Throwing paper towels into the toilet

It is not unusual for me to see a sign in a public restroom, telling people not to discard paper towels in the toilet, but to use the trash pails instead. (I am a male, living in the northeast U.S.A., if it matters.)

I’m trying to figure out who would do such a thing. Apparently, it is not just the occasional nutcase who does this, as it happens often enough that the management has found it necessary to put up such signs.

First of all, isn’t it obvious that a paper towel is so large and so stiff that it could very well stop up the plumbing?

Second, even if that point is not so obvious, why would someone go to the effort of taking the towel from the towel dispenser all the way to the toilet? The garbage pails are usually right there by the towel dispenser. Why not throw 'em away right there?

One possible answer I thought of is that we’re not talking about towels that people used for drying their hands after washing. Maybe some people use these towels as toilet seat covers, and if so, the toilet is certainly a nearby disposal place. But that too seems odd, because it means taking a bunch of towels from the dispenser and bringing them to the toilet; I find it much more convenient to use toilet paper as the seat cover.

Speaking as a former maintenance guy at a large office complex, you would be AMAZED at the illogical things people try to dispose of in toilets.

Almost every public women’s bathroom stall has a sign saying something to the effect of “don’t flush sanitary napkins.” And I always wonder, who would do such a thing? Nobody would flush a pad in their own toilet more than once. Why would they do it in any toilet?

Obviously people do, tho, or there wouldn’t be signs in every single stall!

It must be because if you flush it in someone else’s toilet, it becomes someone else’s problem …

I have seen people take a wad of paper towels, wet them then take them into the stall with them. I assume they are either a) using them to wipe down the seat before they sit down or b) have a wiping problem. Either way, I suspect the towels end up in the toilet when they are done.

I knew a couple who ran a restaurant and said that it was a major struggle to keep the restroom plumbing working properly. The women’s toilet was the subject of frequent calls to a plumber, and the list of objects retrieved was impressive (all the expected stuff, pens, hairbrushes, cellphones, etc.). The signs they posted probably helped, but by no means solved the problem.

I have learned that anything not designed to be flushed - toilet paper, certain sanitary wipes, etc. - is a potential clogger. Even facial tissue, which seems so similar to toilet tissue, may cause a problem.

I suspect, thought, that a lot of people aren’t specifically aware of this, and just see the toilet as a sort of non-grinding garbage disposal. The stuff disappears, so it must be gone and everything’s okay, right? And since the perpetrators are usually unaware of the results, and most especially aren’t on the hook for the repair bill, they don’t think it through.

Waste disposal systems are variable feasts.

Travelling the Greek Islands in the 1980s, it was by no means unusual to encounter lavatories featuring a sign instructing users to deposit used toilet tissue in the bin provided and not down the pan. Their bolding not mine.

A quick check elsewhere reveals this practice was extant as recently as 2005 in some areas.

In the place I retired from, some folks would carefully lay out 7 or 8 towels on the toilet seat before sitting down. Sometimes, flushing that many all at once would cause a logjam.

The company I worked at has a septic system and drainage bed. They had to spend thousands to redo it because the drain bed was plugged with cigarette butts. They put up signs to not flush the butts for smokers who were already not supposed to ever smoke there. A year later they had to replace the drainage bed, because it was plugged with butts. This time they notified employees, that they will be discharged, if they find out they smoked in the bathrooms. Some people are just to lazy and don’t care because they don’t have to pay for the problem. You get compliance only when it will cost them.

Maybe that’s what is needed in public restrooms. A grinder in the base of the toilet. The sensor can whirl it on and then flush.

That might actually work. But the nightmares it could induce…

We have the same problem at work, toilets continually clogged and very expensive jetting companies having to be called in to unbung the sewers.

I recently had to attend a toilet that wouldn’t stop flushing.

Tokk the lid off the cistern and couldn’t see a damn thing as the cleaners keep chucking “Loo Blu” in the cistern wheter it needs it or not, consequently it was three inches deep in this gloop.

Flushed and stirred, flushed and stirred for about half an hour before it even began to clear and realised there were a lot of solid lumps coming down the flush tube into the pan.

As the blu cleared in the cistern it became apparent that it was hundreds of cigarette butts.

Eventually got it all clear but it still wouldn’t stop flushing.

Replaced the siphon, same story.

It turned out to be even more cigarette butts trapped in the flush ring in the pan that slowed the flow of water at the end of the flush so it just nicely balanced with the incoming water flow, so it just continually ran through.

Four hours of flushing put it more or less right.

It is of course a no smoking workplace.

Rental property management person here. We add a clause to our leases about what is not to be flushed. The list grows longer every year as we discover what people will flush. The most memorable clog was literally hundreds of baby wipes. What a mess!

If the stall runs out of toilet paper, I could see bringing in a bunch of paper towels and not walking out with them.

The only time I’ve seen this in my office building was when a foreign worker (from India) took a long piece of paper towel into the stall and used it to wipe the seat before he sat down, and then flushed the paper towel. The toilet clogging problem started shortly after he arrived in the building, and the signs went up after a few clogs. My guess is the sign helps those who aren’t acquainted with American toilet design.

In another building (on a university campus) this sign is “Do not dispose of paper towels in toilet”. Something about that wording bugs me - how would you phrase it?

There’s an image for you!

Wow, thank you all for your responses.

I was particularly intrigued by the posts that mention cigarette butts. I would think that they’re small enough not to be a problem. Then it dawned on me: They probably float and rise and don’t get to where the water is trying to take them.

I dunno, I think the garburatior-in-the-loo image is worse.

:: presses “flush” handle ::
:: goosh GrrrAAAOOOAAARRRAAARRAAARARARARA glup glup glup ::

:: shudder ::

I have never liked garburators. The one in my counsins’ sink was bad enough. One in a toilet would be infinitely worse.

And they don’t decompose in a sensible amount of time.

Which is why they put them in the cistern - so the management wouldn’t see them.
Forgot to add that my daughter has a toilet with a macerator (garbagulator] attached. The waste pipe is only a 2" bore so the macerator is essential.
It is reasonably quiet.