Flushable Isn’t Biodegradable: Big Difference

Baby Wipes, Adult Bathroom Wipes, Make Up Wipes, whatever…

No matter by what name you know these cleansing cloths, I think we all need to realize that “Flushable isn’t Biodegradable.” I was so shocked by the MSNBC segment on this that I was moved to write about this in case some of you were unaware of these facts.

This is the segment I am speaking about. Watch it.

When I have used these “flushable” wipes, I was mistakenly under the impression that, since they were flushable and the package said they were safe for septic tanks, I would not be doing any harm by using them.


And I want to explain, in case this isn’t clear, it is true that the flushed wipes usually make it through the sewage system ok. That statement is true, but note the usually. Clogging of your household plumbing can occur and after you have paid a plumber hundreds ( or thousands) of dollars, that “usually” can haunt you for a long time. 

Flushable Isn't Biodegradable - The Hypertufa Gardener


But it is when flushed wipes reach the treatment plant where the hangup occurs.

Pardon the pun.

According to the MSNBC video report, millions of dollars are spent cleaning the equipment where the clogging occurs because these wipes are flushable but do contain fibers  which don’t break down in water. These fibrous materials  are caught on the machinery and have to manually be raked away.

I feel sorry for the workers who have that job!

We need to do all we can to reduce the burden on our wastewater systems, especially in a time when every drop of water is precious!  As a consumer, I need to be responsible to not use something that could harm the environment when it can easily be avoided.

What can I use instead?

Here are a few suggestions that I have to use instead of the wipes.

Use toilet paper which breaks down easily. Forgo using wipes just for your convenience.The same goes for makeup removal and eye makeup removal.

Use small cloths cut into squares to clean the baby, such as an old cloth diaper or old receiving blanket. Remember your Moms and Grandmas just rinsed these things and threw them in the  wash with the diapers. If one gets especially gross, just throw it in the trash!

If you must use a disposable on occasion, throw it in the trash, don’t flush it. As the video says, it ends up in the landfill anyway.

Use a tiny bit of skin-sensitive lotion on a handful of toilet paper for your personal use. Just as easy and simple. Job done.

Use a tissue and some baby shampoo dilution.


So what do you think about this issue? Did you have any idea that flushable was not “breakdown-able”? I sure didn’t.

Thanks for reading and think about what you can do to help our environment today….then do it.


Update Oct 2018 :  This is still going on. Check out this newest article from South Carolina.



Kim, The Hypertufa Gardener

Hi, I am Kim and thank you so much for visiting my magazine! I am a gardener and a hypertufa maker. If you came here to learn about hypertufa, I have a lot of information. But I also write about flower gardening and using succulents which are great drought-tolerant plants.

Of course, I have some recipes and some random family concerns which I hope interest you too! Please page through the Magazine and find what you like! and Subscribe!

I also have a YouTube channel called Kim’s Gardens where you can see my hypertufa as I make them. ( See My About Page)

5 thoughts on “Flushable Isn’t Biodegradable: Big Difference

  • September 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm
    What if wipes are what works best for us or our children? I wouldn't know what to do with them. The last thing that I would want to do is just throw them away. They aren't exactly perfect for that kind of thing. I feel like doing so will cause the restroom to smell awful. http://www.aaacesspool.com Reply
    • September 16, 2015 at 5:59 pm
      I am not sure what can be used except for straight toilet paper. I would clean up the mess as best as possible and then dampen the toilet paper to do a final clean up. Perhaps only those "flushables" in an emergency? If they can put a rocket in space, someone can come up with a biodegradable wipe! Reply
  • September 2, 2015 at 6:17 pm
    I really appreciated your insight that you give on what should be flushed down the toilet. My husband and I have a cabin that we rent out, and we have noticed that the septic tank has gotten backed up a lot, but, in our naivety, we couldn't figured out why. Reading your article, however, really opens up my eyes and makes me wonder if the people we rent our cabin to aren't being careful about the products they are flushing. I will definitely be sure to address the issue and make sure that people understand to only flush toilet paper down the toilet. Thank you for the insight! Reply
    • September 3, 2015 at 5:40 am
      This video in the article sure was eye-opening to me too. Extra care when you flush! Reply
  • June 27, 2015 at 7:58 pm
    Oh my goodness. Poor Matt. What people need to take on board in general when it comes to waste is; there is no 'away.' You can't just flush something or throw something 'away,' because it has to go 'somewhere.' And in this case, just like all waste, it's going somewhere, into landfill. I was never a baby wipes user for myself or my babies, I preferred good old soap and warm water in a bowl. But I've pinned this to my natural, healthy sustainable board to help spread the word to others. Thanks for sharing! Reply

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