Among the most frequently thrown items are food waste items.
Some may do it with ignorance or recklessness.
So, Can You Flush Cheerios (OR ANY FOOD) Down The Toilet?
You can technically flush anything small enough to fit in the plumbing, including Cheerios and Cheetos, BUT DON’T DO IT.
With Pressure-Assisted Toilets, You Can Flush Almost Anything
An average gravity-flow toilet uses 1.6 GPF (gallons per flush).
Using less water to flush your toilet is a bad idea, especially when dealing with unconventional wastes such as food from your dinner table.
Fortunately, most modern bathrooms emphasize water velocity rather than quantity.
Most are pressure-assisted and can force anything down the drain at just 1.1 – 1.4 GPF. However, just because it is technically possible to flush food doesn’t mean you should turn your toilet into a garbage bin.
Habitual disposal is highly discouraged if you don’t want to experience issues with your plumbing system.
But why? After all, aren’t human wastes just digested food?
The difference is that human feces are uniform, dissolve easily in water, and break down almost immediately compared to some undigested wastes, which may linger in the plumbing for days before they find their way into the main sewer line.
The Narrow Toilet Plumbing Was Never Designed for Solid Food Items
Household pipes, such as drain pipes under your toilet, are about 4” (100mm) thick, which isn’t wide enough for most waste from the dining table.
The toilet pipes are narrow to prevent water from running around the solid wastes it should be pushing out.
See Also: How Often Should You Flush An Unused Toilet?
Conversely, the narrow design increases the likelihood of food getting stuck, clogging the plumbing.
Cheerios, Just Like Any Other Cereal, Swells in Water and May Clog Your Plumbing
Cheerios are made of whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Salt, Corn Starch, and Tripotassium Phosphate.
The Corn/Oat part causes them to swell in size when soaked in water.
After they have dissolved and increased in size, they tend to form a paste-like substance that can accumulate in the pipes and clog the line.
Bones and Hard, Undissolvable Food Items Are Likely to Get Stuck in The Angle Pan Connector at The Base of the Toilet
A 14-degree angle pan connector (the curved lower section of the toilet), also known as a bent can connector, connects the standard horizontal outlet water closet pan to the soil pipe connection.
The connector links to the outlet at 14 degrees, often inside the floor, meaning only a powerful flush can push all the solid wastes into the outlet.
Grains such as rice, oats, and barley may look small and innocuous, but they also expand in water, just like your bowl of cheerios and may block the pipes.
Fatty Food Is the Worst Type of Food You Could Flush Down the Toilet Because It Would Form Fatbergs, Which Are a Nightmare to Remove
A typical fatberg is made of FOGs (Fat, Oils, and Greases), three non-biodegradable components found in almost every food on the dinner table.
Fatbergs are as gross as the name suggests and form slowly through FOG reactions and saponification deep inside the sewer line.
FOGs can stick on the surface of your toilet plumbing if the flush velocity isn’t powerful enough and you make it a habit to throw them there.
Once the hot FOGs cool on the surface of your plumbing, they usually congeal to form a gunky substance that can attract other solids and create a larger mass that may eventually block the pipes.
Fortunately, Or Unfortunately, FOGs Usually Solidify into Fatbergs Far Away from Your Toilet
Often, FOGs solidify deep in the sewer line but rarely on the toilet pipes, meaning the damage will be felt many years later by your city sewerage workers far from your home.
Sewage plumbing tends to widen as they approach the treatment plant.
Typical pipes serving a small development or road would be about 6” (150mm) wide.
The pipe size increases progressively by about 3” up to around 2 ft. (600mm) to serve a large neighborhood or small town.
Lines servicing a large metropolitan area can be as wide as 5 ft. (1500mm), just wide and high enough to permit an adult to walk in and break the fatbergs with specialized equipment.
Fortunately, fatbergs tend to build up in these wide drains, but it takes decades to grow large enough to obstruct the smooth flow of the sewage water.
Nonetheless, fatbergs grow faster depending on how many people flush FOGs down their toilets.
Therefore, don’t worry much if it’s a one-off thing for you, as more people are being sensitized against it.
Food Waste Is Bad for Your Septic Tank If It Manages to Wash Down the Toilet Plumbing
Homes in rural areas or places without modern sewage systems are equipped with a septic tank to process home wastes.
The issue with septic tanks is that everything that ends there should be septic-safe (natural and biodegradable).
Otherwise, it would kill the beneficial bacteria or form chunks that may ruin the septic tank system.
That’s why homeowners with septic tanks are advised to check for the “Septic Safe” label on toilet paper and cleaning chemicals before using them.
Depending On the Quantity and Concentration, Alcoholic Beverages Are Equally Dangerous
Alcoholic drinks are bad for your septic tank and shouldn’t be flushed down in large quantities.
Besides the amount, the percentage of alcohol in the drink has a say on whether the tank’s bacteria will be affected.
Lowly concentrated drinks with less than 24 percent alcohol content have a negligible effect on the tank.
However, beverages with high alcohol content should not be flushed because of their devastating impact on the useful bacteria in the septic tank.
If you must flush alcohol, stay under two bottles. It should be a one-off thing because the accumulation of alcohol in the tank would progressively alter the tank’s bacteria population.
Residential toilets were never designed with food items in mind.
These toilets are serviced by plumbing about 4″ in diameter, which is too narrow for solid foot items obtained straight from the kitchen.
Fats, Oils, and Greases can stick on the plumbing surfaces and harden up, clogging them.
Cheerios dissolve quickly in water but may swell to form a thick paste-like mass which may clog the toilet depending on the quantity and power of the flush.
Not just cheerios, every cereal-based food, including whole grains, expands in water to clog pipes.