Wet Wipes Are Destroying Sydney's Sewers

The sewers in Sydney are facing an epidemic of fatbergs: enormous blockages that cause waste to back up in the sewage systems. Many people think that fatbergs only contain fat, but this is not the case. Solid materials that have been flushed down the city's toilets also contribute to clogs, providing sites around which fat can congeal and grow into a giant clog.

The Worst Offender: The Wet Wipe

Sydney's fatberg problem suddenly worsened in 2012, when consumers started using wet wipes as a luxurious alternative to toilet paper. In the following two years, more than 1,000 tonnes of wet wipes soaked in faecal matter have been hauled out of Sydney's sewer systems by unfortunate workers. The removal costs run into millions of dollars.

Why Are Wet Wipes So Dangerous?

Many wet wipes have packaging that claims the wipes are flushable. However, this claim is misleading. Although wipes often manage to make it out of a home's plumbing system without causing a clog, the fact that they do not break down in water means that they build up in sewers, where they cause huge problems.

What Happens to Wet Wipes in Water?

Tests carried out by consumer organisation CHOICE showed that wet wipes do not break down even when they are held in water for six hours. This ability to maintain their structure while wet is essential for wet wipes to make it to the consumer in good condition, but it can be a huge problem in sewer systems. In contrast, toilet paper breaks down quickly and is therefore much less likely to contribute to clogs.

Consumer Costs of Flushing Wipes

Although most household plumbing systems can cope with wet wipes, older homes or homes with existing plumbing issues might develop clogs. To save yourself the expense of calling out an emergency plumber, it is always safest to avoid flushing wipes.

What to Do With Wet Wipes

If you choose to use wet wipes in your home, either as an alternative to toilet paper or for other purposes, plumbers recommend that you do not flush them down the toilet. Instead, you need to throw them out with your solid household waste. Considering the environmental impact of these non-degradable wipes, you might want to look into more eco-friendly options. For example, you could install a bidet for your toilet needs or opt for reusable cloths for makeup removal and cleaning purposes.

If you experience a clog due to wet wipes or other materials being flushed down the toilet, contact an emergency plumber as soon as possible.