Wet Wipes Maker Must Stop Advertising Products as Flushable, Says FTC

Wet Wipes Maker Must Stop Advertising Products as Flushable, Says FTC
Image: Pixabay
May 18, 2015

Those flushable wipes may have no problems fitting down the drain, but according to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settlement, they don't disintegrate like consumers often believe.

Nice-Pak Products has agreed to stop advertising moist toilet tissue as flushable and safe for sewer and septic systems unless it can substantiate that the product lives up to those claims.

Nice-Pak is the maker of the wet wipes for store brands like Costco, CVS, Target and BJ's Wholesale Club. The company's tests did not reflect real word household plumbing or septic conditions, the FTC alleged.

So-called flushable wipes have been a thorn in the side of public utilities department since their inception. The wipes are flushable in that they fit smoothly through a home's wastewater system, but the wipes don't break down as quickly as, say, toilet paper, causing them to clog larger parts of a sanitary sewer system.

The convenience of flushable wipes doesn't come cheap for public utility departments, which are tasked with unclogging or repairing pipes that burst as a result of a back up, ultimately leading to higher user fees or taxes.

The city of Wyoming, Minn., last month filed a lawsuit against six makers of wet wipes arguing that the wipes are cost the city thousands, if not millions, of dollars in damage.

In the past five years, New York City has spent more than $18 million on wipe-related equipment problems. "The volume of materials extracted from screening machines at the city's wastewater treatment plants has more than doubled since 2008, an increase attributed largely to the wipes," wrote the New York Times.

Click here for a video from Consumer Reports showing just how indestructible the wipes are.

In the case of the Nice-Pak wipes, the company is prohibited from misrepresenting any wipe is safe to flush unless it can substantiate that the wipe will disperse in a "sufficiently short amount of time" after flushing to prevent clogging and/or damage to household plumbing, sewage lines, septic systems, and other standard wastewater treatment equipment. The test must also replicate the physical conditions of the environment where the wipes will be disposed.

Nice-Pak is also prohibited from making representations about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of moist toilet tissue, unless they have studies that back up those claims.