Can You Flush Paper Down the Toilet?

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Throwing paper in the toilet seems legit. I mean, what can go wrong — it goes down the drain, and water dissolves it, right?

Not exactly.

You can’t flush paper down the toilet because it can form clogs and block the pipes. Paper is surprisingly sturdy and able to survive in the water for weeks. It doesn’t fall apart but instead accumulates in the drains and attracts additional waste.

In this post, we will show you what happens when you flush paper down the drain.

The Differences Between Paper and Toilet Paper

Paper is one of the most frequent causes of toilet clogs, and we believe its name is to blame. That’s because many people think that paper and toilet paper are almost the same — but they are wrong.

There are significant differences between these two.

Toilet paper is thin, lightweight, and very absorbent. Toilet paper is water-soluble, which is its defining characteristic. As such, it is perfect for flushing down the toilet because you know it will dissolve easily.

Flushing paper towels, on the other hand, is not so good. Plain paper is firmer and more durable. 

Paper towels consist of fibers that make a strong sheet so they don’t fall apart when you soak them in water. Sometimes it even takes weeks for the paper to dissolve in water.

Different Types of Paper

Most types of paper you’re using daily aren’t suitable for toilet flushing. However, there are types that you can throw down the drain without clogging your toilet.

Non-flushable Paper

This type of paper includes the vast majority of materials you’re dealing with every day. It includes paper towels, notebook paper, print paper, newspapers, and wrappers.

Unlike toilet paper, none of these papers are flushable because their primary purpose is not bathroom-related. For instance, paper towels are stiff, and they won’t degrade in the toilet drain after a flush or two.

Wrappers are especially durable because their goal is to sustain various external conditions, but office paper is not different either.

Flushable Paper

Apart from toilet paper, there are two kinds of paper that you can flush – tissues and toilet seat covers. Both of these paper products are water-soluble, which means they won’t leave residue in your toilet.

Paper tissues can’t replace your average toilet paper, but they do serve as the second-best solution in case of emergency. They are also much better if your only other option is to flush paper.

Some manufacturers also promote flushable wipes, but we don’t recommend using them instead of toilet paper. 

How to Break Paper Clogs in Your Toilet?

Another important question is how to break paper clogs in your toilet. Fortunately, paper is soft enough for many tools to break it, so you can choose between seven unclogging methods.

Solution 1: Use a Toilet Brush

A toilet brush is the most efficient way of removing paper from the bottom of your toilet bowl. When paper clogs form near the surface, a typical toilet brush can reach them without much effort.

Place the brush into the bowl and push it up and down to break the clog. Once the paper are out of your way, flush the toilet several times to clean the brush and remove the last remnants of the paper.

Solution 2: Use a Plunger

This is a traditional way of unclogging toilets. The plunger method works great for breaking large clogs and paper because it pushes against the toilet with brute force.

Carefully place it over the drain and press to form a seal. When the tool firmly connects to the porcelain, it’s time to push it up and down — the plunger’s suction will flush paper down after a few tries.

When the paper clog cracks, you’ll hear a bubbling sound of water and waste flowing out through the pipes.

Solution 3: Try With Dish Soap

Another way to break paper clogs is to use dish soap. This is the cleanest solution because you only need to pour a few drops of dish soap into the toilet bowl.

When you do it, pour a bucket of hot water and wait for five minutes for the liquid to soak the paper. The point is to lubricate paper — it helps the clog slide through the sewer lines without much friction.

However, be careful not to make an overflow. If the toilet is fully clogged, pouring too much dish soap and water will fill the bowl and leak to the bathroom floor. Pour gradually, and you won’t create an overflow.

Solution 4: Pour Epsom Salt

This might come as a surprise, but Epsom salt is an excellent clog-breaker. The chemical components of Epsom salt react with the paper, making it dissolve quickly and easily.

Pour a cup of salt into the bowl and spill a bucket of hot water over it. The reaction is almost instant as you’ll notice the water reacting to Epsom salt, AKA magnesium sulfate.

Another suggestion is to pour hot water into the bowl. Although the chances are slim, boiling water can sometimes break porcelain or create cracks in your toilet. The result is the same, but you don’t risk damaging the toilet. 

Solution 5: Mix Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you want to unclog the toilet using natural ingredients, you can use a mix of baking soda and vinegar. Pour a cup of baking soda into the bowl and follow with two cups of vinegar

Do it carefully to prevent overflow because it can damage the bathroom flooring. Prepare for scented bubbles that dissolve the paper and take it away through the drainpipes — this is how baking soda reacts with vinegar. 

It’s a highly efficient method that smells nice and doesn’t harm the toilet with harsh chemicals. If your household has a septic system, this solution won’t kill good bacteria in it.

Solution 6: Drill With the Auger

toilet auger is a good replacement if your plunger is not long enough to reach the clog. Although it’s more expensive, it comes with a substantial benefit — the length. The drill’s long steel wires can reach dissolving paper clogs easily.

This tool goes through the curves and drills paper clogs with a sharp end. The auger has a handle that you need to rotate clockwise until the tip reaches the clog. However, don’t push it too hard to avoid scratching or breaking the clogged pipe.

As soon as you remove the clog, you will notice the water level in your toilet dropping. That’s when you can start pulling the drill out by turning the handle counterclockwise.

Solution 7: Call a Plumber

Calling a plumber is the only solution when paper blocks your toilet, but you:

  • Don’t want to risk unclogging it on your own,
  • Don’t have enough time to do it,
  • Don’t want to do it.

It’s a costly solution, but at least you know that the plumber won’t mess with the sewer system.

What to Use When You Run Out of Toilet Paper?

Most people throw paper in the bathroom throne because they run out of standard toilet paper. In such circumstances, it’s good to be familiar with the best toilet paper alternatives.

Our advice is to go with paper tissues because they are water-soluble. This is the safest choice that doesn’t put you at risk of clogging the toilet after a couple of flushes.

If you don’t have tissues, the next option is to use notebook paper. It’s far from ideal, but it’s slightly softer than print paper. When you get the job done, remember to throw paper in the trash can — don’t flush it down the toilet.

The last solution is to use newspaper, but don’t forget that your skin may react poorly to ink. Never use baby wipes — they aren’t degradable.

Other Things You Shouldn’t Throw in the Toilet

Paper is not suitable for toilet flushing, but what about other items? Let’s cut a long story short and tell it openly — nothing should enter the bowl except for feces, urine, and toilet paper.

But if you want to go into details, here are some things that people usually put in the bowl instead of the trash can:

  • Hair and nails
  • Feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads
  • Condoms or other contraceptives
  • Baby wipes and cotton balls
  • Cigarette butts
  • Cloth and rags
  • Plastic items

The Bottom Line

Paper is something you’re using every day, but do your best to keep it out of the toilet. You can’t flush paper down the toilet because it forms sturdy and non-degradable clogs.

If you find your toilet stuck due to a paper clog, you should use tools like a plunger or auger to unseal the block. The alternative is to pour liquid soap or a mix of vinegar and baking soda.

We know our tips will help you get rid of the paper clogs, so remember to come back and read more articles about bathroom remodeling.    

FAQ

What happens when I flush paper down the toilet?

If you flush a bunch of paper, it will likely create a clog and block your toilet. That’s why you should never throw office or notebook paper in your toilet.

Is flushing paper bad?

Yes, flushing paper is bad because it can form clogs short and long-term. If you do it frequently, your toilet will stop working sooner or later. In that case, you’ll have to unclog the toilet with an auger or a plunger.

What kind of paper can be flushed?

You can only flush toilet paper down the bowl. Alternatively, you can use paper tissue instead of toilet paper. Besides that, toilet seat covers are also water-soluble and suitable for flushing.

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