One unforeseen consequence of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been the fact that, over the last several weeks, everywhere from grocery stores to pharmacies to big-box retailers have seen unprecedented toilet paper shortages. As the COVID-19 crisis becomes more severe, social distancing recommendations ramp up, and mandated stay-at-home orders are issued across the globe, people everywhere are desperate to maintain a sense of normalcy. Widespread panic-driven efforts to maintain that sense of normalcy have led to widespread shortages of household essentials—most notably, toilet paper. It’s left us searching for flushable toilet paper alternatives.

Since the ‘Household Paper’ aisle at virtually every store has been alarmingly barren due to the increase in panic-buying over the past several weeks, many people are feeling uneasy about what they might do if the toilet paper supply at their local stores actually runs completely dry. Of course, there are many materials that can be used as makeshift toilet paper in a pinch, but which of these toilet paper alternatives are actually safe to flush down your toilet—and which ones are almost guaranteed to clog your plumbing?

Even when the world is not enduring a global pandemic, many people wonder about the answer to this question as they consider using wet wipes on a regular basis or wiping with a tissue when the toilet paper roll comes up unexpectedly empty. Keep reading to learn once and for all which toilet paper alternatives you can and can’t flush down your toilet, so you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Unsafe Non-Flushable Toilet Paper Alternatives

  1. Baby Wipes: Unsafe 

Whether you use baby wipes for yourself or your actual baby, do not flush baby wipes down the toilet when you are done using them. This might surprise you, but even wet wipes that are specifically labeled ‘flushable’ are not, in fact, flushable. Experts report that even wet wipes that are supposedly safe to flush cause clogs at a much higher rate than toilet paper.

baby wipes

baby wipes

Baby wipes and flushable wet wipes tend to include plastic materials like rayon and viscose. These materials are not biodegradable and prevent these wipes from breaking down in water—which in turn leads to clogs and blockages in your plumbing system.

  1. Paper Towels: Unsafe 

Paper towels and napkins are not safe to flush down your toilet. These paper products are much thicker than toilet paper, so they are more likely to cause blockages in your pipes.

Toilet paper is made to disintegrate quickly in water—which is why it is safe to flush. Paper towels and napkins, on the other hand, are designed to hold as much as possible without falling apart, which makes them hazardous in plumbing pipes.

  1. Tissues: Unsafe 

Many people mistakenly believe that tissues are safe to flush down the toilet. While they may look very similar to toilet paper, tissues are not designed to self-destruct in water like toilet paper. Instead, tissue is actually designed to repel liquid in order to maintain its structure so your Kleenex doesn’t fall apart in your hands when you blow your nose into it.

If you try to flush a Kleenex down your toilet, it will likely go down smoothly and cause no plumbing issues. However, that doesn’t mean that tissues are safe to flush. Every time you flush a tissue down the toilet, you risk a clog in your plumbing.

Safe Flushable Toilet Paper Alternatives

As it turns out, experts have concluded that the only things that are actually safe to flush down your toilet without risking plumbing blockages are human waste and toilet paper. Toilet paper is specially designed to disintegrate almost instantly in water in order to avoid clogging plumbing pipes. No other toilet paper alternative has comparable properties that make it safe to flush down your toilet.

However, that’s not to say that there is no alternative to toilet paper. The materials listed above still work great as toilet paper alternatives—as long as you throw them away after use instead of trying to flush them down your toilet.

A bidet attachment is another great alternative to toilet paper. It cleans you up more effectively even than toilet paper, and there are no paper products to flush down afterward. If you still feel the need to wipe after using a bidet attachment, you’ll probably feel better about throwing whatever you use to wipe in the trash can next to the toilet instead of trying to flush it down. It’s best to play it safe—especially in the middle of a pandemic when plumbing resources can be tough to come by.