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Using wipes while you can’t find toilet paper? Don’t flush!

Products marketed as "flushable" are often anything but, experts say. They are also likely to cause costly plumbing problems.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — “Pee, poop and paper. That's it. Nothing but human waste and toilet paper down the toilet.”

That’s the message John Palenchar of St. Pete Water Resources wants everyone to know during the coronavirus pandemic that sent everyone on a mad dash to find toilet paper and cleansing wipes to stay clean and germ-free.

Palenchar said anything aside from toilet paper and human waste will clog drains and could damage your plumbing system, costing you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Additionally, the unflushable items can also create overflows of raw sewage in homes and streets.

“With the shortage of toilet paper that we're seeing, we're seeing a lot of things that are not designed to go down the toilet being flushed,” Palenchar said. "It seems like people are cleaning their entire bathrooms and just flushing everything down the drain."

RELATED: Pinellas County: 'Flushable' wipes are clogging the pipes

Lisa Rhea, also of St. Pete Water Resources, said people should also be aware that wipes marketed as “flushable” are usually anything but. The fine print on packaging often warns consumers that all septic systems might not be able to handle wipes down the drain.

"They do not disperse in the sewer system,” Palenchar said. “They stay as a mat of paper and a lot of them have plastic in them, and that just doesn't break down. It doesn't disperse and it gets mixed in with grease and oil...that clog up your pipes and city pipes and cause overflows and backups in homes and…have a really negative impact on our infrastructure and our environment."

St. Pete is already dealing with aging sewer systems and has had huge problems with raw sewage leaks in the past.

The city is currently increasing capacity at its lift stations and treatment plants to handle overflows when there's a lot of rain. However, if people are clogging pipes with things they shouldn't flush, overflows are more likely to happen.

St. Petersburg isn’t the only area struggling with getting residents to stop flushing wipes. Across Pinellas County previously warned residents to stay away from flushing anything other than toilet paper because of the county-wide clogs.  

“Protect your home. Protect your pocketbook. Don't put anything down the toilet except pee, poop and paper,” Palenchar said.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com.

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