Can You Flush Paper Towels?

Can You Flush Paper Towels?

Each and every one of us has been faced with the temptation to flush paper towels down the drain the same way we would do with toilet paper. This, unfortunately, can be a bad idea, depending on the composition of the paper towels and the size of your toilet bowl.

Flushing a paper towel that isn’t designed to dissolve quickly can cause a clog in your sewage system, forcing you to waste time and money on clearing it out.

That being said, some paper towels can be flushed without complications, and non flushable items of this type should have such a disclaimer on their packaging.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, leading people to believe that they can safely flush paper towels that they shouldn’t. But can you flush paper towels if you need to?

What Happens if You Flush Paper Towels?

First of all, a paper towel is much larger than your usual piece of toilet paper, meaning that it is more likely to clog your toilet through its sheer size.

Furthermore, you are likely to use more than one paper towel to wipe your hands or a wet surface, meaning that you would flush at least a few of them at a time.

As a result, the used paper towels or napkins collect in the septic system, often with other material they were used to wipe, whether it be cigarette butts or whatever you spilled on the bathroom floor, or even human waste.

Due to their large size, paper towels can often wrap around these other things in the drain and cause a nasty mess.

What are the Differences Between Toilet Paper and Paper Towels?

While toilet paper and paper towels may look identical on the surface, the truth is that, unlike toilet paper, the alternatives have a highly different composition. The same goes for other paper things with a similar look, such as baby wipes, wet wipes, etc.

Unlike toilet paper which is designed to dissolve in the septic tank eventually, these other paper products do not decompose quickly.

Even in the case of flushable wipes, which the manufacturers claim to be dissolvable in the sewer system, it is still ill-advised to use them as a toilet paper alternative.

While the paper towels eventually dissolve in the toilet pipes as well, they take far more time to do so.

Even those towels the manufacturers claim are specifically designed to be dissolve when flushed into the toilet bowl can result in a clog.

This is especially the case if the bowl is already full of grease or unflushed waste, with the towels being but the final straw.

How To Avoid Clogging Your Toilet With Paper Towels?

The short answer would be not to flush paper towels into your toilet bowl. But if doing so is unavoidable, such as if your trash can is full, there are a few things you can do to dispose of these towels safely.

First, flushing paper towels one or two at a time can reduce the likelihood of a clogged toilet. In addition, lower-quality paper towels, while not as good as toilet seat covers or containing any kind of waste, will also dissolve faster.

Why Is Flushing Paper Towels a Bad Idea?

As we already explained, baby wipes and other paper towels aren’t really meant to dissolve quickly, primarily because they are intended to contain water when you wipe your hands or any other surface.

In addition to that, the half sheets of paper towels are pretty large when compared to toilet paper, meaning that water takes a lot more time to dissolve paper towels.

Finally, the toilet bowl itself isn’t meant for flushing things of that size and consistency, meaning that while you could likely get away with flushing smaller pieces of a towel, an entire half sheet won’t break down quickly enough to reach the sewers.

Finally, paper towels are often used to clean dirty surfaces and contain things that can easily clog a drain all on their own. For example, a towel that was used to wipe kitchen grease or dish soap can become very sticky, making it much harder for it actually to get to the sewers.

The only things that should go down the toilet are organic waste, human or otherwise, and toilet paper, which is designed for that very purpose and breaks down quickly enough to avoid clogging your sewage system.

What To Do With Used Paper Towels?

Simply put, the best way to dispose of used paper towels is by throwing them into the trash can.

Not only a trash can won’t get clogged the way your pipes can, but it also allows you to recycle the paper towels once you empty them, making it an excellent choice for anyone interested in green technologies.

Furthermore, you can purchase a particular trash bin that allows you to turn your unused waste into compost, turning your leftover food, new paper towels, and all other organic matter in your home into an excellent source of nutrients for your garden if you have one.

How To Remove a Paper Towel Clog From Your Drain and Sewage System?

If the worst comes to pass and your towels cause the drain to clog, don’t despair. There are plenty of home remedies and DIY options that you can try before calling the plumber. Still, for best results, try to avoid your clogging your drains in the first place.

  1. Cleaning the Drains With Baking Soda

A combination of baking soda and vinegar can dissolve the grease that helps the flushed paper towel stick to the pipes, making a strong enough stream of water (such as the one coming from the tank when you flush the toilet) to dislodge the towels completely and unclog the toilet.

The way to do this is by first sipping a cup of soda down the drain, followed by vinegar. This combination is great at dissolving things such as grease and waste, allowing the subsequent flushing to unclog the toilet.

  1. Using a Toilet Plunger

Another thing you can do in order to unclog a toilet filled with paper towels is to use a toilet plunger. This way will quickly clear toilet clogs that are near the water surface, and the changes in pressure will shake the towels loose, allowing the flow of water again.

  1. Use a Drain Cleaner

Using drain cleaners to remove dissolved paper towels is another possibility. It comes with some downsides, however, the chief of which is the danger to your eyes or skin.

Make sure to use gloves to protect yourself from these sanitary products and flush your eyes afterward.

Finally, drain cleaners can sometimes react violently with other chemicals, meaning you should only use one drain cleaner at a time.

  1. Use a Plumbing Snake

If you have a plumbing snake in your home, you can use it to clear out the pipes by using brute force. Force the snake into the toilet pipes and rotate it, breaking the clogs into smaller pieces and allowing you to flush the toilet with hot water.

  1. Call a Professional Plumber

Finally, if all else fails, calling a professional plumber can be an excellent way to remove paper towels that got stuck in the toilet. The plumber has tools that can remove the thick layer of clogs in the pipes, making them work again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Paper Towels Clog Pipes?

If you flush paper towels down a toilet, they will likely end up clogging it. A simple solution to this is to throw a paper towel into the garbage can instead and use the toilet bowl for toilet paper only.

How Long Does It Take for the Paper To Dissolve In Water?

Toilet paper breaks down very quickly as it is designed to do so. Because of this, you can safely flush it down the drain. If you try to wash paper towels, instead, they have a much higher consistency, meaning that water won’t be as effective at dissolving them.

Can You Flush Paper Towels?

It is possible to flush paper towels, but it’s not a good idea to do so. This so-called toilet trap is a result of the fact that these towels are visually similar to toilet paper. Their composition, however, is much different and thus much more likely to cause clogs as it takes far longer to dissolve.

Can You Dissolve Paper Towels?

No, it is not possible to dissolve paper towels using chemicals, especially not when they are down the drain. On the other hand, it is entirely possible to dissolve the grease and the waste keeping them in place, and allowing the water to start flowing again.


Many people ask themselves can you flush paper towels in your bathroom as to dispose of them? Simply put, while it is possible, it is a really stupid idea to do so. Paper towels aren’t meant to dissolve in the sewage system, and therefore you should never throw them down the bowl.

Smith Edwards

Smith Edwards is a licensed plumber and writer with over a decade of hands-on construction and home improvement experience and has been providing home improvement advice for over 12 years.

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