Can You Flush Napkins Down the Toilet? What Will Happen?

Uh oh, it’s happened: You’ve used the toilet and reached for the toilet paper only to find that it’s all out. What do you do now? Can you use a napkin instead?

If you use a napkin instead of toilet paper, don’t flush it down the toilet. Napkins don’t break down in the same way that toilet paper does. Flushing napkins can result in a clog in your toilet or pipes that you’ll need a plumber to fix. 

Let’s take a closer look at why napkins don’t make a great alternative to toilet paper as well as some other items that are best left out of your toilet.

What Are Napkins Made Of? 

Napkins are composed of a few different types of paper that are typically mixed together into a pulp during the production process. These types of paper include core paper, jumbo reels, wrapping paper, and cellophane. 

Different napkin brands and styles have a varying mixture of the aforementioned products. This is because adjusting one of the ingredients in the mixture can be done to give you a different level of coarseness or firmness in the napkin. Some napkins also have additional ingredients to make them especially soft or shiny.

Toilet paper, on the other hand, is made from wood fibers or recycled paper pulp that is treated with chemicals to help it break down. Napkins are not treated with these same chemicals since people don’t want a napkin to dissolve as they’re using it to wipe their face or another surface. 

What Happens If You Flush Napkins?

Woman showing hands stop and putting sanitary napkin in trash

Because napkins aren’t treated with chemicals to help them break down in water, they’ll generally just become very soggy napkins if they’re flushed down the toilet.

These soggy napkins can also expand a bit and then make their way through your sewage system. If you have smaller pipes or a partial blockage already, it’s highly likely that the soggy napkins will cause a nasty clog. 

Even if you have newer pipes in your home, napkins never fully break down when they’re flushed, meaning they can get caught and stick around in your pipes for years, causing a possible clog years down the road.

If you’re going to flush them anyways, be sure to have a good plunger (link to Amazon) on hand!

What Else Should You Avoid Flushing?

Do not throw foreign objects, sanitary pads, tampons, paper, plastic into the toilet

As inconvenient as it may seem, toilet paper and human excrement are the only items that should ever be flushed down your toilet. Below is a list of some other items you should never flush, even if you’ve heard of others doing it.

“Flushable” Wipes

Although their name includes the word ‘flushable,’ flushable wipes should not be flushed down your toilet. While they may break down more than napkins, they never fully break down like toilet paper does. They often get caught and cause clogs. 


Kleenex is perhaps the closest to toilet paper, but it still isn’t treated with those chemicals needed to help it break down in the sewage system. Flushing kleenex can therefore still cause costly clogs that you’ll need a plumber to help you with. 

Paper Towel

Even worse than flushing napkins is flushing paper towels, as paper towels are specifically designed to absorb liquids and retain their shape. This means when you flush a paper towel down your toilet, it doesn’t break down at all.

Flushing paper towels will likely cause a clog very quickly. You should take care to ensure that paper towels aren’t in a place where someone could mistake them for toilet paper and put them in your toilet. 

Sanitary Products

Tampons and pads, like paper towels, are built to keep their shape even as they get drenched in liquid. This makes sense because they wouldn’t be very useful during menstruation otherwise. 

In addition to not breaking down, these products are also difficult to filter out at water processing plants and can cause damage to your plumbing system. 


Condoms are made out of rubber and will never break down in water. Because they’re long in shape, they can often get caught or stuck in your sewage system.

Then, if you were to flush something else non-flushable, like a sanitary product or napkins, they could get caught on this condom, causing a massive clog.

Final Thoughts on Flushing Napkins

When you run out of toilet paper, you may be tempted to reach for a napkin instead. If you do, don’t flush it down the toilet; throw it in the trash.

No matter how you look at it, your plumbing system isn’t designed for napkins, and flushing one can cause a clog that you will need a professional to remedy.