- What Not to Flush

April 2, 2020

Do You Know What Not to Flush? 

Toilet dos and don’ts from 


( – When it comes to your toilet, what’s flushable—and what’s not? These may sound like simple questions, but there are still some misconceptions out there, and wants to clear them up. For example, would you flush cotton swabs, dental floss or “flushable” wipes? 

Your answer should be a resounding “no”! Cotton swabs were made to stay intact, which means they don’t disintegrate and can lead to blockages. Dental floss is made of nylon or Teflon. Although it looks like a little piece of string, it’s mighty strong and wraps around all kinds of other stuff, creating monster clogs. And so-called “flushable” wipes don’t break down the way toilet paper does and can be huge headaches for homeowners and pump stations.

Only water, your personal business and toilet paper should be flushed down the toilet.

Anything else leads to clogged pipes and expensive plumbing repairs. If backed-up sewage hits the streets, there’s a good chance it will wash down storm drains and into our waterways, harming aquatic life, closing beaches and making some seafood unsafe to eat.


Sewer Systems 101 

Our sewer systems were designed to only transport toilet paper, water and human waste. Which means only toilet paper, water and human waste can be safely flushed down the toilet. Items marketed as “flushable” are regularly found in clogged pipes and broken pumps throughout the sanitary sewer system. Don’t flush them. Flushing your trash leads to service interruptions and expensive repairs to home and municipal plumbing lines.

If a clog occurs in your home’s plumbing, the responsibility and cost of repairs falls to you. If a clog occurs in the municipal sewer line, the cost of repairs could be passed on to users (you and your neighbors) in the form of higher utility fees. 

When a clog or breakdown occurs, untreated sewage can back up into your home, your neighborhood or our waterways. If untreated sewage backs up into streets, it has a chance to enter our storm drains and waterways. Untreated sewage is a dangerous pollutant because it causes sudden increases in nitrogen and bacteria. High levels of nitrogen and bacteria result in declines to local aquatic life (like plants, fish and crabs), beach closures and health warnings on local seafood consumption.


Good to Know: Never flush these items down the toilet:  

  • Facial tissues
  • Paper towels 
  • Baby wipes/personal hygiene wipes, even if they are labeled “flushable” 
  • All–purpose cleaning wipes, even if they are labeled “flushable”  
  • Diapers
  • Cigarette butts
  • Dental floss 
  • Dryer sheets 
  • Toilet bowl scrubbing pads 
  • Cotton swabs
  • Feminine hygiene products 
  • Cat litter 
  • Fats, oils and grease from the kitchen 
  • Food scraps from the kitchen  

For more information about what not to flush, visit, a region-wide public awareness and education campaign, powered by 17 cities and counties in Hampton Roads and HRSD. 


About is your go-to resource for all things green in Hampton Roads – from recycling tips and pointers for keeping local waterways clean to water-saving ideas and simple steps to make local living easy on the environment. Launched in 2011, the region-wide public awareness and education campaign is administered through the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and powered by the following members: The cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg; the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry and York; the town of Smithfield; and HRSD. Like on Facebook, follow on Twitter and Instagram, tune in to YouTube and catch the “Green Living” blog, written by a team of local experts.