LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A popular bathroom fixture is turning into a huge problem and costing you money. The Metropolitan Sewer District says flushable wipes might make it through your toilet, but they often back up MSD's pumps leading to expensive repairs and higher rates.
Now, one consumer group has discovered companies are advertising flushable wipes that aren't so flushable after all.
Plumber Kenny Valentin makes a lot of calls that involve clogged toilets, backed up sewer lines and flooded basements. Often the culprit flushable wipes.
"You can spend $3, $4, $5 getting wipes," Valentin said. "But at the end if you flush those into the toilet, you're going to end up paying hundreds of dollars for plumbing services."
Consumer Reports checked out four flushable wipes from Cottonelle, Charmin, Scott and Equate. They all say they are flushable and make claims like "sewer and septic safe" and "breaks up after flushing."
First Consumer Reports tester Bernie Deitrick used a machine to measure just how strong the wipes are by measuring how much force it takes to tear through them.
"Strong may not be what you want when you're flushing it down your toilet," Deitrick said. "You want something that will break down easily, so that you don't have problems with your plumbing system."
While toilet paper breaks down quickly in Consumer Reports' standard tests, when Deitrick ran the same test with the flushable wipes, they didn't break down at all. He gave up after 10 minutes. Even when he ran them for 10 minutes in a mixer, the wipes still didn't break apart.
"Our advice: If you use these products, don't flush them down the toilet," Deitrick said.
And if you need more of a reason, listen to the plumber.
"My recommendation as a plumber, do not use flushable wipes," Valentin said. "They can be a big problem for you."
Consumer Reports did find that after soaking overnight, two of the products did break down, Cottonelle and Scott. But even after 12 hours, the ones from Charmin and Equate still stayed in one piece.
When the cloth-like material doesn't break down in the sanitary sewer system like toilet paper, it can block sewer lines, clog equipment and increase cities' maintenance and repair costs. Public works managers said the problem has worsened in recent years because more of the products are on the market and consumer demand is growing.
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