Cottonelle really, really wants consumers to know that their wipes are supposed to be flushable. Wet wipes for grown-ups are the next frontier in posterior-cleaning technology, and paper companies really want consumers to adopt them. Unfortunately, plumbers and people in sewage treatment disagree.
Reader Emery learned this firsthand when the plumbing in his home backed up. The culprit? Three Cottonelle personal cleaning wipes that he had used recently. He wrote to Consumerist:
I bought Cottonelle Fresh Care flushable cleaning cloths. I used three of them different days and when I flush the toilet a backup went bathtub. I called the plumber and he came out with his plumber snake and told me there was something that look like diapers and it was the three cleaning cloths.
Those three cloths used on different days didn’t disintegrate into fibers and float safely away: they clumped together, blocking Emery’s plumbing. He had a very important question for Consumerist: “Did Cottonelle research the product to see if they break down when being flushed?”
We’ve written in the past about the flushable/non-flushable issue when it comes to wipes. The short answer is that yes, parent company Kimberly-Clark did a lot of research before putting these wipes on the market. So has INDA, the trade association for companies that make “non-woven fabrics.”
Consumers don’t seem to believe them, though, so the company has posted an extensive page on their site about the flushability question, and even made a video and posted it on YouTube. The video has far more wipe-sloshing than you ever wanted to see.
Manufacturers of wipes have a tool that they call the “slosh box,” meant to simulate a wipe’s journey through the waste system. No, really. Here are two different kinds of slosh boxes in action:
On their flushability site, Kimberly-Clark insists:
These guideline tests demonstrate that when used as directed, our wipes clear properly maintained toilets, drainlines, sewers and pumps, and are compatible with on-site septic and municipal treatment.
Aha. See, homeowner, if your pipes get clogged, maybe it’s your fault for not properly maintaining your toilet and pipes.
“INDA” is a sort-of-acronym for “The Indestructibles Association,” a name meant to show the strength of various non-woven fabrics. The group’s official name is the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, and getting the message out about how some wipes are flushable, but not all of them, is an important issue for the group. Consumers may not see the appeal of wet wipes when they hear about 15-ton ball of crud that includes baby wipes lodged in the sewer system of London.