Can You Flush Paper Towels? Here's What You Need to Know

Can You Flush Paper Towels? Here's What You Need to Know


Unsure if paper towels can be flushed down the toilet? Read on to learn about the potential consequences for your septic system & proper disposal methods.

Have you ever wondered whether it's okay to flush paper towels down the toilet? It's a question that many of us have asked ourselves, and for good reason since paper towels are a staple for cleaning spills and other messes. In this article, we'll dive into the question of whether you can flush paper towels, explore the impact of flushing them, and provide alternatives for safe disposal to minimize environmental impact.

What are Paper Towels Made of?

Have you ever asked yourself “What are paper towels made of?” You’re not alone. Paper towels are typically made of wood pulp, which is derived from grinding wood chips. The wood pulp undergoes chemical treatment and is mixed with water to separate the fibers and purify the material, and is then pressed and dried into large rolls of paper.

These rolls are later cut into smaller sheets, which are often perforated and embossed to increase absorption. Many types of paper towels are also treated with bleaches to make them appear white. Some manufacturers choose to use recycled paper pulp, or a combination of both recycled and fresh pulp, as a more environmentally conscious alternative.

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Can Paper Towels be Flushed?

If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to flush paper towels down the toilet, the answer is almost always no. Regardless of the type of paper towel you’re using, it can cause serious damage to your plumbing system and septic tank. Recycled paper towels, for instance, may contain fibers that are too large for your plumbing system and could cause blockages.

Moreover, some brands of paper towels give off small amounts of chemicals, like formaldehyde, that can be harsh on your pipes and septic system.1 Even if you flush a small amount without any issues, it's important to keep in mind that paper towels don't dissolve as easily as toilet paper and can clog pipes or form bulky masses in your septic tank. Remember, if it’s not human waste or toilet paper, it doesn’t belong in the toilet!

What Happens If Your Flush Paper Towels?

Unlike toilet paper, which is designed to disintegrate quickly in water, paper towels are made to absorb moisture and retain their structure. This means that when you flush paper towels, they do not disintegrate, and can accumulate in your pipes. This creates the potential for the paper towels to get stuck in the narrow pipes, leading to a blockage. These clogs can result in sewage backups and other severe plumbing issues that can be costly to fix.

Additionally, if everyone were to flush paper towels, it could contribute to the formation of 'fatbergs'. These rock-like masses consist of non-biodegradable solids like paper towels and wet wipes. Fatbergs can cause significant blockages, often requiring extensive labor and resources to remove.

So, while it may seem convenient in the moment, it's much better for your plumbing system if you dispose of paper towels in the trash (or your compost pile).

How to Safely Dispose of Paper Towels

The safest way to dispose of paper towels without wreaking havoc on your septic system is by throwing them in the trash. Here are a few things to keep in mind when getting rid of your used paper towels:

  • Be mindful when composting: Paper towels are generally safe for composting as long as they’re not soiled with chemical cleaners, grease, or oil. Anything used to clean up hazardous or toxic materials should not be composted, as this can contaminate the soil and harm the environment.
  • Avoid recycling: Generally, paper towels are not recyclable due to their fiber composition and potential contamination with food waste and other substances. Recycling facilities are typically not equipped to handle soiled paper products, so it’s best to dispose of them via compost or trash.

Overall, it's best to minimize the use of disposable paper towels and opt for reusable alternatives whenever possible to reduce waste and environmental impact.

So, What Can Be Flushed Down the Toilet?

When it comes to septic systems, it’s best to err on the side of caution: the only items that are actually safe to flush are human waste and toilet paper. Although some products may be advertised as "flushable," such as wipes, they may not break down as quickly as advertised and can eventually cause blockages. Anything from feminine hygiene products to baby wipes, medications and more could end up clogging pipes and blocking the flow of water in your home, leading to costly repairs.

That's why it's so important to ONLY flush septic-safe toilet paper down the toilet. Toilet paper that is specifically designed for septic systems will break down more quickly in the septic tank, preventing any potential clogs or other plumbing issues.

Protect Your Plumbing System and the Environment with Reel Paper

Fortunately, finding sustainable paper products that won’t clog your septic tank or cause sewer backups is easy with Reel. Our bamboo toilet paper, recycled paper towels, and other eco-friendly paper products are not only eco-friendly and biodegradable, but they're also soft and durable, offering a high-quality alternative to traditional paper towels and toilet paper. Join us as we create a more sustainable future.


  1. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Formaldehyde.


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