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Helping your toilet survive the toilet paper crisis

The last thing you need while self-isolating is a blocked toilet

The current coronavirus is a serious issue and one of the main developments that will affect the majority of people is not so much the virus itself but the phenomenon of panic buying and stockpiling. The greatest commodity currently appears to be toilet roll.

Why people are stocking up on toilet roll is not clear, other than they perhaps feel that it is necessary because everyone else seems to be doing it and a panic buying mentality is kicking in? The outcome is that most supermarkets appear to have been wiped out of this essential item (no pun intended).

If you find that you are running short of toilet paper yourself, your thoughts may have already turned to alternatives, should it come to that. One obvious one may be toilet wipes, which do seem to be still available in the shops currently. Others may be tissues or even kitchen roll.

Only toilet roll should be flushed down the toilet

Please be aware that the only item, other than regular human waste, that should be flushed down the toilet is toilet roll. This is because toilet roll is specifically designed to break down in water. Tissues don’t break down in this way and even wipes that say they are flushable, are not good for drains. Baby wipes and kitchen roll are really not appropriate at all.

What happens when you flush other things down the toilet?

In short, your toilet gets blocked. One of the main causes of blocked toilets is the use of wipes (yes, even the ‘flushable’ toilet ones – see here). This may block up the toilet itself or cause issues further down the drains which can cause water and sewage to back up. Neither of which is pleasant for you or your neighbours.

Blocked toilets are smelly, make your toilet unusable and can cause significant damage which can be costly to resolve. Factor in the prospect of self-isolating and that the workload of local plumbers is likely to be much higher as everyone stays at home, putting more pressure on home plumbing. The number of plumbers available may also be depleted due to tradespeople needing to self-isolate or take care of children (for example if the schools close). All in all, the last thing you need at this time is a blocked toilet, which is something that you can control.

What can you do if toilet paper is in short supply?

The first thing is not to panic. Yes, toilet roll stocks are in high demand at the moment but retailers are trying really hard to get stock in to replenish their shelves as quickly as possible. Most are also introducing limits on how many people can buy, which should make it fairer and easier for everyone to get what they need.

However, if you have been left short or you are concerned about running out there are a two main things you can do:

  • Use what you have sensibly. Most people use far more toilet paper than they really need to, especially children. It is estimated that the average person uses around 57 squares of toilet roll per day (and many use more). With an average roll having around 150 squares, this means that a roll would last less than 3 days per person. You don’t actually need to use so much so just be sensible about it. If you are the type to wad a thick pad using 6 or 7 sheets per wipe, then scale down to 3 or 4. That way you are doubling the lifespan of each roll.
  • If you do run out of toilet roll then, of course, you will have to use something. Tissues and wipes will get the job done – just don’t put them down the toilet. It may not be ideal but we would have to adopt the Greek approach here and dispose of them in a bin. As long as you empty the bin regularly, it won’t become too unpleasant and is a much better alternative than blocking the loo.

Do you have stockpiles of toilet roll?

If you are one of the ones who has gone out and cleared the shelves, leaving low supplies for everyone else, just consider how your actions impact on other people – especially the elderly and vulnerable who don’t have as easy access to shops or can’t afford to buy in bulk. Consider how many you have and how long that would last you (when used sensibly, not decadently knowing you have a year’s worth in the garage) and if you do have stocks that would last months and months, consider giving some away. You could give them to elderly neighbours or donate them to a food bank or charity as these organisations are struggling to source basic supplies for the vulnerable people that they support at this time.

The main thing at this time is not to panic. We know that’s easier said than done and of course appreciate that we need to take this seriously, but let’s stay calm and be fair to other people.

If you do have a blocked drain, or any other plumbing or heating emergency, we will always do our best to help you but this is an ever evolving situation so we all need to work together. Take care of yourself and do what you can to help others as well.

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