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.