Cigarette butts are normally not disposed of in the best of places. It’s possible for a toilet to flush a wide range of things other than toilet waste. So, in this article, I will cover if it’s best practice to flush cigarettes down the toilet.
Cigarettes should not be flushed down the toilet. Cigarettes can clog your toilet, according to plumbers. Cigarettes are also not biodegradable, so are more likely to cause a permanent clog. Cigarette butts can snag in a pipe which will cause a clog to form.
Below, I will cover what happens if you flush cigarettes down the toilet, if cigarettes will clog a septic tank, and if it’s ok to put cigarettes down the drain.
What Happens if You Flush a Cigarette Down the Toilet
A toilet is very good at clearing almost anything you put in a toilet bowl. However, just because many things will flush down the toilet, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good idea. This is what happens if you flush a cigarette or a cigarette butt down the toilet.
Overall, nothing will happen if you flush a single cigarette down the toilet. But, if it’s done often, the chances of it causing a clog increase. Cigarettes and cigarette butts are known to cause clogs in plumbing systems. Therefore, flushing them down the toilet should be avoided.
The wastewater in your home goes to the public sewer lines. Therefore, if you flush a cigarette down the toilet, it will go out through the wastewater lines and into the municipal sewage system. However, if you have a septic tank, it will go into the septic tank.
How clogs form in a toilet and in the plumbing
Clogs typically only form if something catches on the inside or a bend in the pipes. The sides of pipes in a plumbing system are quite smooth. Therefore, it’s unlikely something like a cigarette butt will catch on inside of a pipe.
But, other things that shouldn’t get flushed down a toilet can have created a minor clog. And cigarette butts will add to it. For example, hair is not meant to be flushed down the toilet and can easily catch on joins in the plumbing.
Bacteria can begin to grow and accumulate on the hair, where it will attract more minor solids that flow through the pipe. Against this minor clog, a cigarette butt can get caught. It will add to the minor clog and make it slightly bigger. Bacteria will also begin to grow on it.
In rare cases, a cigarette or cigarette butt can also get stuck on the sides of one of the pipes or in a kink along the pipes. Where it will form a clog in a similar way. A clog can become very hard and dense, and the water washing past it won’t clear it. Over time, the clog will get so big that not enough water will pass through the pipe. Water will then begin to back up in the pipe.
The main issue with flushing cigarettes down the toilet is that they can create a clog in your home’s plumbing. There are a few common things that seem like they are fine to flush down the toilet, but in fact, they should not be because they are known to cause clogs. According to plumbers, these are:
- Cigarettes and cigarette butts
- Fats, oils, grease
- Paper towels
- Dental floss
- Cotton balls and swabs
- Prescription medication
- Disposable diapers
- Bathroom wipes
Therefore, it’s best to avoid flushing cigarettes and cigarette butts down the toilet. If it’s only one or two, then it’s unlikely it will cause a clog. The main issue is that the more times cigarettes or cigarette butts are flushed down the toilet, the more likely it is that it will cause a clog.
Will Cigarette Butts Clog a Septic Tank
Septic tanks have a few requirements that homes without septic tanks don’t have. It’s not recommended to flush cigarette butts down the toilet or wash them down a sink. But, if some do get into the plumbing system, will they clog a septic tank?
In general, cigarette butts will clog a septic tank. Septic tanks are designed so that solids settle to the bottom of a septic tank, and the water at the top of the tank overflows into the soil drainage area. But cigarette butts float so will flow with the overflow, where they can cause a clog.
It’s unlikely cigarette butts will clog a septic tank. But, if cigarette butts regularly get into a septic tank, the chances of it causing a clog are much higher. As you may know, the water at the top of a septic tank runs off into pipes into a soil drainage area.
This area commonly has layers of sand and pebbles. Cigarette butts take an incredibly long time to break down, anywhere from a year and a half to 10 years to decompose (source).
Cigarette butts also float on water. Therefore, cigarette butts will accumulate in the soil drainage area, where they can clog it and make it difficult for the water to drain.
Can You Put Cigarettes Down a Drain
Cigarette butts have a strong unpleasant odor, and therefore if they are put in the trash, it creates a bad smell until the trash is taken out. Therefore, it’s a good idea to dispose of cigarettes completely sooner rather than later. So, here’s whether it’s possible to put cigarettes down the drain.
In general, you can not put cigarettes down the drain. In theory, cigarettes that are put down the drain will make it through the plumbing in your home and into the municipal sewage system. But, plumbers recommend not to because they commonly cause clogs.
The best way to dispose of cigarettes and cigarette butts is to throw them in the trash. Technically, they could be buried in the garden away from where plants are growing.
Amos Christen graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design from Drexel University — Philadelphia, PA. Since 2003, Amos has worked with top interior design professionals in this area, including architects and interior/graphic/lighting designers. As a skilled interior designer, Amos Christen is highly versed in fine arts and crafts and uses that to supplement his main area of expertise. He often publishes articles related to home décor on several websites, including Sprucetoilets.com, Sprucebathroom.com, and Mybesuitedhome.com. He also contributes to leading interior design magazines.