Toilet paper alternatives keeping local plumbers busy

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It seems there’s no end in sight for the ongoing toilet paper shortage.

As homeowners seek alternatives for their restrooms, plumbers are getting calls for help to unclog those stuffed-up drains, which is swirling into a real problem.

Rather than working from home, plumbing professionals are working in more homes. Plumbers who spoke with FOX4 said they’re responding to 30 percent more calls for help, a residual effect of the ongoing coronavirus health scare.

“We’re doing a lot more sewer calls,” Nick Purifoy, a licensed plumber in Kansas City, said.

Purifoy, who works for Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, said shoppers who continue to deplete retail toilet paper supplies have forced others to use other products. Many of those alternative items weren’t meant to be flushed. Purifoy and his partners said that includes wipes that are labeled as being “flushable,” since they don’t break down in water the way conventional toilet tissue does.

“Now, there’s so many more people at home and they’re flushing more paper. They’re flushing wipes and that’s beginning to cause issues,” Purifoy said.

The careless flushing is creating clogs in sewer lines, which, according to Purifoy, can cost at least $3,900 to repair, which is a large sum for homeowners to pay. Purifoy recommended that homeowners who are forced to use wipes instead of toilet tissue should bag up their used paper and put them out with their trash.

“They don’t know until water is backed up into their basement. Typically, it’s sewage that’s backed up into the basement,” Purifoy said on Wednesday.

A KC Water spokesperson said that public utility continues to remind the public that toilets aren’t trash cans. Heather Frierson, a communications officer with the water company, said wipes and other non-conventional items can cause blockages in sewer lines, which require extra effort to clear. Frierson said Kleenex tissues are friendlier to sewer lines and water lines.

“The line from your home to our line is the customer’s responsibility. They would have to call a plumber if their system is clogged to get that cleaned out. That could be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars,” Frierson said.

“This always gets in the way. It’s never good news and nobody likes to hear it. It does occur and it does have to happen,” Purifoy said.

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