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Recently an Australian newspaper printed several blank pages to help readers who may have run out of toilet paper.

Would it be safe to flush pieces of newspaper down the toilet?

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    Are you familiar with Australian hygienic practices? In some places in the world it is assumed that it would not be flushed.
    – Aww_Geez
    Mar 18 '20 at 20:03
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it isn't about home improvement. Mar 19 '20 at 0:50
  • @DanielGriscom There is a similar question here: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/8620/… Mar 19 '20 at 1:59
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    The newspaper mentioned in the linked article (NT News) is known for its use of black humor - they don't actually expect you to use it to wipe your backside. Mar 19 '20 at 3:03
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    @toxicantidote However, someone who ran out of toilet paper might still use it.
    – user253751
    Mar 19 '20 at 13:13
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No, that would not be safe. If you want to use something other than regular tissue (like paper towels), you would need to dispose of it in the wastebasket.

Toilet paper is made to fall apart quickly when it gets wet and doesn't contain any chemicals that would harm a septic system or a city's sewer treatment. Newspaper isn't the strongest paper, but it doesn't fall apart as easily and the ink and paper itself might contain harmful chemicals.

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    The op did say the pages were blank.
    – rtaft
    Mar 19 '20 at 12:26
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    This answer poster mentioned that the paper itself can contain harmful chemicals, supported by this answer list: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/50354/…
    – LabGecko
    Mar 19 '20 at 13:09
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    @rtaft "the ink and paper itself might contain harmful chemicals"
    – Logarr
    Mar 19 '20 at 13:52
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    @Logarr that's all good, merely pointing out 'the ink' doesn't exist, why mention it? It obscures the fact that the paper is bad.
    – rtaft
    Mar 19 '20 at 14:03
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    @rtaft To avoid someone asking whether inked paper is better or worse than blank paper? Regardless, the answer containing more information than was asked doesn't make the answer wrong or less valid.
    – Mast
    Mar 19 '20 at 14:30
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Newspaper is actually one of the worst types of paper materials to use for flushing. One of the things not mentioned is the gummyness of newspaper. When newspaper gets wet it sticks to more newspaper really well. So not only does it not break apart but it easily builds. Basically if you have any sort of weak spot in your plumbing system the newspaper will quickly accumulate and build until it is blocked.

Now compare this to regular "printer paper" and your stock white paper will take way way longer than TP to break down... But it will in general float when wet better and it will not stick to other paper as much (it still will).

An alternative is to either throw the newspaper away or use leaves - which you need to throw away too. Bidets are a thing so people low on TP can easily use something to get the bulk and then shower after.

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I am living in a country where it was pretty much a normal practice some 30 years ago. Communist party press was issued in excessive numbers and everyone was forced to subscribe, so the old issues accumulated everywhere. In contrast, toilet papper was not always that much abundant and sometimes was even worse than a newspaper.

Flushing the toilet paper down the pipe came as a surprise for a lot of people, everyone used trash bins. Few people tried the same with newspapers and results were invariably bad.

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    And many people back then (in rural areas pretty much all of them) used an outhouse as they didn't have indoor plumbing. Going to an outhouse with a newspaper in hand was a very clear indication of what will happen to the newspaper.
    – vsz
    Mar 19 '20 at 11:00
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    @vsz indeed. And the outhouse was pretty tolerant to used newspapers.
    – fraxinus
    Mar 19 '20 at 11:14
  • It depends on the newspaper paper. I spent my childhood in the ussr, and it was much more common to use and flush (without any trouble) newspapers, mostly because toilet paper wasn't commonly available and when it was, was only a bit better than newspaper. However the newspaper structure was quite different than in many today's papers. It was rather thin, of somewhat rough texture.
    – Gnudiff
    Mar 19 '20 at 22:05
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    It's worth noting that traditionally, in the rural US, the Sears catalog was kept in the outhouse. There was a saying that it was a rough winter when you got down to the shiny pages (with color images of toys, etc) before the new catalog arrived.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 19 '20 at 23:19
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    Your answer comes across as contradictory. First you say that "it" (presumably, flushing newspaper) was common then you say that flushing toilet paper was a surprise, and few people did it with newspapers. Mar 20 '20 at 2:36
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Use the newspaper as toilet paper but don't flush it. Throw it out with your garbage or compost it. It sounds gross, but not as gross as the alternatives.

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    The alternative being a difficult clog that requires intervention by plumbers. Mar 18 '20 at 22:46
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    Or use your detachable shower head.
    – user253751
    Mar 19 '20 at 10:12
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Newspaper will not break into pieces when wet for a long time and may clog the toilet sink or pipe. It is better to throw such paper in the trash bin. Ink is also used in such paper with plumbum, which is not safe for health.

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  • The English word for Latin "plumbum" is lead (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead), the metallic chemical element. Symbol Pb, derived from the Latin "plumbum". Anyway, current-day newsprint doesn't lead-based inks. In the UK and some other places, fish and chips are regularly served in/on newsprint. (That might not be a great plan and doesn't prove it's safe, but there are health regulations on inks). quora.com/Does-newspaper-ink-contain-lead says lead inks are no longer used, only in the past. Mar 20 '20 at 21:00
  • UK stopped allowing old newspaper for fish and chips years ago, at least 20, maybe a lot more. Now it's pristine paper specified for the job, or cardboard or plastic trays.
    – Neil_UK
    Mar 21 '20 at 11:49
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Here's something you can try sometime. Take some toilet paper and put it into the bowl. Let it sit for a while. What is its consistency? It's most likely mush after an hour or two. Take a plunger and stir it after it's sat. It should shed like crazy.

Toilet paper is designed to break down in water. That's important, because any other kind of paper is not designed to do that. Regular paper will eventually break down, but we're talking days or weeks, not minutes. This is why many places warn you to not flush things like paper towels. A paper towel (which you explicitly do not want to break down in water) can cause a clog. And the last thing you want is to flush a load with normal paper, only to have the drain clog and all that stuff is left sitting there. Flush again and it overflows. No other kind of paper is toilet safe. Expect to hire a plumber to clean your drain lines if you try.

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