Flushing Nail Clippings Down The Toilet: Good Or Bad Idea?

Flushing your nail clippings down the toilet may seem like a perfectly good way to dispose of them — and if that’s what you’ve been doing, you’re not alone. After all, how much harm could a few toenails or fingernails do?

Flushing nail clippings down the toilet can cause clogs in your plumbing. Nail clippings can also cause problems at sewage treatment plants, especially if they get entangled with hair, soap, and other debris. It’s best to dispose of your nail clippings in the trash can.

Let’s take a closer look at what fingernails are made of and why flushing your nail clippings down the toilet isn’t a good idea. We’ll also go through several much better ways to dispose of nail clippings.

What Are Nails Made Of?

Close up of nail clippers

Nails are made of a protein called keratin, which is also found in our hair and skin. The high keratin content of our nails makes them so strong and durable.

The cells that produce keratin are located in the nail matrix. The nail matrix is the area where from which our nails grow. It’s located at the base of the nail, underneath the cuticle. 

As new cells are produced, they push older cells towards the tips of our fingers and toes. Once these cells reach the tips of our nails, they harden and flatten out. This process is what gives our nails their smooth and shiny appearance.

There are many different factors that can affect the rate at which our nails grow. For example, age, diet, and health can all play a role in nail growth.

On average, however, fingernails grow around 3.5 millimeters per month. Toenails grow at a much slower rate of around 1.6 millimeters per month. 

Regardless of how fast they grow, fingernails and toenails need to be clipped and disposed of on a regular basis — and it shouldn’t be in the toilet!

Are Nails Biodegradable?

Nails are biodegradable, but they take a long time to break down. This is because of the high keratin content we described above. Keratin is a tough protein that is resistant to degradation. It can take anywhere from 5 to 40 years for a fingernail to decompose completely.

The biodegrading process is determined by several factors, such as the type of nail, the environment it’s in, and the amount of moisture present. For example, fingernails will decompose faster than toenails because they’re thinner.

Nails that are exposed to the elements will decompose faster than nails that are buried. If you want to dispose of your nails in an eco-friendly way, the best option is to bury them. 

Can You Flush Nail Clippings Down the Toilet?

You shouldn’t flush nail clippings down the toilet. When they’re wet, they become soft and malleable. But once they dry out, they become hard and brittle. This is what makes them so difficult to break down.

When you flush nails down the toilet, they can get caught in pipes and cause a blockage. 

Clogged drains are a major problem, especially in residential apartments and houses. You may be tempted to cut the nails into smaller pieces before flushing them, but this doesn’t make a difference.

A simple combination of a few strands of hair, some bar soap, tissue paper, and enough nails can truly wreak havoc on the plumbing system.

What Should You Do With Nail Clippings? 

Instead of tossing nail clippings in the toilet, the following are some better ways to dispose of them:

Throw Them in the Trash

This is the easiest and most common way to dispose of nail clippings. All you have to do is put them in a plastic bag and tie it up. Then, throw them in the garbage can.

Household garbage often ends up in landfills or furnaces. Nails are biodegradable, so they will decompose; if not, they’ll burn to ash. If you have an outdoor fireplace, you might want to use it to burn your nail clippings yourself.

Bury Them in the Garden

Another option is to bury your nail clippings in the garden. Nails are made of protein, so they will decompose and release nitrogen into the ground. This is a great way to add extra nitrogen to the soil, which benefits plants. You can either dig a small hole and bury them or scatter them on top of the soil.

Use Them as Mulch

Mulch is a layer of material that you spread on top of the soil to protect plants. It can be made from organic materials like leaves, straw, or wood chips. Nails can also be used as mulch. They’ll help keep the ground moist and will eventually decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

How Long Does It Take for Nail Clippings to Decompose?

As we mentioned above, it can take up to 40 years for a fingernail to break down completely. The speed at which they decompose depends on the environment they’re in. If they’re buried in soil, they will decompose much faster.

A moist and warm environment of about 70°F speeds up decomposition, but they may last for several decades if stored in cold, freezing temperatures. Keratin is also the main protein in hair, which is why hair doesn’t decompose as quickly as other organic matter.

While fingernail clippings may take a long time to decompose, they are eventually broken down by bacteria and other microorganisms. These organisms consume the proteins and fatty acids in keratin and turn them into carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Are Nail Clippings Good for Plants?

Nail clippings can be good for plants. The nutrients in keratin can be beneficial to plants when the nails are composted. Keratin contains small amounts of calcium and phosphorus, which are important soil nutrients.

When nails are composted, microorganisms break them down and release these nutrients into the soil, where plants can take them up.

 Composting is the best way to utilize nail clippings for plants, as it speeds up the decomposition process. Nail clippings can take a long time to decompose on their own, but when they’re composted, they break down more quickly.

This is because composting provides the ideal environment for microorganisms to thrive. These microorganisms consume the nails and turn them into usable nutrients. 

So, if you’re looking for a way to fertilize your plants, consider adding some nail clippings to your compost pile! Not only will you be reducing waste, but you’ll also be giving your plants a boost.

Can You Burn Fingernail Clippings?

A Close up of nail clippers

Burning your fingernail clippings is a great way to get rid of them if you don’t want to throw them away or flush them down the toilet.

First, gather your materials. You will need a small bowl or container to hold the clippings, a nail file or clipper to trim your nails, and a lighter. It’s also important to find a safe place to burn the clippings. 

Outdoors is generally the best option, but you can do it in your sink or a metal wastepaper basket lined with aluminum foil. Next, trim your nails and file them into the bowl or container. Once you have enough clippings, carefully light them on fire with the lighter. 

Allow the flames to burn out completely before disposing of the ashes. That’s it! Burning your fingernail clippings is a quick and easy way to eliminate them. Just be sure to do it in a safe place.

Is Nail Biting an Option?

It’s very common for people to bite off and chew their nails; however, this isn’t a good option for getting rid of your fingernail clippings. Not only is it unsanitary, but it can also be dangerous if you accidentally swallow any of the nails.

Additionally, nail biting can damage your teeth and cause other oral health problems. Your fingernails harbor bacteria and other germs that you don’t want to put in your mouth.

Similarly, be careful not to leave your nail clippings lying around the house if you have toddlers and pets who might be tempted to eat them.