Rachel Lawhorn and Jenny Bishop are two of our long-time writers. They also happen to be water resources engineers. They wrote this post together.

In December, my husband and I went to a white elephant party. We ended up with a gag gift unlike any I had seen before: three giant industrial rolls of Charmin toilet paper and a stand. No one wanted to steal it from us and everyone laughed at the fact that we would be taking home such a weird prize.

Three months later… who’s laughing now?

The Toilet Paper Memes

I have seen the funniest memes in the last few days about the toilet paper shortage — about the crazy hoarders and the panic that has seemingly set in here and around the country. I am grateful for the levity because like you, I have been watching things unfold with cautious apprehension. And I have been shocked when suddenly everything at the stores started flying off the shelves.

Meme Photo Credits: Mix Nation 97.1; Hilbily Hijinx; Faux Real Trade Days Liberty

I was sharing some of my favorite memes about the situation with my friend Jenny over coffee. She is another contributor at Co Springs Mom Collective and our discussion brought up some points we wanted to share.

In addition to being moms, Jenny and I are Water Resources Engineers.

We each have worked in water supply and distribution for more than 10 years and have seen some interesting things. For example, when “flushable” Swiffer wipes came out, they were widely advertised as something you could use to wash and then dump straight into the toilet. Shortly thereafter, a great many wastewater treatment plants around the country started experiencing issues due to these clogging critical infrastructure.

Wipes and other non-toilet-paper items, like paper towels and socks, do not disintegrate in water. They end up causing really big problems for sewers systems and wastewater treatment.  You probably never have to think about what happens after you flush. By keeping foreign things out of the toilet, you won’t have to!

Protecting Our Sewer System

This may not sound like a big deal, but personally, I think I would be more concerned about the downstream health effects of suddenly not having sewer facilities than I am about the flu or even Covid19.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer in a time when people are already feeling stressed. I am very confident in our municipal suppliers. But just like we don’t want to stress the hospital systems, we don’t want to stress the sewer systems. Wastewater treatment plant operators will be working around the clock trying to take care of their families and their customers, too.

So, if you were one of those people laughing at the crazy people stocking up on toilet paper, and now are looking for an alternate solution, that’s fine. Do what you have to do, but please throw it in the trash — not the toilet. This also applies if you live on a septic system. You don’t want to jeopardize your personal sewage system; you’ll be stuck cleaning up an expensive mess.

I know we moms are experts in the art of handling all things dirty. With four kids, I have been changing dirty diapers for 8 years straight and I am not done yet. We’re tough. We’ll get through this like we do everything else.

Until then, happy wiping.