Chicago, IL

Are flushable wipes really flushable? Wipes labeling law in effect July 1 in Illinois

Jennifer Geer

Careful before you flush that wipe. New Illinois law aims to add a conspicuous "do not flush" label to wipes.

(CHICAGO) A 210-foot-long mass of oil, fat, and wet wipes was found clogging a sewer in a small town in England in 2019. The "fatberg" took eight weeks to remove.

Fatbergs are buildups of oil, grease, and nonbiological waste (such as household wet wipes) that stick together in the sewers and can form into masses as large as 800 feet and grow as heavy as four humpback whales.

Although nothing this severe has been found in Illinois sewers, lawmakers don't want to take any chances. A law that was signed last year by Gov. J.B. Pritzker has just gone into effect starting July 1.

The Wipes Labeling Act

The Wipes Labeling Act (SB 294) states that manufacturers must "clearly and conspicuously" label relevant products with "do not flush." Gov. Pritzker signed the act into law on August 6, 2021. The law applies to household disposable wipes.

What is the reason for the law?

According to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, flushable wipes are not flushable. They state, "so-called "flushable" wipes are actually not flushable. They are similar to paper towels and will not break apart."
A dried section of a "fatberg" on display at the Museum of LondonPhoto by Lord Belbury, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The website states, "Toilet paper is the ONLY material that is designed to safely move through your home's pipes without causing major problems. Please don't use anything else. Make sure that dirty water can get to us to be cleaned and doesn't end up in your basement or in your neighbors’ basements!"

Cottonelle wipes claim to be flushable

Cottonelle, a leading manufacturer of "flushable wipes," maintains that its wipes are indeed safe to flush. The website states, "Cottonelle FreshCare Flushable Wipes break down like toilet paper, so you can rest assured they are sewer and septic safe, and immediately start to break down after flushing."

After extensive testing, Cottonnelle says its wipes break down like toilet paper, are "plumber approved," and "compliant with International Water Services Flushability Group (IWSFG) 2020 flushability specifications."

Illinois is the third state to enact a wipes labeling law

Illinois joins Oregon and Washington in enacting the "do not flush" labeling requirement for manufacturers. A similar act has been introduced federally.


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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL

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