Today I decided to sort my kitchen out, but not just a quick tidy up. I needed to catch up on that Spring clean by doing a full blown deep clean. Every surface, nook and cranny on every item of furniture was to be done.
I was excelled into work by the surprise of my own determination and grand task setting. Before I knew it (I thought) every packet of wipes I had was out! Now admittedly I have a lot of differing wipes; some for floors, some for glass, some for leather, some for wooden furniture, some for dusting, some for hobs, some for silver… and of course the multi-buy box of 12 packs of baby wipes for sticky fingers and faces – how did I survive without wipes before kids?!
It was also well overdue to give the new steam mop a go, however, commencing the clean was delayed slightly due to this item of technology… and the operator. Thank goodness it didn’t stall the operation completely. I’m not sure I’d have been able to fool myself into this level of predicament again anytime soon.
Not long after starting, I’d already added the downstairs WC into my task list. I was very aware of how many wipes I was using and it reminded me of an article for this Summer’s Housing Matters (July 2015) about ‘fatbergs’. Fatbergs are what we call gigantic blockages in pipes by a build up of fat and other things. Iceberg – fatberg.
Thames Water once had to deal with a fatberg the size of a bus in Kingston, London. The complaints of not being able to flush toilets in the localised area were literally the tip of the fatberg.
I think we all know the message of not disposing of fat and grease down the drain by now, but there’s a new accomplice for fatbergs – you guessed it, the wipe!
I never really used wipes until I had children and so for the last six years, my OCD of wipes has grown immensely (during my clean I found more than what was pictured above), and in my defence, which I’ll put on the [now like new] table, for a full time working mum, time is everything – they’re so convenient; and the bigger the words ‘kills all’ and ‘cuts through’ are on the packet, the more likely I am to pick them off the shelf!
But it’s the other wording on the packaging that has us fooled, ‘flushable’. Yes they absolutely are! And this is where the problematic journey of the wipe begins…
Once you’ve cleaned the surface of your throne/sink/floor…, smelt the fresh apple, lemon or ocean burst, acknowledged that feeling of achievement that you’ve done something towards the house work today, oh wait, you’re on a roll (or not, as the case my be) and pull another one out to do the taps whilst you’re at it, chuck it in and flush, whoosh off they go. So fresh, so clear – a positive feeling is embraced.
Before your back is turned the wipe cries ‘weeee!’ as it goes up and over, down, round, down, round, down, down, down until the water slide runs out of water and they’re all of a sudden in a very dark and dinghy place with all (and yours) of the neighbourhoods’ small amounts of fat, that just can’t quite get wiped out with the kitchen roll or drained off into an old tin. I imagine it’s like some sort of underground dungeon and with it’s pre-determined prisoners, it’s slowly housing a blocker, harbouring what they can catch as things are slowly nudged by with
Now here’s the next revealing part of the ‘Don’t be a fatberg feeder’, the wipes don’t breakdown like toilet tissue!
Toilet tissue is designed to be soft on your cheeks and dry but with the right thickness to be absorbent to a degree… so that when they hit the water, they start to break up – there is some real STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) in that [keep it clean] bog roll!
Wipes, however, are already moist you’ll notice and yet they don’t break up. Otherwise you would never be able to pull a full intact sheet from the packet (there be STEM in their creation too). They’re already surviving the loo roll’s (almost) worst nightmare, and this is due to the other materials in them such as plastic fibres. So when we flush a wipe, it remains intact for the whole journey to the dinghy dungeons and it takes on board anything else along it’s way. A fatberg begins or even worse, your contribution adds itself to an empire of wipes already building themselves to be (in my nearly 3 year olds over emphasising phantom tone) the biggest – fatberg – ever!
So with all of this grotesque insight fresh in my mind, here’s what I did. I took a plastic bag and I tied it to a belt loop on my shorts and as I paraded around my kitchen and then WC, once every wipe had done it’s fare share – in the bag it went!
A Fatberg Avoided
I filled a plastic bag.
That’s not to say I was living in squalor, it was a small plastic bag and remember, I’m deep cleaning everything – cupboard doors, table legs…
Can you imagine if all of that had gone down the loo in several flushes?! You’re right, I wouldn’t have put all of them down before knowing about fatbergs and the wipes’ secret, just all of the ones I used in the WC probably with no great concern or after thought! After all, my job was done, yay me, get the kettle on – but still, those few, plus a few more on one or two occasions that same week…plus each week in a month…plus surely I’m not the only one doing it in my neighbourhood – it’s going to build up – literally.
Here at Swindon Borough Council Housing, we’ve had 765 blocked toilets and 571 blocked drains in the past 12 months – we’re flushing our own resources down the drain!
So I’m going to finalise with words by Gordon Hailwood, waste contracts supervisor for Thames Water, ‘Bin it – don’t block it.’
Thank you for reading, now go share your new knowledge with friends and family!