Being Intentional Helps Prevent Plumbing Issues and Sewer Backups

A little bit of intention can help homeowners and businesses avoid plumbing issues and sewer backups. The only things that should be flushed down the toilet are toilet paper and human waste. Flushing certain household items can cause significant problems for your plumbing and damage the County’s wastewater system. Help preserve your pipes and Stafford’s Utilities infrastructure by following a few simple tips.

Keep these items out of your plumbing to prevent clogs and sewer backups in your home or business.

  • WIPES - Even if marketed as flushable, never flush wipes. They are one of the top causes of clogs and should always be thrown in a lined wastebasket instead. Because wipes do not break down quickly and disintegrate like toilet paper, they can cause plumbing issues.
  • COTTON PRODUCTS - Although cotton balls, cotton pads, and swabs might seem small enough to flush, they can cause major plumbing issues. These cotton products don't break down in the water and clump together. They build up inside pipes causing problems down the line
  • FEMININE PRODUCTS - Tampons, sanitary pads and other feminine products should never be flushed down the toilet. These products are meant to absorb water, not break down in it, meaning they expand when flushed. These products swell up with water and block pipes, causing toilet water to back up and overflow. Always dispose of feminine products in the trash.
  • PAPER TOWELS & TISSUES - If you've run out of toilet paper and use paper towels or facial tissues instead, always dispose of them in a waste basket. Paper towels and tissues may seem similar to toilet paper, but they do not break down and dissolve the way toilet paper does.
  • MEDICATION - Don't flush pills if you have old medications that you need to get rid of. Water doesn't break them down properly, and the medicine can cause toxic environmental effects and endanger public health. Unused medications can be dropped off at drug take-back sites such as the Stafford County Sheriff's Office, pharmacies, and hospitals. If locations are unavailable, you can seal and conceal prescription medication containers and throw them away. Tape the lid shut with duct tape and place the container inside an opaque piece of trash, such as an empty margarine tub.
  • NEEDLES - The most hazardous items to flush are hypodermic needles, broken glassware, plastic, and razor blades. They cause backups within the collection system and get stuck within the County’s treatment equipment. Needles are considered medical waste and present a dangerous and possibly deadly problem for staff who maintain the wastewater system. If possible, the proper disposal of needles is to re-cap and dispose of them in an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container. If unavailable, use a heavy-duty plastic household container such as a laundry detergent bottle. Disposal should be made at your area's local pharmacy or other sharps disposal locations.
It is also important not to pour fats, oils and grease, also known as FOG, down your drains as it can create buildup in wastewater pipes. FOG is found in meats, sauces, gravies, cooking oils, mayonnaise, cheese, ice cream, butter, salad dressing, milk, and compostable food waste. Collect and properly dispose of cooking oils and grease by pouring it into a heat-proof container like an aluminum can and placing it in the trash.

By disposing of FOG and other household items in the trash, you can help save pipes and wastewater systems from overflows, clogs and costly repairs. Thank you for helping to maintain the County’s wastewater system by keeping these items out of your pipes. For more information about Stafford County Utilities, please visit