Stop flushing wipes and mixing cleaners, Calgary officials urge in latest COVID-19 update

Staying clean and killing germs is taxing Calgary's water system — and, at times, putting people's health and safety at risk, according to a new update from city officials.

Mixing chemicals, natural products can cause harmful fumes and become flammable

Lysol wipes cannot go down the toilet. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Staying clean and killing germs is taxing Calgary's water system — and, at times, putting people's health and safety at risk, according to a new update from city officials.

The update includes a list of ways to help reduce sewer clogs, and to stay safe yet sanitized at home when trying to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has caused a worldwide pandemic.

People are especially cautioned against mixing cleaners — which can cause harmful gases that can be very dangerous to inhale. Other combinations can become highly flammable.

Most cleaners come in bottles with warnings against mixing but Calgary officials say they're taking the extra step of alerting the public.

Household cleaning products should never been mixed. (CBC News)

"We are cautioning citizens to avoid trying to make their own cleaning compounds with the hope of finding a 'super cleaner,'" the update said.

"If your preferred over-the-counter cleaner isn't readily available at your store, creating your own version can be very dangerous to you, your family and your home if not done correctly."

WATCH | Calgary's top emergency official explains how bad it is when wipes get flushed:

Tom Sampson says Calgary's treatment system is ensuring the city's water is the highest quality, but they are seeing more disposable wipes that don't break down being flushed. 0:38

The vast majority of cleaners cannot be mixed. Even mixing "natural" cleaners, such as vinegar, with certain chemicals can produce toxic acids.

Chlorine bleach can be diluted with clean water. Officials suggest people consult credible sources for directions to do so, including from Alberta Health Services, Health Canada, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

You can follow those credible sources for updates on the latest research about hygiene and coronavirus, as well, such as about how long the virus can last on certain surfaces

The city also noted that more is not better when it comes to cleaner, and the directions on the bottle still apply, despite the severity of COVID-19.

Even natural cleaners, such as vinegar, can create toxic acid when mixed with certain chemicals. (Bebeto Matthews/The Associated Press)

The enthusiasm for cleaning has added an extra burden to Calgary's waste system. 

Only toilet paper and human waste can go down the toilet — and keep wipes of all kinds out of the bowl. Even if the wipes say they're flushable, they aren't, officials say. They don't decompose and can cause large blockages that staff have to unclog.

"Any plumber that's worth his salt would tell you not to flush them down the toilet," said Grant Ferguson of Caledonian Plumbing and Heating Inc. in Calgary.

"Basically, ones, twos and paper — that's what should be going down the toilet."

Facial tissue, paper towel and serviettes also cannot go in the toilet.

"They do not break down as toilet paper does, and lead to clogs and sewer backups," the city update said.

These should be thrown in the garbage — not the compost — when used in the bathroom.

WATCH | Are you washing your hands properly? Put your technique to the test:

Using “glo germ,” a product that shows up under black light, Andrew Chang takes a first-hand look at how germs are transmitted, and how to wash them off our hands effectively. 7:03

The city has a full list of what goes into which bin on its website.

At a time when cleanliness is key, health authorities continue to recommend sticking to the basics: wash your hands often for 20 seconds, disinfect groceries and commonly touched surfaces in your home, and practise social distancing.

With files from Andrew Brown


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