For a cleaner, greener Hampton Roads
Select Page


What Not to Flush Down The Toilet

COMMUNITY CENTERClean Water & WaterwaysGreen Homes & BusinessesJan 4, 2013

Author: Beth Davis

It was a typical Saturday morning in the Davis household – doing laundry, running the dishwasher…your common weekend chores – except for hearing a blub, blub, blub sound coming from the garage. To my surprise, the sink in the garage was full and overflowing but the faucet wasn’t on. Huh? Come to find out, our wastewater had backed up into the house, sought the lowest drain, and flooded half our garage.

Under the assumption that we’d have to pump our septic system, we dug up the surface of the ground where our septic tanks are in order to access the lids to see what was going on. Eww! They appeared to be full but a friend of ours who is in the septic business came over and advised that we clean the filter in the tank. Luckily, that was the issue instead of having to spend $200 – $300 to have the tank pumped. However, the reason why the filter had to be cleaned was because it was clogged with more than just solids that are supposed to be there. We could see clumps of kitchen grease.

I try to practice what I preach, but apparently I need to do a better job or educate others in my household to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease by not putting them down the drain. (And I’m pretty sure ping pong balls don’t belong in the tanks either. Apparently, I need to keep a better eye on my five year old son’s science experiments with the toilet.) Of course, there were a few other items down there, but I don’t want to gross you out too much so I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Whether you have a septic system or public sanitary sewer service, this brings to light an important topic on what not to flush down the commode such as tissues, disposable wipes, diapers, kitchen grease – the list goes on and on – as these items can clog up plumbing. (Just ask the folks at Waterside in Norfolk who, according to this recent article in the Virginian-Pilot, have experienced problems because of objects that do not belong in the sewer lines.) Most people think of the wastewater system as out of sight, out of mind, but there’s an important network of pipes that starts with your own household plumbing in order for wastewater to get collected and transported to a wastewater treatment plant.

So, my recommendation to you is to keep a trash can in the bathroom in order to properly throw items away that shouldn’t be flushed. And, oh yeah, I also recommend keeping a lid on the trash because if you have a family pet like my dog that is curious about what’s in trash cans, that’ll save you from cleaning up that mess, too. Basic concept: flush only what belongs in the toilet, if you get my drift. And for those of you on septic systems, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released a new national program called SepticSmart to promote proper septic system care and maintenance by homeowners, which is available at



Keep the Conversation Going