10 things you should never flush down your toilet

Photograph: Stewart Turkington

In these times of austerity it is very strange to find such things as wet wipes down in sewers but they are there and they are wreaking havoc, but they are not the strangest things to have been found in our sewers, here are ten things that Thames Water say are the worse things you can flush down the plug hole, and remember, many of these have to be removed by hand, would you want that job?!

1. Food fat

Whilst it might flow down the plug hole when it is warm, fresh from being cooked, when it cools it conceals and becomes hard, it also tends to bind around wet wipes and other detritus like clay around straw. “It slips down sinks very easily when it’s warm,” says Simon Evans of Thames Water, “but once it hits our sewers it cools down and congeals into what we call fatbergs.”

2. Condoms

Although these are typically difficult to flush, they still do end up in sewers and become filled with air which then block pipes further down the line. Evans: “I’ve been down the sewers in central London and seen what appear to be fish on the surface. They’re actually condoms filled with air, bobbing around. It is pretty grim.”

3. Pets

Goldfish are most common, of course, but hamsters and gerbils are also seen. “They don’t help, because they’re quite sturdy little things.”

4. Nappies

Most people dispose of nappies in the proper way, but some still try and flush them down the toilet. If they do manage to get them down through the U-bend, the blockages they cause can be terrible.

5. Human body parts

Yes you would not believe some of the body parts the Thames Water “flushers”, as sewer operatives are known – have found. In truth, the people sending them down toilets probably have bigger things than sewer abuse to worry about.

6. Cotton buds and tampons

It says on the packets that these should never be flushed down the toilet and for good reason, they just won’t break down. It may take months or years for a fatty ball of them to accumulate, but in the end they do block drains, which then have to be unblocked by hand.

7. Half a Mini

Probably a one-off, this. “It was dragged out of one of our major London sewers. Pretty bizarre. Obviously that didn’t get flushed down the toilet.”

8. Paint and building waste

The viscosity of paint causes problems when it joins a fatberg. Bits of rubble are heavy enough to settle in bends, providing a base on which wet wipes and food can collect.

9. Drug paraphernalia

Syringes are the main problem, being very nasty and unhygienic.

10. Food

A piece of bread won’t do any harm, but bones or even apple cores do cause trouble. Sweetcorn collects in large quantities in the sewers, as yellow as it was in the field.

Source: Simon Evans – The Guardian