Home / Pollution Prevention / Nonflushables

Toilets are not trash cans

Just because something can physically go down the toilet doesn’t mean it should. In fact, the only things that should be flushed down the toilet are the 3 Ps: pee, poop and (toilet) paper. Toilets are not trash cans, and everything else is a nonflushable.

What is the harm with Nonflushables?

Every day, District staff find items at the treatment plant and in the sewer collection system that shouldn’t be there.

Improper disposal of nonflushable or unflushable items – such as wipes, dental floss, diapers and tampon applicators – or fats, oils and grease (called FOGs for short) poured down kitchen drains, can result in expensive and messy sewer backups in your home or business. Nonflushables can also cause problems in the collection system by blocking sewer pipes, damaging pumps and requiring extra cleaning, which results in higher costs to users of the system.

The best and most cost-effective way to avoid clogged pipes and sewer backups is to keep nonflushables and FOGs out of your pipes and the sewer system in the first place.

How you can help

  • Only flush pee, poop and toilet paper. Dental floss, plastic wrappers, bandages, tampon applicators, kitty litter and cat poo, toys and other items can get stuck and clog the sewer line that connects your home or business to the District’s sewer system and cause messy, expensive backups or degrade your sewer line.
  • Despite the name, flushable wipes should not be flushed. They don’t break down like toilet paper and can get caught in your pipes and the sewer system, causing clogs and backups. Place them in the trash instead.
  • Wipe dishes clean into the trash before washing or putting in the dishwasher.
  • Use a mesh filter on kitchen sink drains to keep items from accidentally going down the drain.
  • Let fats, oils and grease harden or cool and put them in the garbage instead of down the drain; the City of Madison also accepts cooking oil for recycling.
  • Floor drains, garage drains and utility sinks impact your sewer line and are not a place to dump things such as household chemicals and paint. In Dane County, the Clean Sweep program provides safe, appropriate disposal for these items.
  • Homeowners are responsible for their sewer lateral, which is the sewer line that runs from the home to the street. When a sewer lateral gets clogged or tree roots grow into it, it is expensive and messy to fix. Minimize sewer lateral issues by only sending the appropriate items down the drain and toilet, and if you know you have tree root issues, put yourself on a preventative maintenance schedule. Businesses should also clean their laterals on a regular basis.
  • Restaurants, commercial kitchens and other businesses engaged in food preparation or food service should maintain grease traps through regular servicing and record keeping to prevent backups and fires. Also, keep beverage waste such as straws, stir sticks and tea bags out of the garbage disposal and your sewer line.
  • Businesses, schools and other public facilities are encouraged to provide appropriate waste receptacles with liners and signage to encourage employees, patrons and users to properly dispose of items.
  • Talk to family members, friends or employees about how they can protect pipes.