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Can You Flush Paper Towels Down the Toilet?

can you flush paper towels down the toilet
Written by Elizabeth Fincher
Last Update: August 10, 2023

There is something magical about the toilet. No, really! I mean it! With just one flush, anything small enough to fit through the pipes is sent away, never to be seen again.

But certain items should never be flushed down the toilet, as they could clog the pipes and destroy your home’s plumbing. Homeowners need to know which items are unflushable.

First, let’s start with paper towels.

Can You Flush Paper Towels Down the Toilet?

Can You Flush Paper Towels Down the Toilet

We often act as if paper towels are just thick toilet papers. But that’s not true.

Paper towels are designed to absorb while toilet papers are meant to catch and wipe away feces and urine among other things.

They are not designed the same way. Even the thickest brand of toilet paper is nowhere near as thick and rigid as the average paper towel.

Plus, if you placed toilet paper and paper towels in a bowl of water, the toilet paper would break down within a few seconds.

Even if submerged in water, a paper towel is strong enough to be wrung out and used.

When one paper towel sheet is flushed down the toilet, they absorb the toilet water and become thicker. Flushing multiple paper towels will cause clogs to happen faster.

Flushing paper towels down the toilet as if they are toilet paper is not a good idea. If you are doing this, you need to stop NOW!

What Happens if You Were to Flush Toilet Paper?

As we stated above, flushing toilet paper will eventually clog your toilet. But a clogged toilet is not the only issue you may have to deal with, especially if you have been flushing paper towels down your drains for months.

What else will you have to deal with?

  • Damage to the pipes as they burst from mounting water pressure.
  • You will have to call a plumber to fix or replace the pipes, which is expensive.
  • If the damage is bad enough, the water will back up and spray out of your sinks, showers, and other toilets.
  • If water is backing up into your lawn, you have to shut down the water flow to your whole house, and you won’t be able to shower.
  • In the worst-case scenario, the pipes will burst underneath your lawn in our backyard. This will cause flowing water will soak your backyard and turn the soil into mud.

All of these terrible scenarios will occur in newer buildings and homes. It’s just a bad idea to flush paper towels down the toilet, matter what type of building you’re in.

What to Do if Your Toilet Is Clogged With Paper Towels?

So, you went ahead and flushed paper towels down your toilet?

We told you not to, but maybe you didn’t believe us!

Here are a few ways to fix your pipes before they burst and toilet water floods into your sinks, showers, and bathtubs.

1. Use a plunger

The first time you notice your toilet water drains away slower than usual, grab the plunger and go to town on your toilet. If you catch the clog early, you can avoid a massive headache later in the week.

2. Use an auger

A toilet auger is a small wire drill that can loosen any clogs inside the toilet. Just place the wire into your toilet bowl’s drain and push the wire through. If this doesn’t remove the clog, you will have to use a sewer jetter.

3. Use a sewer jetter

Most people have never heard of a sewer jetter before; it is a mechanical cord that slides into drains and pipes to unstick a clog.

Using a sewer jetter is very expensive, and if you find a place to rent one, the price still isn’t low.

But it is more effective than using an auger since they can only reach three feet into the toilet. A sewer jetter can travel deep into the home plumbing system

4. Use a drain cleaning kit

If your sewer jetter doesn’t work, it’s time to drive to the hardware store and buy a drain cleaning kit. These kits usually include a bottle of draino and a metal snake to push the clog. The Drano will dissolve the clog. And if you are not careful, it will dissolve your skin and muscle.

5. Call a professional

Clogged drains are no joke. If you can’t solve the drain clogging problem within a day or two, it is time to call it quits and call in a plumber. And when the plumber arrives at your home or apartment, tell them the truth.

Tell the plumber that you have been flushing paper towels down the toilet. It may be embarrassing but explaining the issue to the plumber will make it easier for him to unclog your drainpipes.

Don’t Flush These Other Items!

  • Baby Wipes

Whether you live in an old house or a new one, never flush baby wipes as they are too thick for plumbing pipes.

  • Pads and Cotton Balls

These two items are designed to absorb liquid. Flushing them down the toilet will clog your drains quickly as the pads will absorb the water they’re sitting in.

  • Menstrual Products

Do not flush panty liners, tampons, and period pads. It is safe to dump the contents of a menstrual cup into the toilet, but not the cup itself.

  • Tissues

In an emergency, tissues are a good replacement for toilet paper. But they should not be a long-term replacement. So if you need used tissue, use only one sheet.

  • Nappies and diapers

Never Ever flush diapers. They are so thick that your toilet could clog the first or second diaper. Buy a used diaper storage container and trash them in there.

  • Newspapers

Newspapers are thicker than paper towels and should never be flushed, even if you shred the paper. Newspapers have a type of paper that can survive rain and puddles so people can read the news after their paper is dry.

  • Dental Floss

Dental floss turn into a net and traps other debris into the drain. It can also burn out your motor by wrapping around the septic system parts.

  • Medicines

Medicines doesn’t get break down by water properly and can contaminate the water. If you have old pills, throw them in the trash.

  • Coffee filters

Used coffee filters are not designed to dissolve in water. Actually, they do the opposite since their purpose is to hold coffee grounds while near-boiling hot water filters through the paper to create coffee. Flushing used coffee filters with coffee grounds stuck onto its paper is just asking for your drains to be clogged.

  • Hair

Strands of hair are thin but they don’t dissolve in water. If you have a lot of hair on your hairbrush, throw it away instead of flushing it down the toilet.

  • Flushable wipes

Flushable wipes are only flushable if you live in a brand new building or bring them home. Old Homes and apartments won’t be able to handle flushable wipes. If you do need to use wipes, throw them away instead.

  • Chewing Gums

Don’t ever throw chewing gum away. Instead, you should wrap it in a piece of toilet paper and throw it away. Chewing gum can stick to the sides of drains and reduce the space that toilet paper and feces have to go through. Think of chewing gum as plaque in a clogged artery.

  • Other common drain clog causing materials

In fact, the most common causes of clogged drains in a home plumbing system are tree roots, menstrual products, and flushable wipes.

All of these items can clog your plumbing and cost you thousands of dollars in repair bills.

Most Effective Ways to Dispose of Paper Towels

1. Compost

Paper towels are still made of paper, so they will break down if you put them in soil. But composting a regular paper towel will take weeks to months.

Compostable certified paper towels are designed to break down faster and they are just as strong as regular paper towels.

2. Throw away

We don’t like creating extra trash since the world is already full of it.

But if you had a choice between flushing paper towels and throwing them away, always throw them away. Save your pipes and let the landfill deal with your old paper towels.


1. Can bleach dissolve paper towels?

Ans. No, bleach does not help. It won’t even dissolve toilet paper either.

2. How long do paper towels take to dissolve in water?

Ans. It takes about eight days for a regular paper towel to dissolve in water. Extra strength towels will take longer.

About the author

Elizabeth Fincher

Elizabeth started her career as an interior design artist at a multinational interior design farm. She completed her masters degree from the University of North Texas back in 2010. She was also a Spelling Bee runner-up when she was 14. She took interest in bathroom interior designing after joining her first job. Later she started her own firm as an independent artist. She’s been one of the founding members of Toiletsguide. She examines the design and ergonomics of the units we review and directs the interior decoration team of our in-house research facility. Elizabeth plays piano masterfully and always finds time to entertain us in between our busy schedules.

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