Family Green

I’m a Wet Wipe Addict

This is a guest post written by Hayley Edwards, Welsh Water employee.

I never meant to become a wet wipe addict.

At first, they were just a handy way for wiping my babies’ bums. Then I started using them to wipes their faces, then their high chairs.

Wipes are so easy for Mabel’s mucky chops!

Next thing I knew, I was using them for everything – food splats on the table, spills on the floor and even the crayon marks on the walls. From dusting off the banisters to removing mud off the front door, a wet wipe can clean off just about anything.

Why wouldn’t you love a cleaning product can be used for everything from removing eye makeup to dusting your window sills? With a wet wipe, you can do things long assumed to be beyond human ingenuity: remove food marks from your jeans, for example, or even scrub toothpaste off a jumper.

And if you’re anywhere near the bathroom, what’s the easiest way of getting rid of them? The toilet. One flush and they’re gone. Job done.

But, then I started working for Welsh Water and saw consequences of the nation’s growing wet wipe obsession first hand. I discovered what happens once that toilet is flushed. It wasn’t pretty.

Removed from a blocked sewer by Welsh Water.

Welsh Water deal with 2,000 blockages a month – and 75% of these are caused by wipes, sanitary items, cotton buds or other items being flushed away, which congeals into an even bigger underground mountain of mess when it mixes with fat and grease from our sinks.

These startling facts got me thinking about my own wet wipe habit. I’m hooked and I’m not the only one. The popularity of wet wipes has increased hugely over the last few years.

The problem is that wet wipes, baby wipes, make-up wipes, moist wipes, and cleaning wipes don’t actually break up in the pipes like toilet tissue does (even the ones advertised as “flushable”, which was news to me!).

As people flush without thinking, water companies across the world are struggling to keep sewers flowing. If a blockage isn’t caught in time, the results can be horrendous. In the sewers, wet wipes float on top of the wastewater, absorbing oils and grease, and clumping together with fat and grease to form blockages or giant ‘fatbergs’ like you’ve seen in London.

A Fatberg found in Cardiff sewer.

Seeing this first hand has made me face up to my habits…

The thought of monster wet wipe clumps lurking in the sewers below your home is enough to put anyone off their tea, but the risk of blockages brings with it even more stomach-churning consequences. It’s safe to say that every time I consider flushing my beloved wipes, the possibility of homes, beaches and neighbourhoods being flooded with sewage because of me stops me dead in my tracks.

Every wipe, cotton bud or piece of dental floss I now use goes straight into the bin. But that’s still not a great solution – to send all those things to landfill.

Wet wipes haven’t been easy part with, I’ve tried going back to my pre-wet wipe life: removing your makeup with a facecloth, washing your hands with soap and water, and cleaning surfaces with a reusable cloth instead of cleaning wipe. I only use wet wipes for nappy changes and the odd sticky face.

And most importantly I make sure that wet wipes go in a bin, not down the loo.

By making these small changes, I’ve doing my little bit to prevent homes and neighbourhoods being flooded and protecting the rivers and seas. So Mabel and her sister can enjoy the beaches for years to come.

Mabel and her sister Matilda enjoying the beach.

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  • Reply Louisa February 12, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    I haven’t changed a nappy for years but we still keep a supply of wet wipes at home. I find them very useful for lots of chores. Thankfully we have never flushed them down the toilet. The fat and debris down the sewers is horrendous and really makes you stop and think about what you are disposing and how you do it #mmbc

  • Reply Amy February 12, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    I confess I’ve used a lot of wet wipes in my time but when you think about how they have to be recycled and how much money and environment you can save by just using a wet flannel or a sponge…

  • Reply Joanna February 12, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    I buy moist toilet paper from Lidl because it says it’s flushable but it feels just like a wet wipe. Is it a wet wipe or toilet paper do you think?

  • Reply Kim Carberry February 12, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Ahh! My girls are 10 & 15 and we still use wet wipes around the house. They have so many uses. They don’t go down the toilet anymore though. We had a blocked drain a couple of years ago and it was rank. x

    • Reply Christy - WelshMum February 18, 2018 at 10:13 am

      Oh no. I’ve not had a blocked drain so far but it sounds like a nightmare!

  • Reply Debbie February 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Hi Christy, I stopped buying wet wipes a few years back when I learned just how bad they are for the environment. Before then I had no idea of the damage they caused. Now it seems that everything that makes our lives easier is causing damage to our beautiful planet, which is a shame, but if we all do our bit, hopefully, we can make a difference.


    • Reply Christy - WelshMum February 18, 2018 at 10:14 am

      Thanks Debbie. It’s so hard to balance up a modern life with what’s good for the environment, especially when we often don’t even realize. I think as long as we try to be aware and do what we can we’re definitely making a difference.

  • Reply Kacie February 16, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    I love wet wipes too, they’re so handy! I’m always careful to put them in the bin rather than down the loo, though, as I know the damage they can do!

  • Reply Rebecca | AAUBlog February 16, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    really interesting read as we recently gave them up too – they’re so handy but there are plenty of other solutions x

    • Reply Christy - WelshMum February 18, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Absolutely. If in the house a sponge or cloth will do the job just as well. I do admit I love having them in my bag when I’m out and about though. Sometimes you don’t have access to water and they’re a lifesaver then.

  • Reply Han February 17, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    We just got a little puppy and she’s forever making mess so wet wipes have been a blessing! Never would flush them down the toilet though, and now I have this post to show my boyfriend to prove my point!! haha

    • Reply Christy - WelshMum February 18, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Congrats on the puppy! I’m not sure which makes more of a mess, puppies or babies!

  • Reply Nicolette Lafonseca February 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    Crazy how many people are flushing them. Also how many people put tampons in the toilet THEY ARE NOT FLUSHABLE!

    • Reply Christy - WelshMum February 18, 2018 at 10:07 am

      Absolutely. I’ve heard people even try to flush nappies! I don’t know what they’re thinking.

  • Reply Bread February 17, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    I can’t believe people flush stuff like that. I’m surprised because surely it would block the toilet or house pipes!

    • Reply Christy - WelshMum February 18, 2018 at 10:06 am

      I know! I was shocked too, but a lot of people must be doing it for us to have the sewerage problems we have.

  • Reply Linda Hobbis February 18, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    Oh my god that’s horrendous. Thankfully I’ve never really used wet wipes but we do use moist toilet tissue occasionally. That can go!

  • Reply Anosa February 20, 2018 at 6:39 am

    OMG you mean the flashable ones ain’t actually breaking down in toilet like tissues? Oh dear I didn’t know that, it’s all bin moving forward for me now

  • Reply Super Busy Mum February 20, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I haven’t changed a nappy in a good few years now and I also miss my daughter little fluffy cloth bum! But I am shocked people still think it’s OK to flush wet wipes!

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