Can You Flush Hair Down the Toilet? No & Why Not
Author: Omar Alonso | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Are you shaving your beard off or cutting your hair today? When you're staring at the sink full of hair, you might decide to flush the freshly shaved face-fur down the toilet. Maybe you gathered up a big wad of long hair from your shower wall and you're closer to the toilet than any trash can. Can you flush hair down the toilet?
That idea would be a big mistake. Many misconceptions and urban myths exist about flushing hair down the toilet. It's easy for us to toss hair in the toilet and flush without giving it a second thought.
You might have less than a handful of short hair you want to flush, and you don't see how that could cause any problems, right? The reality is it's not as simple and safe as you think. This post unpacks everything you need to know about flushing hair down the toilet.
Is it OK to Flush Hair Down the Toilet?
Can you flush hair down the toilet? The short and simple answer is “yes.” It’s just a matter of depositing your hair into the toilet and flushing it. The real question to ask here is whether you should flush hair down the toilet.
The answer to this question is, unfortunately, “no.” Flushing your hair may be convenient right now, but this simple act is bound to come back to bite you later.
Your hair will make it down the toilet just fine. From there, it makes its way down your pipes and into the sewer system, where it sticks to the pipes’ inner walls — waiting to cause a toilet-pocalypse later on. The precise results depend on the length of the hair you choose to flush down the toilet.
What Happens if You Flush Long Hair Down the Toilet?
All hair has a nasty tendency to stick to any surface it encounters, but wet hair is especially sticky. Strands of long hair, shoulder-length or beyond, form strong webs (or nets, if you prefer). To illustrate just how strong and sticky human hair is, the non-profit organization Matter of Trust, based in San Fransisco, collects human hair to turn into mats that clean oil spills from oceans.
Can hair clog a toilet? Absolutely. After you flush long strands of hair down the toilet, they’ll begin to coat the lining of your pipes, snagging on irregularities in the pipes’ structure. Once settled, these “hair webs” act as fishing nets that catch human waste and prevent it from moving downward.
It’s only a matter of time before you need to call a plumber because you have a terribly clogged toilet. Human hair takes up to two years to degrade in optimal conditions. If you notice your toilet water rising and draining slowly, guess what you have?
A clog is bound to develop before your hair has the chance to break down, and the professional who has the misfortune of answering your call will have to spend a very long time clearing the clog.
What Happens if You Flush Short Hair Down the Toilet?
Short hair won’t form into webs like long hair does. It will, however, stick to the inside of your pipes. You might not need to call a plumber if you just flush short hair down the toilet once, but if you keep doing it, layers build up over time. This process narrows your pipes and, you guessed it, clogs them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that short and freshly cut hair is sharp. This fact increases its power to attract additional debris — and the potential to end up with a plumbing emergency more quickly.
So, Should You Ever Flush Hair Down the Toilet?
No! Never flush hair down the toilet! You’re best off if you only flush human waste and toilet paper down the toilet, ensuring that everything keeps working the way it should.
What Is The Best Way to Dispose of Hair?
Now that we’ve well and truly established that it’s a bad idea to flush your hair down the toilet, you may wonder what to do with it instead. You have more options than you might think.
Some people donate their hair to charity, for example. Hair can’t just be made into wigs to help people undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from other types of hair loss. It’s also increasingly used to clean up oil spills and pollution. You can even compost your hair or use it as an insect repellent in the garden.
If you know you’re realistically not going to find any creative ways to recycle the hair you wanted to flush down the toilet, the safest way to get rid of it is simply to put your old hair in the garbage. Just remember if you fall to the temptation and start to ask "can you flush hair down the toilet", be strong and say no!
Help! I Flushed Hair Down the Toilet & Now It’s Clogged!
Is it already too late? Have you repeatedly flushed hair down the toilet, and do you now have a clog on your hands? Is your toilet water brown, draining very slowly, or not at all?
Calling a qualified and competent local plumber is your best bet. It’s embarrassing to confront someone else with your stinky problem, but plumbers have seen it all and know exactly what to do next. Your toilet will be unclogged in no time. Just make sure not to repeat the same mistake in the future!
You can also try unclogging your own toilet:
- Buy any type of toilet plunger if you don’t already have one. It won't remove the hair but it can remove the clog.
- Shut the valve that fills your toilet tank with water, and remove as much water from your toilet bowl as you can. There's no need to lift your toilet flapper type (you might introduce air to your lines)
- Pour some hot water over your plunger to make the tool more effective.
- Insert your plunger into the toilet bowl, taking care to achieve a correct seal.
- Push the plunger down and pull it back. Repeat this process around five times, making sure to use plenty of force.
This process allows you to unclog your toilet in some cases, but it’s unlikely to be successful if you have been flushing hair down the toilet for a while. If, after trying to unclog your toilet, you notice you still have problems, go ahead and call a plunger. And don't expect a toilet clog that's formed from hair to unclog itself like it might from toilet paper.
What to Do About A Clogged Drain
Hair won’t just clog your toilet — but also your drain. You can easily prevent hair from clogging your toilet by disposing of it in the garbage, but the same can’t be said for your drain. Losing some hair is almost inevitable when you shower, after all.
A clogged drain smells unpleasant due to bacterial build-up, and water pooling in your shower cabin is another sure sign that you’re dealing with a blockage. Bleach or baking soda and vinegar can sometimes clear the problem up. If not, try using a hook and snake to unclog your drain. Hair clings into this tool, allowing you to remove it easily.
How Does Flushing Hair Affect Your Plumbing System?
Your hair collects sebum oil from the hair follicles to naturally clean and moisturize it. It's why your hair feels greasy if you don't wash it for a week or so. Sebum oil collects on the hair, transferring to your pillow and clothing. If you have a white pillowcase, you'll notice it looks yellowish after a week if you don't wash your hair. That's the oil transferring from your hair to the pillowcase.
Your hair also collects sweat from your scalp and dirt from the environment. If you don't wash it regularly, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. We all know the importance of washing our hair to improve our hygiene, but did you know flushing it down the toilet can affect the efficacy of your plumbing system?
Flushing hair down the drain can clog your pipes. The residue on your hair collects in drains and around pipework, causing a blockage, preventing water from flowing optimally through the lines and backing up the system.
Pipes clogged with hair and other waste cause the water to back up, overflowing over the rim and spilling onto the floor, flooding the room and potentially damaging your property. Can you flush hair down the toilet? If you want to pay that price, sure, go ahead and do it. But it can get worse, too.
In some rarer situations, your pipes might burst. The reduced water pressure in the pipework may also cause other plumbing problems like corrosion and cracking. Keep the hair out of the toilet and drains if you want to avoid costly pipework and plumbing system repairs.
Use hair strainers or drain covers to catch loose hair before it goes down the drain. Clean your drains periodically to remove any hair collected in the pipework.
Hair Strainers: How Do They Work & Should I Get One?
A hair strainer is a great way to prevent beard hair and short hair from going down the sink or shower drain. Strainers are small fittings attached to the drain. They feature small holes allowing water to pass through while catching hair. It's like using a colander to sieve pasta or veggies from water in the kitchen.
What Does Hair Do to a Septic Tank?
Septic tanks are sensitive plumbing systems. Flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper into a septic system is a really bad idea. It forms blockages that disrupt the system's normal functioning, requiring a plumber to visit your property and drain the tank.
This process is a significant expense for homeowners and landlords. Hair is never safe to flush into a septic system, even short or beard hair.
Does Hair Decompose or Dissolve in A Septic Tank?
Hair won't decompose in a septic tank like waste and toilet paper. Instead, it clogs the system resulting in a big mess in your home. It can take years for hair to start breaking down in a septic tank, and it will continue to build up if you keep flushing it down the toilet.
The result is the formation of clogs in the system, resulting in backups in the pipework and overflowing of toilet water onto the bathroom floor. Septic tanks work by using specific bacteria to break down the waste and toilet paper.
If you accidentally flush hair down the toilet, you can use a lye-based cleaner to assist with dissolving the hair. However, this isn't a suggested practice. In other words, you can't keep flushing hair into a septic system and compensating with lye to dissolve it. Eventually, you'll run into a clogging problem with this strategy.
The lye-based cleaner will assist with breaking down the hair, but it won't dissolve it entirely. So, you'll eventually experience a backup in the septic system, causing an expensive pump-out of the septic system.
Warning: Never Flush These Things Down the Toilet!
You’re reading this because you weren’t sure whether you should flush hair down the toilet. That’s a plus, but if you thought there was any chance the answer could be, “Sure, go right ahead,” you may also be flushing other things you shouldn’t.
Check this handy list to make sure you aren’t clogging your toilet!
Tampons or Sanitary Pads
Most women intuitively know they shouldn’t flush sanitary pads down the toilet, but plenty flush tampons. You already know these menstrual products are super absorbent, with the power to “inflate” to more than double their dry size, so it’s not hard to guess what happens when you flush them. Just don’t. Dispose of tampons and sanitary pads in a designated waste bin.
You should never flush dental floss down the toilet, for the same reason hair is problematic. Dental floss clings to the inside of your pipes and can form into balls over time, leading to a clogged toilet.
Baby wipes or wet toilet paper can be a great toilet paper alternative, but they aren’t made of paper. The synthetic or bamboo fibers used to make wet pipes create strong nets that should never be flushed down the toilet.
Stronger than toilet paper, paper towels don’t break down nearly as quickly. We’ve all used the paper hand towels provided in public restrooms when the toilet paper was out, but (no matter how gross it seems) they should go in the waste bin and not in the toilet!
Band-Aids & Bandages
Bandages and band-aids are thick, strong, and designed to last. Like hair, bandages and band-aids stick to the inside of your pipes and cause a blockage over time.
Modern cat litter can be made of all sorts of materials, the most common ones being clay, silica gel, pine, wheat, and grass. Not a single type should ever be flushed down the toilet. Cat litter gets stuck in the S bend of your toilet and causes a blockage very quickly.
Many people flush food down the toilet, thinking it’s no different to human waste. That’s not true. Food takes much longer to break down and can easily clog your toilet. Remember to only use your toilet the way it was intended, and you’re generally good to go.
Can You Flush Hair Down the Toilet? No!
Don't flush hair down your toilet. Instead, leave a small pedal-operated waste bin in the bathroom to throw away hair, wipes, tampons, and other non-flushable items listed in this post. Flushing hair causes clogs in your pipes, backing up the plumbing.
Flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper down the toilet also causes water supply contamination, placing strain on water treatment plants to remove this non-approved waste. Can you flush hair down the toilet? No! Implement the tips in this article and keep hair and other unapproved debris out of your toilet.