14 Things You Should Never Flush Down Your Toilet

Toilets are not garbage cans with water in them. The list of “don’t flush” items is long and varied. Things to never flush cause clogs, damage plumbing, damage waste systems and septic tanks, contaminate wells and aquifers, and even affect the environment.

Everyday Items You Should Never Flush Down Your Toilet

14 Things You Should Never Flush


Dispose of all of the items on this list–and any related items–in the proper way. Garbage, recyclables, or compost. Flushing inappropriate things down the toilet leads to plugged plumbing, damaged pipes, and ultimately to costly repairs and inconvenience.

1. Tissues and Paper Towels

Unlike toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels are made to absorb water and not break down–or break down more slowly. Flushing too many increases the chance of clogged plumbing pipes.

2. “Flushable” Diapers

C’mon, they are almost too big to go down the toilet before they absorb water and expand. Especially in new low-flush toilets with smaller openings. Use a diaper pail.

3. “Flushable” Wipes

Wipes may say flushable on the package. That means they will go down the toilet but can still plug up pipes because they break down slowly and absorb water. Use a lined garbage container instead.

4. Left Over Food

Left-over food–chunky or soft–may go down the toilet. It will eventually decompose but until it does, it can still stick in the drain pipes and cause clogs.

5. Grease and Oil

Grease and oil rarely clog drains by themselves. They can, however, stick to plumbing pipes and narrow them. Other items that shouldn’t be flushed stick to the grease and further narrow pipes until they clog. Plunging may remove the clog but the grease requires a plumbing snake to get it out.

6. Feminine Sanitary Products and Condoms

Menstrual products absorb water–often expanding to many times their original size. They can block pipes and cause toilet backups. That is the reason most public and business washrooms provide separate disposal containers.

Condoms are meant to contain liquid. Flushing something that may become a balloon in the drain system is not a good idea. The latex does not decompose.

7. Hair and Dental Floss

Hair floats. It never dissolves in plumbing water. It gets caught on any pipe protrusion and forms a net that entangles other things coming through the pipes–eventually blocking drain pipes.

8. Q-tips, Swabs, Cotton Balls, and Rounds

All cotton absorbs many times its weight in water and expands. Cotton does not dissolve or break down. It can catch on pipe protrusions, clump together, and block pipes Accumulations of cotton have been blamed for broken or cracked pipes.

Plastic Q-tip sticks also do not decompose in water. Wedged in piping, they cause, or add to clogs.

9. Plastic Items

Don’t flush any type of plastic down the toilet. Including bandages. Plastic does not dissolve in water. Much of it is not biodegradable. If plastic does not contribute to clogged pipes, it will likely float around in sewer-tailing ponds and septic tanks for years–polluting the environment.

10. Cigarette Butts

Cigarettes contain hundreds of harmful chemicals. Flushing them into the wastewater system harms the environment. They don’t always go down the toilet–adding another bad smell to the bathroom.

11. Gum

Gum does not break down in water and it remains sticky. It can adhere to the sides of pipes or make a developing clog worse by gumming things together.

12. Medications and Pills

Pills and other medications usually will not damage or clog plumbing pipes. They flow right through and contaminate the environment, sewer systems, and even groundwater. Throwing them into the garbage for burial in a landfill is not much better. Take them back to a drugstore for proper disposal.

13. Hazardous Chemicals and Paint

Many household cleaners contain hazardous chemicals. Even some toilet bowl cleaners contain bleach. Many chemicals mix with water but damage the environment. No one should pour paint down the toilet–ever.

14 Cat Litter

Some cat litter claims to be “flushable”. Don’t do it–even if it is easy. Cat litter absorbs water and can clog drain pipes because most modern toilets do not use enough water to force it all the way through the system. The litter or cat feces and urine may introduce potentially harmful parasites into the environment.


Just because it is a yucky job, don’t be squeamish. Fish out anything that falls into the toilet to save yourself a large plumbing bill. Things like toothbrushes, razors, cell phones, socks, towels, toys, glasses, rings, etc. It is way easier to flush and hope, but that solution tends to cause long-term problems.