The truth about Butt Wipes and RV holding tanks

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By Emily Woodbury
It was a Tuesday and I got a knock on my door from my trusty (and well-loved) Amazon delivery man. I didn’t think I had ordered anything but, then again, sometimes I forget. I opened the box and saw an army-green box inside. What the…? A 42-pack of Bob’s Butt Wipes. Wow! Just what I’ve always wanted! As much as I can appreciate the importance of butt wipes, I was sure I had not ordered these (I didn’t have that much wine…).

Later that day, my phone rang. “Hi! Did you get the butt wipes?!” It was my dad, your favorite RV editor, Chuck Woodbury. “Ah, yes, I did. Care to explain?” Ultimately, am I surprised my father sent me a container of butt wipes with a funny logo? No. I often open my front door to find strange things he’s sent to me (like a 5-foot tall alien blow-up toy from Roswell, or T-shirts that say things like, “I fed Prairie Dogs in South Dakota”). He explained, “They’re selling these butt wipes at Camping World. The box says they’re flushable, but I don’t think they’ll dissolve as toilet paper does. Will you put a few in a jar on your counter in some water, shake it up a couple of times a day, and see if it dissolves?” “Sure, Dad,” I said.

It’s been ten days since I put the butt wipes in a jar of water on my kitchen counter (even the dog gives me weird looks when I go to shake it up). But guess what? They haven’t dissolved, not even a tiny bit. The butt wipe is just as much of a butt wipe as it was when I first put it in there. (I apologize for the poor-quality photo. It was hard to see the wipe against any light surfaces, so my gray couch had to do the trick. At least you get the point.)

Let’s do a little research here, shall we? Camping World’s website, where you can buy 42 of these wipes for $7.31, writes, “Flushable wipes are biodegradable and disperse in under 3 minutes, so your sewer and septic systems will remain clog-free.” Well, we know from my science experiment above that this is not true. One disappointed Amazon reviewer writes, “This product is advertised as biodegradable and RV/septic tank safe. They are not! They do not break down and biodegrade as stated. These lodged in my RV and clogged the black tank drain. They are effective for their intended use but(t) they should not be used with a septic system or a RV.”

Now, this kind of thing isn’t new to the “advertising-lied-to-me” world. Back in April, many news stories came out saying that flushable wipes (from baby wipes to makeup removing wipes) aren’t actually flushable, and plumbers are getting tired of fishing out huge clogs. Here’s one of those stories. See the photo below from the Twitter account of the Sanitation Districts of LA County. They write, “The wipe is still whole after a year!” Yikes, we don’t even want to think about how bad these are for the environment, much less our septic tanks.

Moral of the story? Don’t flush anything down your poor RV toilet other than toilet paper, and preferably white, single-ply toilet paper at that. The system is just as sensitive as your stomach is after a night of spicy Mexican food, and nobody deserves the task of unclogging that meal from your RV’s toilet … nobody.

Use butt wipes, sure, if you must, but put them in the garbage and walk them out to the dumpster later that night. You’ll get a few extra steps in for your day, and you’ll keep your partner, your toilet, and your plumber happy.

Oh, also, I should share something funny. A few days after I received these in the mail, I got an email from our wonderful RVTravel.com accountant. She wrote, “Emily … Sorry but I have to ask … please see attached Amazon order … butt wipes??? Please share with me what business expense category this is for.” Because they were shipped to me, it looked like I had purchased them. I told her I’d send her this article, once I had written it, to explain the business butt-wipe expense. So here we are.

##RVT935

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Vincee

Has everybody and everything gone totally mad in today’s society? Let’s see, some want to get rid of most forms of transportation today and go back to horse and buggy or maybe bicycles. Some want us to get rid of the estimated 400 million cows in this country because they belch and fart gases that will end our planet, I guess we are supposed to eat Impossible burgers, steaks, roasts etc. now if you get the urge for beef, probably pork and chicken coming soon. Rip out your fossil fuel furnace and replace your heat source with, hmmm, can’t be a fireplace because then we would have to cut down trees for the fuel source and lord forbid the use of coal, egads! And now we have Bob’s Butt wipes that the experiment shows can’t be flushed down the toilet because they don’t biodegrade, so maybe we should throw them into the trash, why even use the toilet anymore? Dig a hole in the yard and compost your body waste, why not!

I think the country has gone nuts…..

Gary

Before I retired, I worked in industrial water treatment, but got to see the issues municipalities have to deal with. (actually worked for a couple of cities starting out). Wipes are the bane of their existence. Those public notices you see about sewer overflows? A lot of them are due to ‘flushable’ wipes. Just because it flushes down your toilet, doesn’t mean they disintegrate. They go to city pump stations where they can plug up pumps, and/or mess up level sensors and cause overflows. If these things can stay intact and plug up a pump designed to pump raw sewage, its going to be bullet proof in a black tank. For your sanity and peace, don’t flush wipes in your RV. For the sake of the environment, and to keep your sewer rates down, don’t flush them at home and screw up the city’s system either.

Rita M. Black

After reading this article on butt wipes, I had to go and test the ones my daughter uses at home. I .one wipe in a mason jar, added water, closed the lid and shook it. It just floated around. I came back and shook it about every hour or so. After about 3-4 hours, the water was getting cloudy, by the next morning it was mostly in little pieces, The brand was Scott Flushable Wipes, so some wipes actually do break up. I should have guessed it. Regular Scott toilet paper is the brand I have used in my TT for the last 13 years. Their toilet paper sometimes doesn’t even wait to be dumped in the toilet before breaking up

Ralph Wagner

What are you thoughts about these new bidets that you can hook up to your existing toilet for RV’s?

Barz

Do yourself a huge favor and install a toilet seat mounted bidet. I even have them on my brick and mortar house. Mine cost less than $40 and will save your tanks, your water, and let’s not mention your behind! It’s so much more effective than a hand held wand too. When done you simply pat yourself dry with a sheet or two of toilet paper. Since the tp is clean we simply put it in a small trash can that sits near the toilet. Installation is super easy….takes about 20 to 30 minutes. I purchased mine from Amazon….they have a slew of them from which to choose. Mine is a Luxe Bidet Neo 185

Anna Z

The Spousal Unit decreed last year when we were wintering in Texas for 4 months that TP was to no longer go into the toilet. I was not happy, but then again, I do not have to drain the tanks. I solved the odor problem with used TP in a small wastebasket by buying a bottle of the Clorox disinfecting spray and give a couple sprays onto the used paper as it is put into the wastebasket. Works great, and I don’t have to worry about taking the bag out every day.

Steve S.

“Flushable” only means that it will actually go down the drain.
Small toys, fabric wash cloths, etc. are all flushable.
Just because it is flushable does not mean that it should go down the drain.
If it takes more than the water jar shake test to dissolve, then I won’t put it down my drain, no matter what biodegradable chemicals may be added.

Ken Olinick

Told my wife about this. She said her cottonelle were biodegradable. To show her she was wrong I put one in a bottle of water. After 6 hrs. she was right as usual. Wipe started to break down. Thanks a lot.

Jeff Craig

I’d pay the $7.31 just to see the accountants expression when they read ‘butt wipes’!

Jesse Crouse

I constantly “over charge” my customers-their language- to clear their toilets, main building drain, and the outside sewer lateral to the main. Not even a high pressure water Jet machine costing $50,000.00 dollars can clear the line. Now we are into back-hoe country because of a $ 7.00 box of butt-wipes.How to shoot yourself in the foot in one easy and painful lesson!!!!!!!!

rvgrandma

Cities are asking residents to not flush them down into the sewer system. They don’t break down easily in the treatment plants.

Ed D.

If the butt wipes are biodegradable, placing them in a jar of only water won’t do squat. (pun intended). You need to add a source of bacteria to the mix. You could add some black water.

Bob and Charlotte Champlin

Another Camping World (aka you know who) ploy to get more dollars out of us when we need new black tanks after they got our dollars for buying crap (excuse the pun) that they probably knew would not do what they said it would do. Does that sound cynical.

Gene Bjerke

We use Members Mark {Sam’s Club house brand) toilet paper at home. We also use it in the RV.. The first time, I put some in a jar of water and shook it, and it immediately disintegrated completely. Good price, universal use, and we always have a supply to restock the RV.

brenda

Not sure why anyone would need butt wipes. We keep a small spray bottle of water and witch hazel on the sink to dampen the TP. You can add a little lavender water if you like. Do not want to deal with a “diaper pail” of butt wipes. I would prefer a bidet, but that may come later.

Thomas

My wife and I had never used butt wipes but when it came time to pump the septic tank, the first thing out of the guys mouth was ” don’t use butt wipes” I said we don’t. But after talking to our daughter we found out she had used them for our granddaughter. There they where, sitting on top of all that waste. They might be fine if sewerage has to travel a long distance to a sewerage plant, but I agree,best in the garbage.

Tom

My wife forgot this on our last 6 week trip. And at 12 days in I got the JOY of dealing with this problem. One hand holding a open sewer hose ant the other pulling out flushable wipes. Gloves, plastic black bag and still a memory I will not forget. Now the wipes are not in a easy to reach area, the trash can in bath is.

Gary L Bloomfield

How about Happy Bowl toilet liners? I use them occasionally when camping where water usage is critical.

Don

Absolutely correct, and an important public service, Emily! Thanks to you and your Dad. But here’s a thought: TP is also a hazard to your holding tanks, because it can and will disperse into small pieces which stick to EVERY part of the system. This is the main reason holding tank gauges so often malfunction, and valves stick and/or leak. The best solution is to put nothing in your holding tank that you haven’t already eaten or drunk.
Yacht people have known this for years, and many of them use this system. As do many folks in European countries with marginal septic. The TP goes into a small covered trash can with a liner bag, and thence into the landfill. Your RV septic system will be very grateful, and will show that gratitude by functioning perfectly for a very long time…

M. Will

I don’t put TP into my tank while using the toilet. I put it into a old coffee can gently and take it outside and away from my trailer and put it on the ground and burn it until it is no longer there. I boondock most all of the time and am never real close to another camper. Every once in awhile I clean out the old coffee can with detergent and then a saturated bleach and water spray from a bottle. I did try my own toilet paper test with 4 brands of TP. Costco, Special RV Only, Walmart Brand and one other. The worst one to break down was the Special RV Only Brand followed by the Costco and one other. The Walmart Brand Premium 2 ply broke down the best. The higher priced RV Only stuff that I bought because the advertising said it worked the best was the worst. The moral of this story is that just because it is advertised as the best for RVing and cost more than general store TP doesn’t mean it actually works the best.