Are Kitchen Towels Flushable?

Kitchen towels are a staple in most homes. They provide an efficient way to clean up spills, dry dishes, and more. But when it comes time to dispose of used kitchen towels, many people wonder: can I flush kitchen towels down the toilet?

Are Kitchen Towels Flushable

The answer is no, you should not flush kitchen towels down the toilet. There are a few key reasons why flushing kitchen towels can cause serious problems for your plumbing and sewer system.

What Are Kitchen Towels Made Of?

To understand why kitchen towels aren’t flushable, it helps to know what they’re made of. Kitchen towels are typically constructed from paper pulp, often derived from wood. The pulp mixture contains both hardwood and softwood fibers.

Some key facts about paper towel materials:

  • The wood pulp fibers are processed to remove lignins, which are compounds that make wood rigid. Removing lignins makes the paper fibers more flexible and absorbent.
  • Kitchen towels also contain fillers and binders to add strength. Common fillers are clay, calcium carbonate, and titanium dioxide.
  • Many kitchen towels are bleached during production to make them white. This removes any naturally occurring brown color from the wood fibers.
  • Some brands also add wet strength agents, which make the towels more durable when wet. Common wet strength agents include polyamide-epichlorohydrin resins.
  • Dyes, fragrances, and other additives may be used to give kitchen towels softness, color, scent, and other desirable properties.

While the main component is wood fiber, kitchen towels contain a mix of additional compounds to improve their performance and characteristics.

Why Aren’t Kitchen Towels Flushable?

Given their materials, kitchen towels do not break down well in water. They are engineered to maintain their strength and absorbency, even when soaked.

Here are three key reasons kitchen towels pose problems when flushed:

1. They can clog pipes

Unlike toilet paper that is designed to disintegrate when wet, kitchen towels contain fillers and binders that prevent the fibers from separating in water. Rather than breaking apart, a flushed kitchen towel will tend to maintain its shape as it travels through pipes.

This means it can easily get caught in bends and narrow openings in the plumbing system. Accumulation of flushed towels can cling together and completely block pipes.

2. They strain septic systems

Septic systems rely on natural bacteria to break down waste deposited into the tank. The microbes cannot effectively break down materials like paper towels.

Flushing kitchen towels adds bulk to the septic tank without adding useful organic matter for the microbial ecosystem. Over time, buildup of undissolved solids will strain the septic system and reduce its working capacity.

3. They can create sewer clogs

Like individual house pipes, municipal sewer systems can also be blocked by accumulation of fibrous materials like paper towels.

When many households in a neighborhood flush paper towels, they can amalgamate into sizable masses within sewer pipes. These clumped wads of towel paper are known as “fatbergs” in the wastewater industry.

Fatbergs are difficult and expensive to remove, often requiring major pipelines to be dug up. They can also cause sewage backups into homes due to pipe blockages.

The durable wood-based materials in paper towels make them unsuitable for flushing. They persist as solids and eventually clog infrastructure not designed for their disposal.

Consequences of Flushing Kitchen Towels

Now that you know why kitchen towels aren’t flushable, let’s look at some specific consequences that can occur if you flush them anyway:

  • Slow drains: Flushing towels down your toilets or sinks leads to gradual buildup of fiber masses inside your drain pipes. This causes water to drain more slowly from fixtures over time.
  • Sewage backups: As clogged pipes become completely blocked, this can result in sewage backing up into your home. Backups create sanitation hazards and often damage floors, walls, and possessions with contaminated wastewater.
  • Bad odors: When pipes are partially clogged, sewage flows more slowly and has time to release gases. This causes foul odors from sinks and toilets.
  • Expensive repairs: Clearing clogged drain pipes requires plumbers to snake, hydrojet, or even replace sections of pipe. Repair costs often run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  • Septic system overload: If you rely on a septic tank, flushing towels can rapidly fill it with solids, requiring more frequent pumping to avoid backups. Failing septic systems may need full replacement.
  • Public health risks: Fatbergs formed from masses of flushed kitchen towels fuel bacterial growth, including disease-causing microbes. Workers removing fatbergs are exposed to dangerous pathogens.

Overall, flushing kitchen towels always carries the risk of creating serious plumbing issues and health hazards down the line. It’s better for your home and community to refrain from flushing them.

Safe Ways to Dispose of Kitchen Towels

To avoid clogged drains, here are some recommended ways to get rid of kitchen towels after use:

Trash disposal

The simplest option is to place used kitchen towels in your regular household trash. This avoids introducing the towels into any drainage system. Make sure to dispose of extremely soiled towels in a tied plastic bag first to contain any loose dirt or odors.


Consider reusing kitchen towels for a reasonable period before disposal. For example, use one side to clean up food spills, then flip and use the other side on a different day. Reusing towels reduces waste. Just don’t reuse towels used with raw meat or that have visible mold growth.


Composting is an eco-friendly disposal choice if your towels are only soiled with plant-based materials or grease. The compost pile’s microbial community can break down the natural wood fibers along with food waste. Do not compost towels contaminated with chemicals, bleach, or meat juices.


For towels that are still in good condition, donate them to a homeless shelter, humane society, or other charity. Many organizations welcome donated clean towels for a variety of uses.


Check with your local recycling program, as some may accept paper towels along with other paper products. However, many recycling facilities are not equipped to handle soiled towels.

By using one of these disposal alternatives, you can help keep your drains clear while avoiding landfill waste from paper towels.

Key Takeaway: Flushing kitchen towels often leads to clogged pipes, septic system failure, sewer blockages, foul odors, and expensive repairs. Safer disposal options include trash, composting, reuse, donation, and recycling.

What Can You Flush Down the Toilet?

To avoid plumbing disasters, it’s helpful to know what can and cannot be flushed down your toilets. Here are some general guidelines on flushable vs non-flushable items:


  • Toilet paper
  • Human waste (feces and urine)
  • Facial tissue


  • Paper towels
  • Baby wipes
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cotton swabs (Q-tips)
  • Dental floss
  • Hair
  • Condoms
  • Cigarette butts
  • Kitty litter
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Household chemicals

The only materials that are guaranteed to break down safely in toilet systems are toilet paper and human waste. Everything else poses potential problems and is best disposed of in the trash. Never flush anything labeled as “disposable” or “flushable” besides toilet paper.


Can I flush kitchen towels if I tear them up into small pieces first?

No, you should not flush torn up pieces of kitchen towels either. The wood fibers will not dissolve, and shredded towel fragments can still cling together to cause clogs.

What if I only flush one or two paper towels at a time?

Flushing even a couple of towels may not cause immediate problems. But over time, regular flushing adds up and will eventually result in pipe blockages or septic issues. It’s best to avoid flushing any amount.

Can I flush recycled paper towels?

No. While recycled paper towels utilize eco-friendly manufacturing, they still contain wood pulp and other materials that will not break down during flushing. All types of paper towels should go in the trash, not down the toilet.

What if my kitchen towels say “septic safe” on the package?

Terms like “septic safe” on kitchen towels refer to safe drainage into municipal sewer systems, not individual home septic tanks. The durable wood fibers can still clog pipes and strain small septic systems. Never flush any kind of paper towels if you have a septic tank.

Are the problems caused by something added during manufacturing?

No, the main issue is the wood pulp itself. The cellulose fibers derived from trees do not dissolve or break down when wet. This is true even for 100% virgin wood pulp towels with no additives. The natural lignin in wood makes it persist through flushing.

Can I flush kitchen towels if I have a garbage disposal?

No. Garbage disposals are designed to grind up food scraps, not shred fabrics or paper. A kitchen towel may get chewed up some by the disposal blades, but it will still retain much of its mass and wind up clogging pipes further down the line.

If my toilet flushed it down fine, does that mean it’s okay?

Not necessarily. Even if a paper towel makes it out of your toilet bowl without an issue, it can still get lodged in narrower pipes further along in your plumbing system. Or it may join up with other flushed towels to create a sizable clog. Never assume a successful single flush means towels won’t cause eventual problems.


Kitchen towels provide useful functionality in the home, but require smart disposal practices. Their durable wood-based materials make them unsuitable to be flushed down toilets.

Flushing paper towels frequently leads to blocked drains, sewage backups, damaged septic systems, foul odors, and costly plumbing repairs. Always refrain from flushing any type of paper towel.

Instead, dispose of used towels in the trash, compost them if not contaminated, or reuse them when reasonable. With mindful disposal habits, you can enjoy the convenience of paper towels without paying the price of clogged plumbing later.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.