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Seriously, do not rinse “Flushable” wipes

nice white fluffy handkerchief popping out of container

Photo: John Arehart (Shutterstock)

In theory, “washable wipes” sound great. Use them as a baby towel – on your own grown ass if you want – but there’s no need to throw something with a poop stain on it in the trash. Just flush and go. But is this really a good idea? Probably not.

Companies that produce washable wipes are adamant that they dissolve after redness. Cottonnelle has a web page dedicated to this statement, stating that the wipes are “made for your pipes” and that “they start to break down immediately after rinsing.” The page contains a recommendation from a wastewater program that says the wipes are “compatible with our system.”

But handkerchiefs make up a significant portion of the “fatbergs” that clog city sewers. Ordinary unwashable wipes are certainly among them, but cities, including New York, are suspicious of alleged launderers. The “Respect the Flush” campaign in New York tells residents to throw away all wet wipes, whether labeled for “washing” or not. The Environmental Protection Agency does not call cleaning wipes by name, but they say do not wash any type of tissue, toilet paper only.

In short: I would absolutely not wash a cleaning cloth, no matter what is written on the label.

It only takes a little reading to see a few shortcomings in the protests of wiping companies that they can be washed away. For example, Cottonelle is obviously trying to differentiate himself from these others brands of so-called washable wipes that are not almost as easy as theirs. This suggests that even cleaning cloth manufacturers know that the word “washable” on a label should not be taken at face value.

Then there’s the warning you’ll find in small print on the back of some of these packages: “For best results, rinse only one or two wipes at a time.” So the washability of the wipes is actually quite limited: one or two wipes from certain brands under appropriate conditions, can break down. (Cottonelle tests their with one hour pre-soaking and six minutes stirring time.)

So, even if the tissue manufacturers are right that the wipes are sometimes washed, this does not mean that the wipes are always washable. Better to stick to what the cities and the EPA recommend rinse only the four P: poop, pee, vomit and [toilet] paper.

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