushed down the toilet ending up in the pipes or septic tank. These can lead to expensive repairs later down the road.
How Are Paper Towels and Toilet Paper Different?
You are probably wondering what the actual difference is between a paper towel and toilet paper. Not only are they made for entirely different purposes, but they each have unique qualities that make them good at their intended use. Let’s talk about a few of the critical differences which make biodegradable paper towels not suitable as a toilet paper substitute.
- Toilet Paper is Designed to Be Soft and Dissolve: You probably have a favorite toilet paper that you think is higher-quality or more comfortable than another brand. The likelihood of the reason being that it is softer when you use it is probably up there. Toilet paper is designed not to irritate human skin. Toilet paper is typically made with fine fibers that help it shape to your body. It also is made to dissolve in water due to its low “wet strength.” This means that when it gets wet, it is more likely to fall apart.
- Paper Towels are Meant to be Strong and Absorbent: There is nothing worse than using a paper towel to clean up a mess that basically falls apart in your hand. Good paper towels are meant to have high-absorbency levels to clean up messes. They are also are typically treated with some sort of chemical to clean bacteria and dirt as well. The paper towel’s surface is not smooth like toilet paper, and this is to help lock in liquids or dirt during its use.
- Paper Towels Have More Uses: You should be using toilet paper if you are in the bathroom. Since it is used in sensitive areas, it is not treated with chemicals as often as paper towels. Paper towels are meant to be used on a wide variety of surfaces and to clean up a more extensive range of messes. The actual uses of both toilet paper and paper towels are what makes their texture and material makeup so different.
What are the Risks of Flushing Paper Towels?
Our toilets are designed to work exclusively with toilet paper. Does that mean that it has not seen a piece of paper towel in the past? Probably not. Although your toilet and septic system may be able to handle one piece of a paper towel being flushed down the toilet, there are serious problems that could develop if you continue to use it as a toilet paper substitute.
The most significant risk is that you may cause a blockage in one of your pipes. If you do flush a paper towel down the toilet, it can result in a fatberg. Fatbergs occur when items that are better off in the garbage can end up in your toilet for one reason or another. Any blockage in your pipes or septic tank can actually grow in size as it catches more coming down the pipe.
A blockage will eventually cause your toilet or sinks to drain at a much slower rate or stop draining altogether. It is not uncommon for a blocked pipe to end up pushing whatever you put down your drain back to the surface. If this happens, you are most likely going to have to call a plumber to rod your pipes, which is messy and costly.
Are There Any Suitable Substitutes for Toilet Paper?
The truth is, there is no suitable replacement for toilet paper that you can flush down your toilet. Even flushable wipes are having to be pulled out of sewers each year and have resulted or attributed to fatbergs in drains around the world. Bidets have become common in many parts of the world to reduce the amount of toilet paper they are using. Since they use water and no paper, they do not cause additional blockages.
If you need to use something other than toilet paper, you can. The rule here is that you should not be flushing anything besides water or toilet paper. If you need to use a paper towel or a rag as a substitute, you should either be throwing it away in your wastebasket or washing and sanitizing it in hot water. Although this may seem like an extreme option, it is something to consider if you find yourself out of toilet paper in a pinch, or you are unable to find it.
Most paper products are decent to use in an emergency to clean yourself. The biggest reason that you should avoid flushing anything other than toilet paper is that they are not made the same way. Toilet paper is often much thinner than other paper products in your house, which helps keep it soft on your body and allows it to disintegrate in water.