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Within the United States, Kleenex is one of the most commonly used hygienic products. This brand specializes in making disposable tissues intended for a variety of different uses and comes in a variety of different styles. Recent surveys have shown that over 170 million American citizens will use this hygiene product in 2020 alone.
While disposable products are usually designed with convenience in mind, there is always the question of what to do when disposing of them and what is the most responsible method.
One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to getting rid of Kleenex is if they can be flushed, or at least can they be flushed safely. Since the appearance of Kleenex is not too different from toilet paper, it can be easy to just flush them and assume that they are being safely disposed of, but is this the case?
Keep reading if you want to know what exactly will happen to a Kleenex if you want to flush it, and the possible consequences of this.
What Are Kleenex?
Before we explore the outcomes of flushing Kleenex, what exactly is this product, and what helps it stand out to make it such a popular choice?
Kleenex is a trademark by FSC-certified company Kimberly-Clark, and they are fully responsible for the production and distribution of this product. While Kleenex has massive popularity within the USA they are produced and made in more than 30 different countries and this number skyrockets to being sold in over 170 countries.
Globally Kleenex is known by a variety of different brand names, so if you have been abroad and seen a hauntingly similar brand called something like; VIVA, Cottonelle, or Huggies, these are actually just a rebranding of the same product for a different demographic.
The brand originates back in the First World War and was made with the same paper that was used for a filter in gas masks. And leading into the 20s Kleenex evolved its branding to the Kotex label to make menstrual hygiene products.
By 1924 the brand Kleenex was established to sell a cold cream remover product or a similar facial tissue.
The brand of Kleenex has been established for so long in the USA that the name has become synonymous with any face tissue with people often just referring to these tissues as Kleenex even if they are not this particular brand (similar to how the Hoover became the colloquial term for vacuum cleaners.)
This gives a great idea of the level of popularity this brand has and goes some length to explain why this product is so well established and regularly consumed in the USA.
What Will Happen If You Flush A Kleenex Down A Toilet?
The best way to answer this question is to look at what Kleenex is composed of to see how it will react to being flushed. The manufacturers advertise that Kleenex is made from biodegradable-cellulose fibers.
While this sounds good, these fibers have an additive put in to increase their strength to wear. This stops it from disintegrating as quickly as toilet paper. The manufacturers actually even recommend against throwing Kleenex in the trash.
But of course, many people are unaware of this, and a lot of people know this and will still continue to discard Kleenex the easy way. But what are the actual results if this happened repeatedly?
You may think that they will act similarly to toilet paper, but this is not the case in spite of visual similarities. Toilet paper is made with the function to disintegrate up much easier since they are made to be flushed. This is part of the intentional design, this is not the case for facial tissues like Kleenex which have no such design intention.
This means that they are not made to break down quickly and instead of disintegrating, they can begin to clog the pipes in your sewage system, and if this accumulates your sewage can begin to back up into your house. Not exactly a desirable outcome.
What Do Kleenex Themselves Recommend?
Kleenex does have an official warning against flushing their tissues. On top of this, parent company Kimberly-Clark further discourages flushing Kleenex through the existence of their alternate flushable wipe product.
All Kleenex products while seeming simple will have instructions that are on the packaging to give advice on correct use, and they emphasize that any products that are flushable, will clearly be labeled as so.
Even if you are using flushable Kleenex wipes it is recommended that you only flush them in a properly maintained sewer system or through commercial septic systems. On top of this, it is recommended to only flush up to two wipes at one time to prevent overwhelming the system.
Kleenex flushable wipes are specifically produced within EDANA flushablity guidelines which makes it, so flushable products have to; not block the toilet bowl or drain, disintegrate under correct circumstances, work in sewer systems, disintegrate in aerobic and anaerobic conditions, as well as easily travel through municipal sewage pumps without overloading this system.
If you want to test how easily a Kleenex will dissolve you can test your specific style by leaving it in water and seeing how it reacts and how easily it breaks.
So no, it is generally recommended to not flush most types of Kleenex, and even if your brand is labeled as flushable, do not flush in excess as outcomes can be devastating.
What Are The Potential Outcomes Of Flushing Kleenex?
If you flush a Kleenex or similar product it can become trapped in the trap of the toilet or drain pipe and cause blockages that will decrease flush efficiency and even block this functionality altogether.
If Kleenex manages to get through this they can make a lot of issues in the sewer system. They will clog not just domestic pipes but can also affect municipal pipes and after accumulation will put excessive stress on this equipment limiting its functionality.
These blockages cost thousands of dollars to repair and lead to workers having to clean these disgusting blockages.
This means that taxpayer money that could be spent and is needed in other areas is being wasted on keeping sewage working due to people refusing to comply with recommended usage of products.
Still, be careful flushing flushable Kleenex as in excess it can still cause similar problems, toilet paper is a cheaper and more effective substitute if you really need to flush to discard.
What To Do If You Have Flushed A Kleenex?
If it is just a one-off you can easily solve this issue and stop any clogs from forming and ruining your sewage system.
- Use elbow-height rubber gloves for full coverage.
- If you can still see the wipe just grab and remove it.
- Make sure you have turned off the water supplying the water.
- Reach into the toilet trap to find the stuck Kleenex.
- You can use a clothes hanger you have bent to retrieve and hook it onto the wipe.
- You can also use a plunger to try and suck the Kleenex back out into the bowl.
- Furthermore, you can also make or buy a drain snake to go even deeper, these are a great choice if your toilet is already displaying limited functionality.
- You can also buy or rent a water vacuum if the issue has accumulated past the point you want it to.
- If you are extremely anxious about a build-up you can remove the whole toilet to search deeper, this works well if you think a valuable has been flushed.
What Else Should You Avoid Flushing?
The best rule to follow when using a toilet is to only flush what is meant to be in there if you want to avoid horrifying consequences. This excludes most Kleenex as established, however, you should also avoid flushing:
- Fats (grease and oil included)
- Sanitary products
- Bulky items that can easily get stuck
- Cat litter
And many other products similar to these. Generally if you have to ask if it can be flushed, the answer will usually be no.
So now you know all the reasons why it is strongly advised to not flush Kleenex. Even one flushed Kleenex can cause problems, but if done in excess it can harm your whole community. And even if a Kleenex or similar product is labeled as flushable, test it in water to see just how true this is.