Wet Wipes And Other Disasters

When a pipe bursts, a bathroom floods, or raw sewerage is exposed, we are the emergency plumber many people rely on. Our 24/7 support is a service we offer for urgent work, and we provide a speedy response where it is required.

In recent years, a lot of our call outs have been to resolve blockages caused by so-called flushable wipes. We say so-called because most flushable wipes are not flushable at all! In some cases, we’ll make a judgement at the time people call us to report such a blockage. Depending on the magnitude of the situation, we may advise that we attend during normal hours. But to minimise the need for such calls, we strongly recommend you don’t flush wet wipes or similar products as they cause major blockages – and not just in home and business plumbing systems. They’re also causing major concerns at wastewater plants right throughout New Zealand.

These wipes gained popularity in New Zealand and right around the world at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when supplies of toilet paper were running low. As they were usually advertised as being “flushable”, consumers saw them as an ideal alternative. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike toilet paper, these wipes do not break down and that is why they cause so many blockages. A local study comparing toilet paper with wet wipes confirms this. Consumer NZ put 11 flushable wipes and some regular toilet paper into an agitation device which was set up to replicate a typical New Zealand wastewater system. Each wipe was put in the agitator for 70 minutes. Within a few minutes, the toilet paper started to break down, and after 70 minutes it had disintegrated. On the other hand, all of the flushable wipes in the agitator were still intact after that time, with the exception of the odd small tear.

In many ways, wet wipes are like plastic bags. They won’t break down and they cause all sorts of damage as a result. They block home and business plumbing systems, which can lead to major flooding. And they are a headache in our wastewater plants, and that is an expensive problem to fix. With these wipes now being so popular, we shudder to think how many tens of millions are flushed down Kiwi loos each year!

Moves are afoot to change laws so that “flushable” wipes are properly labelled. Only then will people realise that they shouldn’t be flushed at all. Our advice is to dispose of them as you would with your normal household rubbish.

We hope more people become wise to this so that they don’t have to contact us when a blockage happens. So, if you know someone who uses wet wipes, be sure to share this blog post with them!


As registered Master Plumbers our work is covered by the Master Plumbers Guarantee for 12 months, giving you peace of mind.