can you flush paper towels

Can You Flush Paper Towels

No matter who you are, you’re probably dependent on indoor plumbing. Your toilet is a necessary part of hygiene and sanitation.

But sometimes you don’t have access to toilet paper, and you have to use paper towels or tissues instead. When this is the case, can you flush them?

You might also be wondering if you can flush paper towels for convenience. After all, the less room they take up in your bathroom trash, the less often you need to replace the trash bag.

It might seem like paper towels are flushable. After all, they seem to be made of the same materials as toilet paper.

But is this actually true?

Basically, no. You shouldn’t be flushing paper towels, baby wipes, or other items.

But let’s break down the reasons why.

The Issue With Flushing Paper Towels

issue with flushing paper towels

When you flush materials down the toilet, they need to be made of organic matter. Failing that, they need to be designed to dissolve in water.

The materials should break down in your pipes so it’s easier for them to flow into the sewer system or your septic tank.

Since paper towels aren’t designed to be flushed, they don’t break down the same way that toilet paper does. Have you ever seen commercials for “super strong” paper towels?

They’re designed to absorb liquid, but they’re also designed not to break when they get wet. In fact, they just increase in size.

It’s possible that you won’t have any issues if you flush one or two paper towels at a time. But you’re taking a risk.

As the paper towel absorbs more liquid, it’s more likely to get stuck in the pipes. And by the time that happens, it will likely be too far down the pipe for you to fish it out easily.

A stuck paper towel might not cause any issues for a while. You may not notice any difference in your flushing power or drainage.

But debris will be more likely to get caught on the material, which can lead to a major clog. And if you keep flushing paper towels, they will eventually clump together and create a clog no matter what.

Clogs made from non-degradable materials can be a huge mess. It’s difficult to dislodge them.

Your toilet might back up and start to smell. If you have to call a plumber, you might end up with a hefty bill.

Other Non-Flushable Items

There are tons of items that people use as a replacement for toilet paper when the need presses. And there are other items that it might seem fair to flush down the toilet.

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t flush anything except toilet paper and bodily waste. But here are some more specifics.

Baby Wipes

baby wipes

People often use baby wipes to help clean messes in the bathroom. They’re gentle and safe to use on sensitive areas of the body. But you can’t flush them.

In many cases, the packaging for these wipes will say that they’re flushable. But this is misleading.

Even flushable wipes have trouble breaking down the same way that toilet paper does, which means that they can cause clogging. You usually won’t have issues if you flush just one at a time, but it’s better not to take the chance.

Baby wipes simply can’t disintegrate like toilet paper does. So you should toss them out in your trash can instead.

Cotton Balls, Makeup Sponges, and Q-Tips

Cotton Balls, Makeup Sponges, and Q-Tips

You might be surprised by how many people try to dispose of cotton makeup materials in the toilet. But it does make some sense.

After all, getting rid of them is convenient. If you do your makeup every day, cotton balls and swabs can build up in the trash, forcing you to remove the trash much more frequently.

But like paper towels, these materials aren’t built to break down in water. It’s important to throw them out properly.

Cotton has a tendency to clump. That means that if any of these components get stuck in the plumbing system, they might “catch” the other cotton and clump up.

That will lead to a major clog and could potentially damage your piping.

Menstrual Items

Menstrual Items

There are reasons that public bathrooms have containers for women to get rid of tampons, menstrual pads, and other menstrual items. It’s hard to find a place to throw these away outside the bathroom.

But you should never flush them.

In fact, these are some of the worst items that you can flush. They often have plastic and cotton components that won’t break down.

Not only that, but they’re designed to expand when they absorb water. So they can become bloated inside your pipes and cause major clogs.



Many people are shocked to hear that you can’t flush tissues. These materials are used as replacements for toilet paper so often that we often don’t think about it.

But you shouldn’t flush the majority of tissues down your drain.

It’s true that tissues are more likely to break down in the water than paper towels or cotton. However, they don’t dissolve with the same quickness of toilet paper.

Because of this, you have a higher chance of a clog, especially if you flush a lot of tissues at once. In some cases, the clog might dissipate overnight.

But in others, you’ll have to call a plumber.

If you do need to use tissues as a replacement for toilet paper, make sure you dispose of them in your trash instead of your toilet.



You might think that it’s common sense not to flush diapers. But sometimes parents aren’t thinking straight when they clean their child up.

Like menstrual items, diapers are designed to absorb liquid. They can also expand to much larger than their normal size.

Even before absorbing any liquid, they’re typically far too big to fit through the pipes. And they won’t break down like toilet paper.

You shouldn’t flush these. If you do, your best hope is that the diaper gets stuck not far into the pipe, so you can simply fish it out.


Flushing paper towels might seem like a simple and convenient solution. After all, it gets rid of the materials, so you don’t have to remove as much trash from the house.

And if you’re using paper towels as a replacement for toilet paper, you might not want them in your bathroom trash can.

But you shouldn’t flush them. They aren’t built to break down in your sewer pipes.

In fact, they’re meant to remain strong and firm when soaked with water. That’s why you can use them to scrub kitchen messes without dealing with pulpy fragments.

You basically shouldn’t flush anything except toilet paper and organic waste. It’s important for materials to break down in the pipes to move more easily through them.

Anything that doesn’t break down can get caught inside the pipe, leading to more clogging later on.

If you didn’t know that you shouldn’t flush paper towels, and now you’re dealing with a clog, then you should probably call a plumber. They’ll be able to locate the clog and determine how bad it is.

Then they can remove it.