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Everything You Should Never Flush Down the Toilet

Ice picks, prosthetic eyeballs and doll heads are just a few items that plumbers regularly come across in our pipes

Recent research from Arizona State University found that Americans flush nearly three billion contact lenses down the toilet or sink every single year. The researchers also note that many of these lenses manage to sneak through the filters at wastewater treatment plants by folding and fragmenting, which means flushing them is almost certainly contributing to the growing problem of microplastic pollution in our oceans. A 2015 study, in fact, found that there were 93,000 to 236,000 metric tons of microplastic swirling around the sea, where it may be ingested by fish, corals and other marine animals.

So next time you consider flushing your contact lenses down the toilet, rather than simply tossing them in the trash, think about the turtles, brah.

But contact lenses certainly aren’t the only things that we should stop flushing down the toilet. “When it comes to toilets, there are only three things that should be flushed down: Urine, feces and toilet paper,” says Roto-Rooter’s Paul Abrams. “Everything else is risky, especially if the sewer and drain system in the structure is old and clog-prone.”

Abrams makes a point to mention that facial tissues, baby wipes and so-called “flushable wipes” should never be flushed down the toilet. “Many wet wipes are made of spun plastic and will never break down in your toilet or sewer,” he explains. “A few brands of wet wipes do degrade adequately, but there’s no industry standard for these products, meaning consumers can’t be certain as to which ones actually break down quickly, so it’s best to toss wet wipes into the wastebasket instead of flushing them.” Scientifically speaking, flushing wet wipes contributes to the growth of abominations known as fatbergs, which are massive hunks of nasty shit that clog our sewage networks.

Tampons, tampon applicators and other feminine hygiene products are also repeat offenders, according to Abrams. “The same goes for condoms and condom wrappers,” he emphasizes. “These items are commonly flushed but they won’t dissolve and are likely to contribute to toilet and sewer backups.”

Abrams also sent me an incredibly long (and horrifying) list of bizarre items that Roto-Rooter plumbers have recovered from drain pipes and sewers over the years, which I’ll attempt to narrow down to the best of my abilities:

  • Dead bats
  • Live cats
  • Live snakes
  • Hammers
  • Ice picks
  • Cell phones
  • iPods
  • Alarm clocks
  • Bath towels
  • Batteries
  • Door knobs
  • Hummingbird feeders
  • Kitchen knives
  • Sippy cups
  • Diamond engagement rings
  • Watches
  • Baseball bats (and balls)
  • Golf clubs (and balls)
  • Hockey sticks (and pucks)
  • Birth control pill packaging
  • Boxer shorts
  • Baby and adult diapers
  • Fake teeth
  • Gold teeth
  • Prisoner pants
  • Prosthetic eyeballs
  • Razors
  • Toupees
  • Vibrators
  • Barbie Doll heads
  • Beach shovels
  • Hot Wheels
  • Squirt guns
  • Bullets of every imaginable size and caliber
  • Civil War era cannon shells
  • Daggers
  • Dummy hand grenades
  • Beer bottles
  • Crack pipes
  • Drug stashes and cash profits
  • $400-worth of coins
  • Credit cards
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Turkey bones

Needless to say, you shouldn’t flush any of those items down the toilet. This is what the trash can (or maybe the bomb disposal squad) is for.

Shannon Walters of the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and cleaning our oceans and beaches, also sent me a list of the top 10 items that they pulled from California beaches, rivers, lakes and waterways during last year’s annual Coastal Cleanup Day. Their list includes:

  • Cigarette butts
  • Plastic pieces
  • Foam pieces
  • Food wrappers
  • Metal and plastic bottle caps
  • Glass pieces
  • Straws
  • Glass and plastic bottles.

And while this pollution can’t be solely contributed to items being flushed down the toilet, it’s worth remembering that every single one of these items is also on the list that Abrams sent me, meaning people are definitely flushing them.

So, what have we learned today? Unless it’s shit, piss or toilet paper, don’t flush it down the toilet. The fishies will appreciate you for it.