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Disinfecting wipes may be causing an uptick in clogged plumbing in San Jose

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) – As people reach for those disinfecting wipes to guard against the coronavirus, we are reminded that they should be discarded in the trash, not flushed down the toilet.

Those wipes and other toilet paper substitutes may be causing an uptick in clogged plumbing in San Jose.

Those still hard to find disinfecting wipes that kill cold and flu viruses are in widespread use right now to wipe down door knobs, countertops, tv remotes and other high-touch surfaces. 

They should not be flushed down the toilet but it’s happening anyway says the city of San Jose’s Colin Heyne.

“We are seeing an uptick in calls for service mostly to people’s clean-outs, that’s the underground sewer access at their homes, fortunately we are not seeing an up-tick in sanitary sewer outflows,” Heyne said. 

While great for killing most bacteria and viruses, disinfecting wipes do not easily break down like toilet paper. 

In large quantities, they can clog pipes, back-up sewers and cause big problems for wastewater treatment facilities, says Environmental Health’s Jennie Loft.

“It’s not flushable it’s not going to go through the system, it’s not going to properly dissolve like toilet paper, it’s going to stick in your pipes. We do have equipment that will screen the wipes and any solid material that comes through the system so we want to ask that residents don’t put that material in the toilet in the first place,” Loft said. 

In what might be related to that shortage of toilet paper in recent weeks, there’s also been an uptick in pipes being clogged and clean-outs backed-up with materials even more problematic than wipes.

“We’re also seeing more non-flushable items like cloth, tee-shirts and cotton fabric, that kind of thing so, if people are running out of toilet paper, we want to make sure that they are using something else,” Heyne said.

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