Toilet Paper Disintegration Times: Product Tests April 2022

Read through the recent Toilet Paper testing, and one quality tested is Disintegration Time, and fair enough, as we have a septic system. The Performance Ratings are given as a %, but I couldn’t readily find out the % of what. Some rankings give a Disintegration Performance score of 0%. Does that mean the toilet paper NEVER disintegrates, not even 10% after a certain time? The next highest rating is 32%. So let’s say a maximum time for toilet paper to disintegrate is 20 minutes, so if a product disintegrates in 22 minutes, then 0%? I’m confused. Thanks

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You ask an interesting question. @RebeccaCiaramidaro (from Choice) would be the one to answer.

In the meantime, if you click on the “?” icon it says:
“We time how quickly the toilet paper disintegrates. The faster, the better – you want your toilet paper to break up quickly as it moves through sewage, making it less likely to block pipes. The quickest takes just over a minute to disintegrate while the longest takes just over 16 minutes to disintegrate.”

Top ranking was 90%, going all the way down 0%. From this I would guess that that perhaps 30 seconds might be 100%, and 15 minutes or more being 0%?? I await @RebeccaCiaramidaro’s answer.

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Hi @TGouldie, welcome to the community and an interesting question.

My guess is those with 0% didn’t pass the Draft Australian standard for flushability (DR AS/NZS 5328), that being it failed the disintegration test due to excessive time taken to breakdown. If this is the case, any which failed have the potential to cause sewer/sewerage system blockages.

Hopefully Choice can clarify.

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I haven’t reviewed DR AS/NZS 5328, but can I assume it applies to common sewer and waste treatment plant issues rather than simple septic systems, as we have and many others have? Frankly, at our place the distance from the toilets to the septic tank is gravity fed over a distance of a maximum of 40 metres, not much. The definition of disintegration would be interesting to read.

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In regard to the draft standard is this quote
(Daniel Chidgey, Head of Stakeholder Engagement at Standards Australia)

"“What is flushed down the toilet should not adversely affect wastewater collection and treatment systems. This new standard has potential to be an important addition to the sector and will aim to make it more clear what material can be put down the toilet,” continued Mr. Chidgey.

“We are hopeful the new standard will bring clarity to this issue for Australian industry and consumers. In the meantime, we advise individuals to only flush the 3Ps - Pee, Poo and Paper,” said Adam Lovell, Executive Director at Water Services Association of Australia."

I would say that septic systems are still a form of a wastewater treatment system. I remember some of the places I visited which used septic systems and how inappropriate items flushed down them created huge problems. There are still items that you need to ensure are labelled as “Safe for Septic Systems” before using with a septic system.

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I agree entirely that a septic system is certainly a form of wastewater treatment system, and we are mightily glad to have ours, and have it functioning well for more than a couple of decades. I am still only a tiny bit concerned that a 0% disintegration performance toilet paper, according to Choice, would or could be considered “Safe for Septic Systems” in accordance with the draft standard. The paper we use is among the 0% disintegration performance items, and says Septic System Safe on the packaging.

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It will be interesting to see what results out of the draft standard process. It may mean that the 0% gets a not safe for septic rating after the draft is finalised, they still sell flushable wipes because they can be flushed, doesn’t mean they are safe to be flushed though. There has been a lot of flexibility in claims in the past…puffery at it’s worst.

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Observation of our septic with a short 1.0m discharge is certain products have a habit of floating. Flushable wipes and certain brands of TP included. The chief sewage operator has banned the wipes from the bathroom. Disposal needs to be in physical waste along with other non compliant hygiene products. The consequence is non observance is a backing up of paper etc at the inlet baffle leading to a complete blockage.

Hopefully the standards committee has similar experience.

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A rating of zero might also be given to paper that disintegrates before a full wipe can be completed.

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Ah, like a 0.5 second disintegration time performance!

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Not to be too detailed, but how do you know that certain products float in your septic? It has been decades since I ventured to have a look inside ours.

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Not everyone remembers what not to do?

Curiosity, or a very simple need to identify the reason for a toilet bowl that is holding water above the expected tide mark. A regular dip is also in order to know when to call in the local pump out operator. :wink:

Most LGA’s have recommendations for looking after your septic.
EG

There is always the option to delegate or outsource.

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Have we got Choice person to comment on the above yet? Thanks.

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hi @airedale, not a washing machine or dishwasher, but you are named as the author. Comments on the OP question?

As a general comment a lot of readers would be more interested in the times (or raw data for other products) than an extrapolated or relative score. This statement is a bit fuzzy.

We time how quickly the toilet paper disintegrates. The faster the better – you want your toilet paper to break up quickly as it moves through sewage, making it less likely to block pipes. The quickest product takes just over a minute to disintegrate while some products took just over 16 minutes to disintegrate.

For those on city sewers is it important whether it is 8 minutes or 16? Those on septic systems should be more interested.

Hi @PhilT , it warms the heart to know when you are thinking about sewers you think of me ;).
For city dwellers the exact numbers aren’t important, but toilet paper that can rapidly disintegrate definitely is. If toilet paper doesn’t break down it can get stuck in the pipes and cause a blockage. And while the toilet paper in the blockage will likely break down anyway, you run the risk of it catching other solids that can maintain that blockage.
Of course, many people do flush tissues, flushable wipes, hair from hair brushes and a whole bunch of other things that should not go down the toilet without experiencing a problem, but it is tempting fate.
I recently cleared decades worth of hair and other detritus from the s-bend of my bathroom sink because it wasn’t flowing freely, but it’s a lot more challenging to do this with an underground sewer line. One horror story of mine was when I lived in a ground floor unit in Stanmore and we woke up one morning to a moat of sewerage around the bed because our upstairs neighbour had been flushing kitty litter down the toilet. The kitty litter in question was made from recycled newspaper and claimed to be sewerage safe, which it was, until one day it wasn’t. Some of it had gotten stuck in a bend in the sewer line, where it absorbed water and expanded. This in turn trapped other solids and blocked the pipe entirely, which meant that any time someone in the units above us had a shower or flushed their own toilet we would have sewerage backing up into our bathroom. This was as expensive (for our landlord) to fix as it was unpleasant as it meant digging up and replacing the sewer pipes that were buried under a concrete slab, and of course our property manager had changed emergency plumbers without telling us, and was uncontactable on the weekend it happened which made it even more challenging to deal with.
So in short, while it might not seem as important for city dwellers to have readily disintegrating toilet paper as it is for people on a septic system, you should definitely prioritise anything that reduces the chances of a blocked sewer line because as far as house repairs go it can be an especially unpleasant one to have to deal with.

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Hi again @airedale,

The member had the question. Apologies if I diluted it.

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My adverse septic system experiences have gladly been few, but I would imagine that if I did have a blockage in my septic pipes, I would either send a mechanical device into my max 40 metre sewage line to my septic, which could be done, or deluge it with a huge water blast from the top, maybe even screwing my fire pump into the toilet outlet, pushing the blockage out. I would have to deal with the excess rainwater used and spread around later. But back to my first point: at what point does a toilet paper gain a 0% disintegration rating? If it takes longer than how long? And if it is seconds shorter than “how long” then is the rating the same? And what does “disintegration” mean? I’m familiar with turbidity studies, but I don’t think that is this. Is it the measure of visible light that can be measured after X minutes through a clear, sewer-width tube over each minute, and if it reaches “Y” then it is disintegrated? The Choice test was not on anything other than toilet paper, so kitty litter and such is not part of it, that would be a sewage blockage test. And I am burdened with being a Chartered Professional Engineer. Thanks.

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I liked the suggestion,

There is much anticipation as we all await clarification.

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Aah, my apologies, I should have read through the thread in more detail.
The fastest dissolving toilet paper in our test took just 39 seconds to dissolve, and the slowest took just under 22 minutes.
But the question is what do our scores mean, or how do we arrive at them?
We measure the dissolution time for each of the toilet papers in our test, and then convert that to a percentage score using a formula that distributes the range of dissolution times between 90% for the fastest dissolving down to 30% for the three minute mark - what we, in consultation with Sydney Water, would consider the upper limit of what should be acceptable. Anything that takes beyond three minutes will obviously fall below 30%, down to a minimum of zero as we’re not going to give a negative percentage score.
So in answer to the question - does zero percent mean it never dissolves? No, it just takes far too long to do so.
I hope this better answers the original queustion.

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Non linear?
Obviously not a log scale either.
Perhaps for next time a simple graph showing the percentage score vs time taken might assist others to understand and Choice explain the relationship.

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