This story was originally published in January 2021.
Ask any woman of a certain age and she will tell you the easiest way to dispose of a used tampon is flushing it down the toilet. Ask plumbers and they will tell you it’s also the worst thing you can do for your plumbing.
Flushed tampons are blamed for a majority of backed up pipes so you should never, ever flush them.
The fiber-based products can expand, get snagged or otherwise stuck in the pipes leading from toilets to septic tanks, leach fields or municipal sewer systems. When that happens, they can create clogs that play havoc with plumbing.
“Some boxes of tampons say the product is flushable, but if you read through a toilet’s owner manual, it will say they are not,” said Steve Farren, master plumber at General Mechanix in Bangor. “I believe the person who makes the toilets.”
Farren has seen his fair share of clogged toilet drains, and said for an overwhelming majority, flushed tampons are the reason. Tampons, he said, are something that should be thrown out after use and never flushed.
While tossing tampons is the plumbing-safe option, it’s certainly not as quick and easy as flushing. But it does not have to be complicated, according to manufacturers of women’s hygiene products.
“Tampon disposal is pretty straight forward,” according to tampon manufacturer Tampax. “You can simply wrap your used tampon up in toilet paper and throw away used tampons in the garbage bins or trash.”
You can also purchase small disposal bags designed specifically for tampons.
If you do have a clogged toilet drain due to flushed tampons, it’s usually a pretty easy fix, according to Farren.
“I can usually get them out using a [plumber’s] snake,” he said. “They most often get snagged right at the toilet’s flange.”
Older homes with castiron pipes are more at risk for tampon related clogs farther down the line. Those pipes over time become jagged and can easily snag a flushed tampon.
“Just don’t flush them,” Farren said. “They should go into the trash instead.”