Is it OK to flush a tampon down the toilet? It's a question you may have pondered while wrapping one up and tossing it into the trash can instead. While it may seem harmless (and would theoretically save you a few sheets of toilet paper), flushing your tampon down the toilet is generally not a good idea.
For starters, it's a potential recipe for plumbing problems. Popular tampon brands such as Lola, Tampax, Kotex, and Natracare all note not to flush tampons down the toilet, as the act could result in a clogged or overflowing toilet or a blockage in the plumbing or septic system. Even if you haven't dealt with this issue at home, there's a chance you've seen the unfortunate result of a tampon clog in a public restroom.
It's not just tampon brands that are urging you to toss your tampons instead of flush them. As Wasteline, the city of Omaha's solid waste program, explains, toilet paper can be easily broken down when exposed to water, but other items like tampons, sanitary napkins, and wipes can't, upping your chances of a clog. As a rule of thumb, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection only recommends flushing what's dubbed "the four P's": pee, poop, puke, and toilet paper.
What's much more concerning than inconvenient plumbing mishaps? In an article about the unsustainability of tampons, National Geographic reported the menstrual-care product has the potential to pollute the ocean when sewer systems fail.
So how does one properly dispose of a tampon? Allison Rodgers, MD, an ob-gyn based in Chicago, took to TikTok to share her recommended technique, which consists of wrapping the used tampon in toilet paper and putting it into a garbage can.
According to Tampax, the wrapper and the applicator should also be placed in the trash. Even though many tampon applicators are plastic, they are not considered recyclable because they have been in contact with blood.
If you're looking to minimize your plastic consumption and waste, consider switching to a tampon brand that uses biodegradable applicators or opt for a reusable menstrual-care product like period underwear or a menstrual cup. Just don't flush those either!