Consumer NZ wants manufacturers of flushable wipes to drop claims these products are “flushable”.

A Consumer test of 11 flushable wipes found they don’t break down readily and can cause a plumbing headache.

Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin said marketing of these wipes had increased sales but the products had deservedly attracted flack because of problems they can cause.

“Despite claims these products are safe to flush, our test found they don’t break down readily. The result can be an unwelcome bill from your plumber,” Ms Chetwin said.

Consumer’s test used an agitation device, designed to provide a similar environment to the wastewater system, to see how rapidly flushable wipes broke down when compared with regular toilet paper.

The test found toilet paper started to break down within minutes and had completely disintegrated after 70 minutes. However, all the flushable wipes remained intact, apart from the occasional small tear.

“Manufacturers tell us they do their own testing to support claims the wipes are safe to flush and won’t cause issues in ‘well-maintained’ sewerage systems. But in real world conditions, these wipes can lead to expensive problems,” Ms Chetwin said.

Wipes can get snagged on old pipes and tree roots, resulting in blocked drains.

The wipes have also resulted in problems at wastewater treatment plants, adding to maintenance bills for local councils. “In our view, manufacturers shouldn’t be claiming these products are flushable,” Ms Chetwin said.

She advised consumers using these products not to flush them. “If you want to avoid a nasty plumbing bill, the safest option is to bin these products.”