Accidentally Flushed a Tampon Down the Toilet – What Do I Do Now?

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Written By Jamila W.
tampons in a toilet

What happens if you accidentally flushed a tampon down the toilet? Flushing a tampon down the toilet can lead to clogged pipes and plumbing issues. When a tampon gets flushed, it can easily get stuck in the toilet or sewer line. This is because tampons are designed to absorb liquid and expand.

If a tampon clogs your toilet bowl, it will prevent flushing or cause overflowing. You may need to use a plunger or plumber’s snake to dislodge it. If the tampon enters the main sewer line, it can create a chain reaction affecting multiple homes. Professional repair may be required.

Using chemical drain openers is not advised as they can react with the tampon and make the clog worse. They can also damage pipes.

To avoid problems:

  • Always dispose of used tampons in the trash, not by flushing. Tampon wrappers say they do not flush.
  • If you accidentally flush a tampon, try to remove it quickly with a plunger. Call a plumber immediately if you can’t dislodge it.
  • Never flush tampons, pads, or other non-flushable items. This protects your plumbing and sewers.

Flushing tampons can cause major clogs, but disposing of them in the trash prevents problems. Avoid flushing sanitary products to keep the plumbing and the sewer system working properly. We will look at the signs of a tampon-clogged toilet, the easiest ways of unclogging toilets, and the most obvious signs of tampon clog, among others. Keep reading to learn more. Let’s get to it.

What Happens If You Accidentally Flushed A Tampon Into A Septic Tank?

The wastewater in your home either goes into the municipal sewage system or a private septic tank. All this depends on where your home is located. If you have built or bought a home in rural areas or outside city limits, you will likely rely on septic systems.

With a septic tank, all your home’s wastewater drains into the tank. It then holds the water and separates the solids from the liquids. The drain field helps filter and absorb the liquids into the soil.

If too many additional solids like tampons are flushed into the septic tank, they can build up quickly. This limits the tank’s ability to contain and process all the waste properly.

Excess solids will require the septic tank to be pumped out and cleaned, typically needed every 3-5 years. But flushing items like tampons and wipes can fill the tank too fast and require pumping much more often.

So, when using a septic system, it is especially important not to flush tampons or other non-flushable items. Disposing of them in the trash helps maintain a properly functioning septic tank.

What Are the Signs of Having a Tampon-Clogged Toilet

tampons in a toilet

Don’t stress if you accidentally flush a tampon and clog your toilet. There are ways to remove it and get things flowing again.

Signs that a flushed tampon is stuck include:

  • Bubbling or gurgling sounds coming from the drain pipe
  • Water pooling in the toilet bowl or overflowing onto the floor
  • A noticeable drop in toilet water level
  • The toilet takes much longer to drain
  • A foul smell from the raw sewage coming up the drain

Avoid using a plunger if the toilet is fully clogged, as this can push the tampon deeper into the plumbing system. The best method is to remove the tampon manually. You may need to turn off the toilet’s water supply valve first. Use rubber gloves if possible while carefully pulling out the tampon.

If you can’t get it out yourself, call a professional plumber immediately. Don’t continue flushing or using the toilet, or it could overflow. Once removed, flush a few times to ensure it drains properly. Following this, proper disposal of sanitary products prevents future clogged pipes.

How to Fix Your Plumbing System if You Accidentally Flushed a Tampon Down the Toilet Bowl

tampons in the toilet

If you accidentally flush a tampon, it’s best to avoid using the toilet again until it is removed. Additional flushing can push it deeper into the pipes and make it harder to retrieve. Follow these steps to remove a flushed tampon:

Don’t Flush Your Toilet Again

After accidentally dropping a tampon, avoid flushing again. This will push the tampon deeper into the pipes and cause a blockage.

Retrieve the Tampon Manually

Try to retrieve the tampon by hand if you can still see it and it’s within reach. Use rubber gloves and tongs/tools to maintain hygiene. Gently pull it out without pushing it in deeper.

  • Put on gloves to maintain hygiene and avoid direct contact with the tampon.
  • Use tongs or a long tool to grasp and retrieve the tampon if it’s within reach. Be careful not to push it in deeper when trying to grab it.
  • Once you have a firm grip, pull the tampon out slowly and gently. Don’t use excessive force, as this can cause it to break apart or get lodged deeper into the pipes.

Use a Plunger

Use a toilet plunger to create a seal over the drain. Some plungers are specifically designed for toilets. Make a pumping motion to dislodge the tampon. Flush again to check if the clog cleared.

  • Place the plunger into the toilet bowl with the flange fully submerged. The water helps create a seal and pressure to dislodge the clog.
  • Hold the plunger handle firmly and push down gently to seal around the drain opening. Ensure the plunger fully covers the drain.
  • Pump the plunger up and down in a motion to create pressure. This can help dislodge the tampon and clear the blockage. Repeat pumping several times.
  • After plunging, flush the toilet to check if the clog cleared. Proper water drainage means the blockage is likely resolved.

Use a Plumber’s Snake

plumber

A plumber’s snake can hook and remove a tampon lodged deep in the pipes. Feed the auger into the toilet drain carefully. Turn the handle to grab the tampon and retract it slowly. Ensure the auger is long enough to reach the tampon. Follow these guidelines to use it.

  • Extend the auger fully and ensure it’s locked securely. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Carefully insert the end of the auger into the toilet drain opening. Gently push it in while applying light pressure. Turn the handle clockwise to move it through the pipe.
  • Keep feeding the auger into the drain until you feel resistance from the tampon. The end should catch the tampon. Once contact is made, turn the handle to engage the tampon.
  • Carefully pull the auger out to remove the tampon. Flush the toilet afterward to check the water flow. Thoroughly clean the auger and sanitize the area.

Dissolve Tampon With Harsh Chemicals

You should note that Chemicals can damage pipes and cause other issues. They should only be used as a last resort. Drano is among the chemicals that can dissolve a cotton tampon over time. Use a small amount, but don’t leave it sitting. Alternatively, you can use sulfuric acid, urea, or Nitric acid to do the job.

The best approach is to remove the tampon or use the plumber’s snake manually. Seeking professional assistance is recommended if you can’t unclog the toilet yourself. Always throw away tampons properly.

Pour a Bucket of Water Into the Toilet Bowl

If a tampon is accidentally flushed, one option is to try pushing it through the pipes before it expands by absorbing too much water.

You can pour a large bucket of water directly into the toilet bowl. Start slowly and gradually increase the water flow. Pour the entire bucket in one go.

This creates more concentrated water pressure compared to just flushing the toilet normally. The rushed flow of the bucket of water may provide enough force to push the tampon out of the immediate toilet piping.

However, there are some risks with this method. It could push the tampon farther down the pipe system, lodging it deeper where it may be unreachable. The tampon would remain in the larger sewer or septic system as well.

So, while pouring a bucket may work in some cases, it does not guarantee full removal and could worsen the clog. Manually removing sanitary pads or using a plunger/auger is usually a safer approach. Calling a plumber is recommended if you can’t get the sanitary items out yourself.

Remove the Toilet Bowl

If a bucket of water or an auger doesn’t clear the clog, the toilet may need to be removed to access the drain line. This is a difficult process best left to professionals.

To remove a toilet yourself to get to a tampon clog:

  1. Turn off the toilet’s water supply and drain the tank completely.
  2. Absorb any remaining water in the bowl with an absorbent sponge.
  3. Use an adjustable wrench to detach the bolts holding the toilet to the floor.
  4. Carefully lift the toilet and move it away. This exposes the trapway.
  5. Wearing gloves, check for blockages by reaching into the drain opening.
  6. Insert an auger into the drain pipe to hook and remove the sanitary items if present.
  7. Realign and reinstall the toilet over a new wax ring.
  8. Secure with new bolts and turn the water supply back on.

Removing a toilet is very difficult. Hiring a professional plumber is highly recommended to ensure proper reinstallation and prevent bubbling sounds when air escapes through the gaps you might have left.

Is It Okay to Flush a Used Tampon?

No, it is not okay to flush a used tampon down the toilet. Here’s why you should never flush tampons:

  • Tampons absorb fluids and expand in water, which can easily cause plumbing issues like clogs and pipe blockages.
  • Tampons don’t break down easily and can retain shape and size, getting stuck in the plumbing system. By doing this, they also trap other debris, which might lead to raw sewage returning to your toilet.
  • Flushing tampons strains sewer systems and causes environmental problems, backups, and treatment problems. The systems are designed to handle human waste, toilet paper, and water, and flushing them can cause blockages.
  • Tampons can end up in waterways or landfills when flushed, negatively impacting the environment and ecosystems.
  • It is expensive to clear clogged pipes and repair septic systems. Unlike toilet paper, tampons do not dissolve and disintegrate, which can damage your plumbing system.

Instead of flushing tampons, the proper way to dispose of them is by wrapping them in toilet paper or packaging and throwing them in the trash. Following this practice avoids plumbing problems, foul odor, damage to the municipal sewer system, and environmental harm.

How Many Tampons Can Make You Have a Clogged Toilet

There is no exact number of tampons that will guarantee a toilet clog. One tampon stuck in your plumbing system can cause problems due to its property to absorb liquids.

  • Flushing even just a few tampons raises the risk of clogging. The more tampons flushed, the higher the chances of blocking pipes.
  • Tampons expand when wet and can snag on joints or corners in plumbing, capturing other debris. So, quantity flushed increases the likelihood of clogs.
  • Overwhelming the system with multiple tampons at once makes an obstruction more probable. But even one tampon can potentially cause issues.
  • “Flushable” tampons don’t break down as easily as toilet paper and can still get stuck, especially in older pipes.
  • It’s best practice never to flush tampons and instead dispose of them properly in the trash. This prevents plumbing problems regardless of tampon count.

Flushing multiple tampons increases the risk of clogging compared to a single tampon, but any number can cause blockages. Avoid flushing them entirely to keep plumbing and sewers flowing smoothly.

How Long Do Tampons Stay in the Plumbing System?

There is no set timeframe for how long a flushed tampon could take to break down in pipes. Here are some key factors:

Tampon composition affects breakdown time. 100% cotton tampons may deteriorate faster than synthetic blends.

Water flow speed impacts the breakdown of tampons, tissue paper, and other materials. Swift-moving water may cause more rapid disintegration than stagnant water.

Pipe system efficiency and layout affect breakdown. Older or winding pipes slow breakdown. Tampons can remain intact for months and cause clogs if conditions like stagnant water or tight pipe bends exist.

So, while a clogged tampon may start breaking down within weeks under optimal conditions, it could also withstand decomposition for months or longer. This variability makes flushing them a gamble. For reliable maintenance of your plumbing system, the best practice remains disposing of tampons in the trash, not by flushing.

Conclusion

It would help if you always remembered that accidents happen, and flushing tampons down the drain is among the main causes. A clogged toilet can cause potential problems to your plumbing system, costing you extra in repairs. To prevent raw sewage from coming up the drain, find sustainable ways of disposing of nondegradable items like tampons and cotton balls.

If you have plumbing issues due to tampons getting stuck, follow the above steps to deal with the problem. In case you are unable to get the job done, consider hiring a qualified professional to help you out.