Many homeowners create a habit of using paper towels in the bathroom and disposing of them in the toilet. They keep a roll of towels on hand for wiping up spills and cleaning surfaces, which is not bad by itself.
But where do dirty items end up? Can you flush paper towels?
No, you can’t flush paper towels because it’s not good for your bathroom. They don’t break down in the sewer system, and instead of dissolving on their way to a treatment center, they clog toilet pipes.
Do you want to learn what to do with used paper towels instead of flushing? Keep reading to find out!
What Happens After Flushing Paper Towels?
When you throw a paper towel in the toilet bowl, it will probably run through the pipes to end up in the sewer or your septic system. That’s the best-case scenario, although dirty paper towels aren’t great for the sewage system either.
But the problem occurs when paper towels get stuck in the toilet trap or further down the drains. This mostly happens when you dispose of a whole bundle — unlike toilet paper, paper towels aren’t water-soluble.
Paper towels accumulate on top of human waste, grease, oil, and other non-biodegradable items. They form a thick layer of solid matter called “fatberg” that damages the sewage system, causing it to overflow and back up into your home.
Even worse, paper towels absorb water and expand when they get wet, so the sewer system’s water flow slows down. Sooner or later, they will grow immensely and form clogs in your toilet.
What to Do With Used Paper Towels?
Flushing paper towels is not a way to go, so what can you do with them? A couple of options gives you a simple solution to get rid of used paper towels.
Throw Them Away
The best thing to do with dirty paper towels is to throw them away. It’s a simple and elegant solution because you don’t clog the toilet, and you don’t waste water to flush them. Invest in a trash can and use it for disposing of the nasty mess you make.
What matters the most is to turn it into a habit — get used to throwing garbage in the trash can to protect your toilet and nature. You can put the bin in the corner of your bathroom where every household member can see it easily.
When you empty the can, you know that the garbage ends in the landfill and decomposes relatively soon. And here’s the extra tip for you — use half sheets or smaller pieces of paper towels to prolong the lifespan of each roll you buy.
Use Them for Composting
Using paper towels for composting is one of the best solutions because you can turn your considered waste into something useful. This way, you also contribute to greener living and reuse materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
Shredded paper towels work best because they don’t take up too much space and decompose quickly. And if you put them in a composting bucket, they will break down even faster as you turn bathroom scraps into your garden’s gold.
Paper towels aren’t a toilet paper alternative, but they represent an excellent material for fertilizing the soil in the yard or garden.
How to Unclog a Toilet With Paper Towel Clogs?
Cleaning the toilet isn’t anyone’s favorite chore, but it’s even worse when you have to deal with a clogged pot. In this case, you can try one of these quick fixes.
Solution 1: Use a Toilet Auger
We recommend drilling through the toilet pipes with a toilet auger. It’s a valuable instrument since it can pierce far into clogged drains to break stubborn blockages. How does it work?
Push the tool using the handle — rotate it clockwise to create pressure that allows the drill to move forward. The auger will stumble upon various blockages, but it won’t stop until it reaches the actual clog.
That’s where you need to press a bit hard to break the blockade. When you push it all the way through, turn it counterclockwise to pull out and remove the last remnants of debris.
Solution 2: Push It Our With a Plunger
If you don’t have the auger at home, you could always try a plunger — it’s a common household tool for removing objects from the toilet trap. You need to fill the toilet bowl with water, insert the plunger, and press down with your hands.
When you push the plunger into the bowl, it creates a vacuum that breaks the clog and clears away all the debris. However, you have to put some effort into it because plunging requires at least a few attempts to dissolve strong paper towel clogs.
Solution 3: Pour Epsom Salt
Do you know that salt can break down clogs? That’s right — you can use it to decompose paper towels and remove sturdy blockades. Epsom salt is highly efficient because it contains trace minerals, magnesium, and sulfate.
All it takes is to pour a small cup of Epsom salt into the toilet bowl. Give it 15 minutes and press the flush handle — you should see water flowing as usual. Salt dissolves most blockages, including clogs from paper towels, flushable wipes, kitty litter, and solid waste.
Solution 4: Try Dish Soap
Every household has dish soap, so you can use it to unclog your toilet. Dish soap doesn’t decompose clogs but rather slips them through the drains. That’s because dish soap lubricates clogs to make them slick and slippery.
You need a single cup of dish soap — pour hot water over it and let it go down the toilet. The only thing to remember is to avoid boiling water. It may damage your toilet’s surface and even form hairline cracks in the porcelain.
Solution 5: Use Vinegar and Baking Soda
Baking soda and vinegar should stay in the toilet bowl for 20 minutes. They will find their way through the system and break down paper towels with ease. After that, you should activate the flush system to see your toilet running free again.
In case you don’t like any of the solutions we mentioned above, the last option is to call a licensed plumber.
Other Things You Should Stop Flushing
Paper towels or napkins aren’t the only things you should stop flushing down the toilet. Remember this — toilet paper and human waste are the only things that should end up in the toilet.
The list of non-flushable objects is endless, but some items are more harmful than others. If you wonder will a toilet eventually unclog itself, the answer is no for most of these items:
- Food leftovers and hard waste
- Baby wipes and toilet seat covers
- Paper and carton boxes
- Lighters and cigarette butts
- Q tips and cosmetics
- Hygiene products and tampons
- Nails and hair
- Tissues, rubber objects, and condoms
The Bottom Line
So can you flush paper towels?
After reading this article, the answer is simple: No, you can’t do that. Unlike toilet paper, paper towels form clogs and block your toilet — throw them in the trash, and you’ll be safe.
If you still choose to flush paper towels, the toilet will clog, and you’ll have to clean the pipes using one of the tips we discussed above. That’s not the cleanest of jobs, so it pays off to try and prevent the problem.
What happens if you flush a paper towel?
When you flush a paper towel, it goes to the sewer or clogs your toilet. When you flush paper towels, it causes toilet clogs — they easily form a snowball effect, sticking together to create a thick blockage.
Will paper towels eventually dissolve?
They will dissolve eventually, but the process is too slow. That’s because paper towel fibers are non-biodegradable and water-resistant. So if you want to dispose of them in a sanitary way, put paper towels in the trash bin.