EDITORIAL: Wipes not for toilets

It is a multi-billion dollar industry, but it could soon be costing municipalities a bundle more if the trend continues.

It is a multi-billion dollar industry, but it could soon be costing municipalities a bundle more if the trend continues.

According to news reports, communities such as Kingston, Ont., Vancouver, Wash., and London, England, are facing a new problem in their sewers, a problem that just can’t be wiped away. Even smaller communities, such as Okanagan Falls and Penticton are facing the same problem.

Flushable cleaning cloths, flushable moist wipes or whatever name they use, are the result of a clever marketing campaign designed to make adults feel like they aren’t getting the job done with regular toilet paper.

When did that problem arise? Did the sun start shining where the sun isn’t suppose to shine? The problem is the wipes claim to be flushable, or septic safe, hang around too long.

Consumer Reports.org, who report on the good, bad and ugly of all things consumer, tested three wipe products all claiming to be flushable and supposed to disintegrate just like toilet paper.

Indeed the wipes were flushable, in that they went down the toilet, but they did not disintegrate as quickly as toilet paper. Toilet paper usually takes less than 10 seconds to disintegrate. By the time the flushed water leaves the domestic plumbing, it has disintegrated.

Using the same test on the three brands of wipes, all claiming to be flushable, Consumer Reports.org stopped the test after 30 minutes with no sign of the wipes disintegrating.

Thirty minutes is long enough for a wipe to make its way down the sewer system and clog a pump, and in the case of local municipalities, add thousands of dollars to their maintenance costs. This is one problem we can easily wipe away the old fashioned way — by using soap and water.