Baby wipes are designed to be tough and durable. When you’ve finished with one, you simply put it in the bin. Unfortunately, some people flush them down the toilet. Although some of these wipes are labelled as ‘flushable’, many people aren’t aware of the problems they can cause once they enter the sewer system. Also, they can easily block your toilet which can be a real problem to deal with.
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Unfortunately, there are no domestic household cleaners that can dissolve baby wipes stuck in your toilet. That being said, let’s look at the options for removing them if you have a blockage.
- 1 What happens when you flush baby wipes?
- 2 How do you dissolve baby wipes in the toilet?
- 3 How to unblock a toilet clogged with baby wipes?
- 4 How many baby wipes does it take to clog a toilet? Will one wipe block it?
- 5 How long does it take a baby wipe to decompose?
What happens when you flush baby wipes?
Flushing baby wipes down the toilet can cause a lot of problems in the drains and sewers. In cities in particular, fatbergs can form in the sewers which is where a mass of oil, grease and fat combines with wet wipes, diapers and other items to form a huge, disgusting blockage. In 2019, one such fatberg was removed from a sewer in London, weighing around 40-tonnes, which is about the size of a double-decker bus! Fatbergs can cause huge problems which can impact entire communities.
The advice is to only flush the 3 P’s – pee, poo and paper. Seems sensible advice to me! Even my 4 year old daughter understands this…I think. I just hope she knows the difference between baby wipes and toilet tissue…
Why are baby wipes labelled as ‘flushable’ if they cause problems?
Companies can say their baby wipes are ‘flushable’ because technically they are. Flushing the occasional baby wipe down the toilet probably won’t cause a serious problem. But when it happens in a large town or city with many households doing it, that’s when problems can arise and fatbergs can form.
How do you dissolve baby wipes in the toilet?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to dissolve baby wipes which are stuck in your toilet. After all, they are tough and durable for a reason. When you need to clean your baby, you know that a wet wipe will be moist and hold together when you wipe him or his changing mat. Tissue paper, on the other hand, can easily break up into smaller pieces when it’s wet and fall apart quite easily. While the durability of baby wipes is a big plus, the downside is that it is very hard to dissolve them.
Baby wipes are made from non-woven fabrics, where a single sheet of material of different fibres is pressed together. Some of these fibres are natural, such as cotton, but plastic resins are used aswell. This non-woven fabric will not break down in water, and even unblockers you can buy in the supermarket won’t work either.
The only way you can really remove some clogged baby wipes in your toilet is to snake it yourself or contact a plumber to help.
Will sulphuric acid dissolve baby wipes?
Sulphuric acid will dissolve baby wipes, but it’s extremely harmful and very corrosive. Although it shouldn’t harm the plastic pipes, you have to be very careful using it. Keep children away, ensure the bathroom is well ventilated, wear gloves and goggles and cover your body. Finally, make sure you don’t pour down any other household cleaners which can mix with sulphuric acid as the reaction could release a harmful gas.
To be honest, it’s far safer to call a plumber or snake the pipe yourself.
What about bleach?
Bleach won’t help unblock your toilet if it’s clogged with baby wipes. The non-woven fabric won’t bond with the bleach properly to allow it to break down.
Will caustic soda dissolve baby wipes?
Caustic soda probably won’t help either, as this person found out. You also have to use this substance with caution.
How do you dissolve wipes in a septic tank?
If your wastewater runs into a septic tank then clogged baby wipes can cause an even bigger problem than if your toilet is connected to a sewer system. This is because any baby wipes and other items which don’t biodegrade will just sit in the septic tank and cause blockages if you flush them down your toilet. Also, you’ll face the same problems with household cleaners and unblockers as they will be ineffective at breaking down lodged baby wipes in a septic tank. You’ll likely need to contact a plumber and have the septic tank pumped. This should be done anyway, every couple of years.
How to unblock a toilet clogged with baby wipes?
The best way to unblock a toilet with baby wipes is to tackle it head on (not literally!). If you can see a bit of the wipe, you might be able to grab it with your hand and pull it out. Put gloves on if you need to. Alternatively, if you can’t see it, you can use a plunger which might dislodge the wipe so it runs down the pipe into the sewer system. Finally, you can also try a plumbing snake to remove it.
How many baby wipes does it take to clog a toilet? Will one wipe block it?
It’s hard to say. Although it’s unlikely one baby wipe will block a toilet by itself, if it stays lodged in the pipe somewhere, it may cause a problem over the weeks and months if further baby wipes or other items attach to it.