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Why Adult Wipes Are Bad News For the Sewage System

This is article was written by Christopher Bonanos and published on

Adults have grabbed onto baby wipes for that extra-clean feeling. Bad news for the sewage system.

Why not to flush: Wet-wipe carnage, pulled out of the filtration works on Wards Island. Image was first published on

It is a dirty secret (or maybe a clean one) that this generation of grown-ups, seeking a postmillennial, futuristic level of hygiene, has decided that toilet paper is Not Enough. Anecdotally, the baby-wipes-for-adults trend appears to have begun with young moms who got the idea at the changing table, but it’s prevalent enough to have made its way to the population as a whole. In 2007, the actor Terrence Howard vehemently suggested that women without a box of wipes in the bathroom were “just unclean.” offered a ­similar opinion a couple of years later: “Get some chocolate, wipe it on a wooden floor, and then try to get it up with some dry towels. You’re going to get chocolate in the cracks. That’s why you gotta get them baby wipes.”

This lavatory preference is a clandestine one, an activity that people don’t like to admit to. That much was proven in the early aughts, when Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble each introduced a premoistened-toilet-paper-on-a-roll product. (The product that P&G introduced had initially borne the unfortunate name Moist Mates.) They both tanked, most likely because they were highly visible: The plastic-enclosed roll fit into your bathroom’s toilet-paper ­dispenser, making your hygiene practices explicit to every visitor, and perhaps making them wonder whether you had some unlucky medical condition.

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Adult Wipes are Big Sellers

The solution was for manufacturers to offer wipes that were packaged for adults, marketed as an adjunct to rather than a replacement for con­ventional toilet paper. This approach has been much more successful, creating a new, eager, aloe-slicked market. Charmin Freshmates are positioned as “flushable wet wipes [that] provide a cleaner clean than dry bath tissue alone. When two things are so good together, why keep them apart? Pair your Charmin toilet paper with Charmin Freshmates to feel fresh and clean.”

Guys use Wipes!

The razors-by-mail company Dollar Shave Club just introduced a line called One Wipe Charlies, aimed at younger men. (From the bro-toned promotional video: “Reach around for a deeper clean.”) DSC’s co-founder Michael Dubin says that his market research revealed that “51 percent of guys are using wipes regularly alongside TP, and 16 percent of guys were using wipes exclusively. That blew our minds. Less surprising, but equally compelling, was that 24 percent of guys hide their wipes from view, the No. 1 reason being they’re embarrassed.” Cottonelle is in the same game, with its Fresh Care line of “flushable cleansing cloths.”


The key word in that pitch is flushable. It means, broadly, that a wipe probably won’t clog your pipes on the way out of your house, but it doesn’t mean it will break down. A recent Consumer Reports test, performed with a lab stirrer in a neatly simulated toilet, revealed that a sheet of toilet paper falls apart after about eight seconds in swirling water; a putatively flushable wipe didn’t so much as fray after half an hour. (Or, as one beclogged D.C. homeowner phrased it on a parents’ message board, “The cost per sheet of flushable wipe is $1—meaning for every flushable wipe, $.10 is for the wipe, and $.90 goes to the plumber.”) A few websites posit that aging cast-iron pipes, as opposed to new PVC, are likelier to have rough interior surfaces that cause snagging.

Wipes Cause Big Problems Downstream

The real trouble, though, occurs downstream, explains Carter Strickland, commissioner of the New York City ­Department of Environmental Protection. “You can safely say [it’s costing us] millions of dollars,” he says. (An aide of his offers a ballpark figure of about $18 million per year for extra disposal, and that doesn’t include staff overtime and damaged equipment.) Even if a wipe does not get stuck in your toilet, or your house’s sewer pipe, or even the big conduits under the street, it eventually ends up at the treatment plant, where it’s joined by all its viscose and rayon kin. Lately, the screens where foreign matter is filtered out of wastewater are absolutely choking on these things. “We’ve gone from about 50,000 cubic yards a month to more than 100,000 cubic yards a month” of debris, Strickland says, and that’s just since 2008. The Wards Island treatment plant seems to be getting the worst of it, but all around the city, huge gray-black masses of synthetic fiber, steeped in every foul fluid that’s gone down the drain, are regularly being extracted, by hand, from pipes and pumps. Jammed, snarled equipment frequently breaks down, causing “a lot of downtime.”

Other municipalities report similar messes, from New Jersey to Washington State. A big city can survive a lot of things, from blackouts to terrorism, but a working wastewater system is nonnegotiable, and all these wipes are, extremely literally, clogging up the works.

Not Really Flushable

Theoretically, wipe-makers should be able to solve this problem with a flushable product that degrades quickly, and Strickland says that his department has been talking with the INDA, the nonwoven-­fabric-industry trade group, about a pending set of industrywide ­standards for flushability. There are national discussions going on, too, through the federal National Association of Clean Water Agencies and other groups, and the NYCDEP is looking to legislate what can and can’t be labeled flushable. (Dollar Shave Club’s Dubin is quick to say that his One Wipe Charlies “meet industry qualifications for flushability. Plus you should only need one, hence the name.”)

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The basic problem, however, is that toilet paper is specifically engineered to come apart in water. It is inherently fragile. A wet wipe, by contrast, is supposed to be tough enough to hold up under a constant soaking in its water and propylene glycol lotion, and under the mechanical pressure of scrubbing. It is, as Strickland puts it, “very, very strong, pound for pound, like spiderweb.” (The technical term for the most common material is spunlace.) In short, the very thing that makes a wet wipe good at its job makes it a problem once it’s discarded.

London’s Got it Bad

At least we’re not quite as bad off as London, with its Victorian sewers. This summer, the British press went nuts writing about a fifteen-ton blob of cooking grease, bound together with fibrous material from wet wipes, that was discovered under the streets of the Borough of Kingston Upon Thames. It was the size of a city bus. It quickly became known as the “fatberg,” and had almost completely stopped up an eight-foot-diameter pipe, threatening to flood the whole neighborhood. “The wipes break down and collect on joints and then the fat congeals,” explained a representative from Thames Water to the Guardian. “Then more fat builds up. It’s getting worse. More wet wipes are being used and flushed.”

Wipe Sales Are Increasing

He’s right. Wet-wipe consumption overall has nearly tripled in the past decade, according to Kimberly-Clark figures. It’s overspilled the baby-products aisle, too: You can buy dedicated wood wipes, stainless-steel wipes, leather-furniture wipes, computer-screen wipes. All of which are arguably wasteful but not especially harmful—unless you put them down the drain.

For Strickland, the issue comes down to education. “We just have to equate it with diapers,” he says. “No one would flush a diaper down the toilet. I hope.FA Banner March Coupon


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Get enough rolls to handle the rolls!

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Well here we go, back into another eating season (Halloween – Super Bowl). If you’re like us, the holidays mean a lot of trips, and not just to friends and relatives!

Fortunately for those who’ve received Fresh Assist® samples you’re ready to eat your favorite treats and be comfortable knowing the bathroom visits will be nice and tidy. For the rest of you, we’ve compiled a quick list of tips to help you get through Thanksgiving. Fresh Assist® will be available mid-December so you can take on Christmas and New Years with no fear!

Holiday eating tips

The average American consumes 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat in their traditional Thanksgiving meal according to Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, L.D. Yikes! Let’s see what we can do to trim that down a bit.

First, if you eat a little fiber along the way, that can help hold things together, if you know what I mean. The fiber in raw fruits and vegetables can also help you feel full. Go for appetizers like vegetables with dip. You don’t have to eat a whole plate of carrots, but make an effort to eat some kind of raw vegetables.

While you’re snacking, consume some water. A good rule of thumb is one 8 oz. glass of water in between holiday beverages. It keeps you from overdrinking and gives your digestive track plenty of fluid to do its’ thing. In fact, James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM states that drinking alcohol can actually make you hungry causing you to over eat. This will definitely increase your number of “trips”.

Another tip is to start with a smaller plate of food. You can always go back for more, but starting out slow gives you the opportunity to fill up sooner and potentially avoid the second plate altogether. Greta Macaire, R.D. recommends that you eat until to feel satisfied, not stuffed. But if you overeat for one meal, eat lighter for the rest of the day. It can take a week of eating 500 calories over your normal daily intake to gain one pound.

Some foods just seem to cause more than their share of problems. These include caffeine, sugar, fats, carbonated beverages, red meat and dairy. Try to keep these down to snack-able portions to limit the trouble they can cause.

And taking 1-2 brisk 15 minutes walks a day can also help the plumbing get it done.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get through next week. But one last tip, when stocking up for the holidays, be sure to get enough rolls to handle the rolls and wash it down the toilet with Fresh Assist®!

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How to safely use a public toilet

Clean me!

Have you ever wondered how to safely use a public toilet? I know I have. It turns out that public toilet safety is a bit different than I thought.

For years I have covered the seat using toilet paper or seat covers, if available. I thought that was enough to avoid picking up germs. Sure there are hundreds of thousands of germs on the toilet seat. But unless you have an open cut or sore on your backside, it is not highly likely that the germ village on your toilet seat will invade your privates.

However, what most people do not know is that flushing a toilet sprays microscopic particles into the air! Yuck!! This inner toilet mist can coat everything including the parts of the stall that you come in contact with the most including the toilet paper roll. And touching things close to the toilet covered in spray can quickly spread to other things like the door latch.

So here is a quick list of do’s and don’t for public toilet safety:


  1. Cover the toilet seat with toilet paper or a seat cover or just wipe the seat off with toilet paper. Remember to discard the next available seat cover and any directly exposed toilet paper since those have been “misted” by the prior user.
  2. If you are a Fresh Assist user you can spray some on the seat and wipe it off with fresh toilet paper.
  3. Turn your back to the toilet or exit the stall immediately upon flushing to avoid the spray zone!
  4. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and the hottest water available.


  1. When flushing the toilet, don’t touch the flusher with your hands. Use some toilet paper to cover the handle. And never sit or stand directly over the bowl when flushing!!
  2. Don’t touch the door latch when exiting the stall. Use toilet paper to cover the latch.
  3. Try not to touch the sink handles with your bare hands. Remember, someone before you just touched the handle after exiting a stall and may have left contaminants. Use a paper towel or toilet paper to turn the water on and off.
  4. Don’t grab the door handle to exit the bathroom. Some people don’t wash at all so the bathroom door handle is the next thing they touch after doing their business. Use another paper towel to open the door.

I may have grossed some of you out, but now that we all know what really goes on in a bathroom stall, we can all stay a little cleaner and a little safer. Oh and remember to dump all the extra paper you used to get out of the bathroom safely!

And as for keeping your privates clean, try using Fresh Assist®. It is the new way to get clean and fresh. Just spray on TP, wipe and flush! It turns your TP into a wipe. Try it now in Soothing Lavender or Cooling Chamomile.

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Potty Training’s New Assistant

potty training tips
Fresh Assist™ makes toilet training fun!

As parents there is one task we look forward to, but also dread at the same time – potty training our children. My personal experience in potty training kids ranks right up there with root canals and cleaning up after our new puppy.

After the excitement of the first pee-pee in the potty wore off, potty training seems to go on and on, with lots of accidents and inconvenient times someone had to go “right now” during long car trips or while in line at Kroger. And how many times have you been in the middle of making dinner only to hear “Mommy – can you wipe my bottom?”

It doesn’t matter when you start the training or whether you are training boys or girls.  A big challenge we all face is getting our child actually wipe their bottom – and do a good job.  After all, you want your child to be clean, but also not ruin the fun new underwear you just bought with a dreaded skid marks!

These are a few reasons we developed Fresh Assist®.  It helps kids and adults get clean in between and is super easy to use.  Just spray 2 -3 spritzes on toilet paper and wipe like you always do!  Fresh Assist® turns regular toilet paper into a wipe, making it really easy for kids to get themselves clean.  It is 100% safe, non-irritating, portable and better for your septic system than wet wipes.

The Wet Wipe Alternative

We know kids, and parents, like to use so called flushable wet wipes.  But research has proven these wipes aren’t actually flushable and do more harm than good. In fact, many localities are banning these wipes and there is legislation in place to force manufactures to accurately label wipes as not flushable.  If you read the fine print many already say you shouldn’t flush them – even though they are marketed as flushable wipes!

With Fresh Assist® you get the same cleaning power of a wipe without risking a clogged toilet or harm to the environment. Simply spray directly on toilet paper and wipe!  We’ve tested it on our own kids, and dozens of trials, and found kids love spraying it on toilet paper and also like the way it smells.  Moms liked it too and really appreciate saving money on clogged pipes and the added bonus of no more skid marks on the underwear!

Try the alternative to wet wipes and you can feel good about and add Fresh Assist® to your training routine. It makes it fun for kids but also works – so you get better results.

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What is Fresh Assist®?

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You know what it feels like, you have that uncomfortable feeling because you just couldn’t quite get yourself clean. We’ve all experienced it, maybe you couldn’t layoff that rich dessert or your medications are upsetting your stomach. Whatever the reason, you struggle to get that clean and fresh feeling.

Get Clean In Between

Now there’s an easy solution. Fresh Assist® is a new product that allows you to Get Clean In Between™, anytime, anywhere. Just spray it on toilet paper and wipe!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do the best cleaning job possible after a bowel movement (also called number 2). Just give your favorite toilet paper a few spritzes of Soothing Lavender or Cooling Chamomile, use your normal wipe process, repeat as necessary with a fresh batch of toilet paper and take care of your backside!

Your underwear (unless you go commando, then your pants), your toilet, septic system (if you have one) and your municipal sewer system will all be thankful.

Fresh Assist® is Plumbing and Septic Safe

Why not use an environmentally friendly product that helps get you at least 50% cleaner than using conventional toilet paper alone. Makes sense, right? There is nothing like always feeling clean and fresh!

Fresh Assist is friendly to the environment because it does not clog plumbing, or septic systems. Check out the damage caused by personal wipes, what a mess, stop doing that!

Use Fresh Assist® Wherever You Are

Fresh Assist® is perfect for your home bathrooms and to keep in a pocket book or travel bag. Use it at home or on the road whenever you and your kids want to feel fresh and Get Clean In Between™.

Fresh Assist® will initially be available in Soothing Lavender or Cooling Chamomile. You can get single bottles, a two pack or a variety two pack. Fresh Assist® will be available this fall but you can preorder on our website now if you want to be one of the first with a fresh and clean tush!

In the meantime, we invite you to Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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