If the nationwide run on toilet paper is leading those left TP-less to consider using paper towels, napkins and other atypical wiping material to clean their behinds, America’s plumbing pros have a message they want to share: Don’t flush that stuff.
One of the most visible phenomena of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the resulting wave of self quarantining and mass work-from-home orders has been the mad dash to stock up on toilet paper. Some call the resulting bare shelves an example of panic buying.
With some people coming up empty in their search for rolls, Roto-Rooter, North America’s largest plumbing service provider, on Wednesday issued online guidance aimed at preventing people from clogging their pipes with things not designed to be flushed.
“If you’re all out of toilet paper, there’s no perfect solution, but you should never flush paper towels and napkins. They don’t dissolve quickly in water and are likely to cause your toilet to back up,” company officials wrote in an email to customers. “Facial tissue is another bad idea, but in the absence of toilet paper, you can use it in small amounts if you flush frequently.”
Just how many emergency calls the company is seeing related to heavier duty paper products being flushed down toilets, the email did not say but it emphasized that Roto-Rooter is fully staffed and still scheduling home and business service.
“Roto-Rooter is considered an essential service provider in cities with curfews and travel restrictions,” the email reads.
Kyle Ray has been surprised there hasn’t been a drastic uptick it clogged pipes. The owner and operator of Englewood-based drain cleaning and sewer line repair business Hyper Flow Service Co. has been anticipating a clog surge since the toilet paper rush began. His two-technician company serves customers from Longmont to Castle Rock.
“Even flushable wipes, even if they say ‘flushable,’ they’re just too thick and they don’t break down,” Ray said. “If your pipes have an issue and aren’t perfect, it might hang up in there and create a clog.”
In Denver, commercial plumbing and HVAC service company Mount Mechanical has seen service calls slow down in recent days, the company’s vice president Jamie Mount said.
Some property management firms that run the high-rise apartment and condo buildings Mount Mechanical is focused on serving have scaled back work requests in the wake of COVID-19, Mount said. They’re trying to keep contractors out of buildings unless it is an emergency. Meanwhile, Mount Mechanical is seeking to protect its technicians by only dispatching them on the most severe calls.
As for people flushing paper towels, napkins and the like, Mount said she hasn’t fielded requests to fix anything like that lately but, “We do reach out to building maintenance staff and tell them, ‘Tell your residents not to do that because they won’t like the bills that come with it.’”
What can the toilet paperless do to clean up and protect their pipes? Ray offered a simple solution.
“Hop in the shower,” he said. “That’s what they should do.”