Well, we won’t lie: a future in which Calgarians’ access to toilet paper is unclear is not a reality we expected to find ourselves in, but here we are. With the entire toilet paper supply wiped off of Amazon and many grocery stores only offering empty shelves in the toiletry aisle, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen an increase in homeowners asking about “flushable” alternatives.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is there is no such thing as a flushable alternative. Oh, there are plenty of products that market themselves as flushable; we won’t dispute that, but none of these products adequately dissolve in water. This means, when push comes to flush, they’ll either clog up your own plumbing or they’ll clog up the municipal plumbing. So what’s a desperate, toilet-paperless Calgarian to do?
“Flushable” Wipes or Napkins?
Basically a cross between a wet wipe and a kleenex box, these wipes typically come in a pack and are wet for a gentle cleaning experience. They’re great for wiping a baby or toddler’s bum because they’re more sturdy and clean away mess easily. If you enjoy camping or hiking, they’re also great for cleaning up when you need to do your business away from normal toilet amenities. You can also definitely use these types of wipes to clean up after you’ve used the washroom at home, but what you shouldn’t do is then toss the wipe into the bowl.
Any non-toilet-paper product (even if it says flushable) needs to be disposed of in the garbage. Flushing wipes can lead to costly plumbing repairs for either you or the city, and whether it’s coming out of your pocket directly or from your tax dollars, you’ll end up paying for that clog in the end.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of all the toilet paper alternatives you may be considering and definitely should NOT be flushing:
-Baby wipes, makeup wipes, disinfectant wipes, wet wipes, etc.
-Paper towels or napkins (paper or cloth)
-Cotton balls or cotton makeup wipes
With the cloth diapering movement now going strong, we’ve heard from a few Calgarians who are wondering about washable, cloth alternatives to toilet paper. They exist! You can absolutely wash off after going to the bathroom with a rag or a square of family cloth (as washable, fabric toilet paper is called).
For hygiene purposes, we strongly recommend not reusing cloth between washes. You may also want to have your cloth colour coded, so that each family member has their own supply of family cloth which is not shared between family members. And, we cannot stress this enough, obviously, you shouldn’t be flushing fabric of any kind. Like cloth diapers, used family cloth should go into a wet bag or wet pail to be washed in the laundry machine. (We recommend a heavy-duty cycle with hot water. Consider pre-washing and an extra rinse, if your family cloth is badly soiled)
When it comes to what you can and can’t flush, it’s pretty straight forward. Toilets aren’t trash cans. Human bodily fluids (including vomit and blood) and toilet paper are okay for flushing. Nothing else belongs in the toilet. Frankly, even thick ply toilet papers should be used sparingly because they take longer to break down in the water. So what do you do if this pandemic has left you without any access to toilet paper?
Well, you can use a toilet paper alternative (such as cutting up paper towels into smaller squares) which you then throw into the trash, or you could dedicate a few old rags to become temporary (or permanent, you do you) family cloth. Another option is that you just rinse off with some water. In other parts of the world (including Europe), bidets are extremely popular. A bidet creates a stream of water for you to wash after using the toilet, and over 90% of households in some European countries have them. Of course almost no one in Canada does, so unless you want the Plumbing Heating Paramedics to come install one for you, you may want to just use a perineal irrigation bottle (or peri bottle) to rinse your bum with water. Alternatively, your tub or shower could be used as a very large bidet until you can get some toilet paper.
The times are strange, but some things don’t change — like what should be flushed down your toilet. Instead, place an easy to find trashcan in all of your washrooms for things like wipes, kleenexes, floss, condoms, and menstrual supplies (none of which should ever be flushed). Even if you (and no one in your household) menstruates or uses any of those products, you never know when a guest will need a trash can in the washroom. And, if mistakes happen and your toilet is clogged, know that you can contact the friendly, experienced Calgary plumbers at the Plumbing Heating Paramedics. We’re here to help.