“Is it possible one of your kids put something in the toilet,” my landlord asked me the other day as he inspected my clogged toilet.
“Uh … It’s not just possible, it’s probable.” I mean, HELLO. Do you not see the two crazy boys scampering at your feet? They put strange things in their own bodies — shoving foreign objects in a toilet means nothing to them but a good time.
After conducting his own investigation, my landlord called in a plumber. Together, they spent the next several hours outside of my house engaged in all manner of official looking plumbing-type endeavors: looking at pipes, banging pipes, pacing around the lawn with what appeared to be a metal detector, digging up random patches of grass, and frequently popping into the house to request that I flush the toilet.
And then I suddenly found myself in my kitchen having a conversation about my period with my landlord, the two of us avoiding eye contact at all costs.
“Tampons.” He said to the kitchen counter. “It was tampons.”
“Like, the plastic tampon applicators?” I asked the kitchen counter, confused.
“No. Actual tampons. Used ones,” he added. Just in case I couldn’t put two and two together. “Did you know you’re not supposed to flush them?”
“Actually, no. I did not. I mean, I don’t flush the applicator, of course. But the actual used tampon? Yeah, I flush that.”
“Yeah, you’re not supposed to,” he told the kitchen counter.
“I did not know that.” I reply to the kitchen counter.
Shocked and confused that I’d made it almost 40 years old not knowing such a thing, I called the woman who taught me how to use tampons in the first place.
“Did you know this,” I asked my mom. SHE didn’t know.
We can’t be alone in this way of thinking. Even the official tampon instructions on the Playtex website say, “Flush the used tampon or place in an appropriate waste container.” I’d always assumed all those signs in restrooms that say DO NOT FLUSH FEMININE PRODUCTS were referring to the plastic applicator or pads. But a used tampon? That was supposed to go in the toilet, I thought.
Isn’t that a huge part of what makes tampons great? The fact that you can flush them and avoid the mess? I can’t get rid of them fast enough! But lo, I’ve been wrong all these years. This is even more devastating than when I learned that you aren’t supposed to use Q-tips in your ears. I mean, really. WHY ARE THEY EVEN MAKING Q-TIPS?
Later that night, my mom texted me that she’d asked several girls at work in their 20’s about their tampon disposal methods. Some said they didn’t know you weren’t supposed to flush them and some said they knew flushing was wrong but still flush anyway — but everyone admitted to flushing. I took an informal poll at my own place of work with similar results.
I mean, God. Remember pads? Wadding them up in no less than an entire roll of toilet paper and hiding the hideous lumps beneath benign bathroom garbage? And God forbid you have a dog. Everyone knows how that turns out. I once came home from high school with my friends only to find that my dog had chewed up one of my mom’s used pads in the living room. You can imagine the scene (and my mortification). And now you want me to wrap used tampons in toilet paper and let them hang out in the trashcan as reminders of the worst time of my month?
Yes, yes that’s what we’re expected to do.
Jezebel agrees that it’s not OK to flush tampons and even shares a handy little video showcasing what happens when you do flush a tampon. Basically, tampons don’t break down like toilet paper, as I’d assumed because it’s 2016 and why are we not making tampons that can deteriorate? Apparently, they pretty much just stay tampons for a really, really long time — except expanded. They swell in size like a sea monkey on steroids. And if one gets caught in your sewer line, it’ll probably catch the next tampon headed out of town and so on and so forth. Before you know it, you’ve got yourself a Tampon Situation.
In conclusion, your kid’s dead pet goldfish? Flush away! Your disgusting, used tampons? Nope.
Did you know you can't flush tampons?
Uh oh! Please try again later.