Can You Flush Paper Towels Down the Toilet?

Can you flush paper towels down the toilet? If you’ve run out of toilet paper and have to take desperate measures in the bathroom you might be wondering if you can flush them down the toilet, they are paper after all. Read on to learn about if you can flush paper towels and what happens if you do.  

Do not flush paper towels

Multiple experts agree the only things you should actually flush down your toilet are pee, poop, vomit, and toilet paper. But what about paper towels or napkins? No. Even though they’re a close substitute for toilet paper, experts don’t recommend flushing them.

Toilet paper roll sitting on top of a white toilet.

Why you should only flush toilet paper

While both toilet paper and paper towels are made of paper, toilet paper is made to dissolve quickly and easily in water. Paper towels, on the other hand, are specifically thicker and made to be water-absorbent without breaking down. This makes them inclined to clog toilet drains if they get flushed.

What about flushable wipes?

NO! Flushable wipes are never flushable despite what the packaging might say. The only things you should be flushing are pee, poo and toilet paper.

What things should you never flush down the toilet? 

  • Hair
  • Dental floss
  • Feminine products 
  • Diapers
  • Paper products 
  • Grease
  • Food

What happens if you run out of toilet paper?

If you run out of toilet paper you can use napkins, paper towels or pretty much anything that you feel comfortable wiping with. 

What else can you use to wipe besides toilet paper?

  • Napkins
  • Kleenex
  • Paper (careful with this one. Paper cuts could be a concern)
  • Tissue paper
  • Cut up cloth or old t shirts 

You can use the items above to wipe- but please don’t flush them down the toilet.

Hand holding paper towel over a toilet bowl.

What happens if you already flushed the paper towel

If you already flushed paper towel the main concern is the possibility of a clog. If you have already flushed and nothing bad has happened consider yourself lucky and don’t do it again

If the toilet is clogged you will know right away. If there is a clog you’re in the right place. We have many tutorials on this site to help you get unstuck. 

How to plunge a toilet

Time needed: 10 minutes

Learn how to use a plunger properly to unclog a toilet

  1. Put on gloves

    This might get messy so make sure you protect yourself with a pair of thick cleaning gloves.

  2. Place the plunger in the toilet

    Try to place the open end of the plunger onto or as close as you can on top of the drain opening at the bottom of the toilet bowl.

  3. Start gently

    Initially the bell of the plunger will be full of air. Make sure the first thrust is gentle as a hard push will force the air back around the seal and splash water all over the bathroom.

  4. Plunge vigorously

    After the air is out of the plunger, plunge forcefully in and out while maintaining the seal. This forces water in both directions of the drain which will loosen most clogs. Plunge about 15-20 times to start.

  5. Have patience

    Alternate between steady strokes and larger heaves to force the clog out.

  6. Keep water in the bowl

    If the water level drops too low it will break the seal and you will lose pressure. Keep enough water in the bowl so the toilet plunger stays covered.

  7. Celebrate your victory

    Eventually the clog will loosen and everything in the toilet will go down the drain. Take your gloves off and give yourself a pat on the back.

Adrienne Carrie Hubbard
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