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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Low on toilet paper? Here's what not to flush down your toilet

Hint: A plumber said it's a bad idea to flush baby wipes.

SAN DIEGO — Something you may not be thinking about during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is what you're flushing down the toilet. Plumbers say a lack of supplies is causing some major backups.

A lack of toilet paper means a lot of people have been putting other things down their toilets. The experts at Bill Howe Plumbing say that is a terrible idea.

With toilet paper flying off the shelves, some people are scrambling for alternatives. Turns out, you should really think twice about what you're putting down there.

Bill Haws is the general manager of Bill Howe Plumbing.

"Sanitary sewer systems are designed to accept things that degrade," said Haws. "If we put anything in there that's not going to degrade, then we can have a problem."

Haws said since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they've seen an uptick in calls related to clogged toilets.

"A simple case [costs] maybe $150-200, but depending on how expensive it is, we can be talking a $1,000 to get that cleared out," said Haws.

It’s a costly problem you can prevent. To demonstrate, we lined up vases of water, filling each one with toilet paper, a Kleenex, paper towel, and a baby wipe.

The toilet paper did what it's supposed to do. What about everything else?

"The facial tissue, it still has some strength left to it, so that will probably become a problem at some point," said Haws. "So, I'm tugging on it [paper towel] good and can't pull it apart so that will hold up and that will cause a major problem. Then, baby wipes are our favorite. These things are super strong and this thing will never come apart, so when these things get into that sewer system, they are not going to degrade."

Of all four, Haws tells us baby wipes are the worst, even if they're the flushable kind.

"It will get down the line," said Haws. "Once you get 10 of them, 15 of them down there, 20 of them in there, then it will start piling up. It will just build up. It will just build up a mess and eventually no water can pass."

Haws said with most toilets now designed to use less water, and therefore less pressure, clogs are more likely. Multiple clogs have the potential to have an impact citywide.

"It gets into the city and then we have a massive backup and down the road, becomes a bigger problem," said Haws.

If you want to avoid that problem, you can always use a bidet - sales of which have been booming.

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