Back in March and April — those heady, early pandemic days — nothing seemed more important than toilet paper. The stuff we buy with the intention of befouling and then discarding it suddenly became precious enough to inspire fistfights in the grocery aisles and out-of-control crowds at CostCo, and lots of people were forced to hunt for alternatives. The problem with most TP alternatives, however, is that they should never be flushed — and that includes a common one that you may think relatively benign: facial tissue.
Toilet paper may be plentiful again (have you squeezed your Charmin today?), but when we reshared this “there but for the grace of god” story about a reusable cloth alternative (no) earlier today, one of our followers on Twitter chimed in with an important reminder:
Not the most important point of the story, but important nonetheless: Don't flush facial tissues! They aren't meant to break down like tp and will clog the pipes. That's two strikes, cloth people.
— Naturally Socially Distant (@DefyingAugury) July 24, 2020
Now, I knew that, for the health of our waste reclamation systems, we aren’t supposed to flush wipes — not even so-called “flushable wipes” — but not flushing Kleenex was a new one to me. But the story checks out: Cynthia Finley, the director of regulatory affairs at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, talked to the New York Times a few years ago about what to flush and what not to flush, and tissues were definitively on the naughty list.:
“Facial tissues might seem safe to flush because they look so much like toilet paper. But unlike toilet paper, facial tissues have been treated with a chemical binder that takes time to release and break apart when flushed, Ms. Finley said.”
Indeed, even tissue-maker Kleenex tells you not to do this in an FAQ on its website (ignore the fact that it’s in the context of telling you you totally don’t have to worry about flushing a “flushable” wipe, which you definitely shouldn’t do either).
I can’t count the number of facial tissues I’ve thoughtlessly tossed into the can instead of into the trashcan, but now I know never to do it again. Consider it added to the list, right next to cutting up the plastic rings that hold together soda cans (even if we don’t have to do that anymore) and wearing a goddam mask.