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Everything you put down the sink, drain or toilet goes into our wastewater system, which, after some treatment at the sewage works, then heads straight for our water system, and ultimately our wetlands.

£88 million pounds is spent on cleaning drains and sewers across the UK each year. Blockages can cause flooding, environmental damage as well as potentially expensive blockages in your own toilets. They can pollute our water and damage wetland species including fish and amphibians.

what should you keep out of the drain?

Six of the worst things you might be unwittingly flushing down the drain

Bleach based cleaning products

Bleach is not a nice chemical for humans, plus it hangs around in our environment with long-term consequences for our wetlands. Look for lower impact products, or make your own with our guide below.

Wet wipes

Including those marked as ‘flushable’ and ‘biodegradable’. All wipes cause blockages and contribute to a whopping 93% of sewer blockages. As well as playing havoc with our sewage systems they end up in wetlands and on beaches. Most wipes contain tiny plastic fibres, which, when they eventually break down, will harm fish and other marine life. Put it in the bin instead. Or use a reusable flannel or similar.

Food, fats, oils or greases

If you’ve ever seen the images of a fatberg or had a blocked drain you’ll know why! They form when fats, oils and greases (FOGS) are poured down drains and coagulate with the things we throw down toilets like sanitary products and wipes. This creates a pale rock-like substance like something from your worst nightmares that blocks the flow of the sewer.

Sanitary products

Sanitary products take many years to biodegrade and the average woman uses 11,000 tampons in their lifetime. There are lots of reusable alternatives on the market. But if you do use single use items, bag them and bin them, never flush them down the toilet as they cause blockages and may end up on beaches and in wetlands.

Microfibres and plastics

Invisible to the human eye but deadly to our wetland species and habitats, these tiny plastic fibres leave with the wastewater every time your washing machine empties. They are found in synthetic fabrics including polyester and nylon. Minimise the impact by filling your washing machine each time you use it, washing at low temperatures and using specialised wash bags that help trap microfibres.

Old medication

Our sewage works simply cannot treat the myriad pharmaceuticals in use. Return them to your pharmacy instead.

Eco friendly cleaning product alternatives

Ditch the detergent: tips for wetland-friendly cleaning

When you tip that bucket of soapy water down the drain the chemicals in your cleaning fluid are washed into our water system just like everything else.

There are some great products on the market that contain less chemical nasties than standard products. Better still try ditching the cleaning products all together and make your own.

Here’s what you’ll need for different types of cleaning:

  • Windows, mirrors, plastic and glass surfaces 100 ml lemon juice with 1 litre of water. The lemon juice breaks down the dirt and creates a shine. Use newspaper to wipe down the windows once you have applied the lemon juice/water solution.
  • Polishing wood 2 parts olive oil and 1 part lemon juice. Apply to the wood using a soft cloth. For tough stains, add some salt to create a thin paste. Wipe it on then lightly buff the area with a soft cloth.
  • Metal surfaces combine salt, vinegar and flour in equal parts to make a paste. Rub it onto the metal, leave it to dry for an hour and then wipe it off.
  • Toxic free washing. Try washing with eco balls. They can be used for up to 1,000 washes, which is the equivalent of around 50 boxes of washing powder. You fill the balls with pellets, which ionises the water and washes dirt away.

Top tip: Baking soda is a great way to get rid of household smells.

Add some to the bottom of the bin or wash containers with it. You can also wipe down surfaces with baking soda by adding a small amount to a damp cloth.