7.30.2014

Businesses that won't let you flush tampons

Warning: Don't read any further if you're not comfortable with some really specific tampon talk.

This is a thing that has bothered me for quite some time, but I've never thought to blog about it before because it's a topic that is generally considered somewhat icky. But I got mad enough about it the other day to take a picture, and having the picture in my phone has reminded me how mad it makes me, so I'm going for it.

If you are a business with a restroom that isn't able to accommodate tampons being flushed down the toilet, you are RUDE.

Ready? Let's talk about it.

First of all, let's go over the basics of tampons for anyone who doesn't know the details about them, yet still decided to read this post. Tampons are pretty much just concentrated wads of cotton with a string hanging out of them. Some people who have periods use them to soak up the blood from said period. They have to be changed every six to eight hours or so, or sometimes more frequently if the person is bleeding heavily.

Okay, have we got that? Let's move on.

Standard operating procedure for using tampons is as follows: You open the (paper or plastic) wrapper and throw the wrapper away. You are then left with the (paper or plastic) applicator, which has the tampon inside. You insert the tampon. You then wrap the applicator in toilet paper and throw it away. Now, if you already had a tampon in before you inserted this one, that changes things a little in that you first have to remove the original tampon before inserting the new one. Standard operating procedure for that is: Pull the tampon out by its string and drop it into the toilet.

So if you're counting, the only thing you actually put into the toilet is your used tampon. Everything else is thrown in the garbage. (By the way, this is why you are a monster if you don't have a trash can in your bathroom.) I have heard of people flushing the paper applicators, but I've never done it myself, and I normally use the plastic ones, so I don't know.

Okay. Now that all that is said: IT IS SO RUDE to make people throw away their bloody, used tampons instead of flushing them.

Now, when I explained this to Matt, he asked, "Wait, someone has actually asked you to do that?"

Why yes, Matthew. And yes, everyone else probably also asking that question. There are businesses and establishments that have signs up lamely apologizing for having an old septic system or whatever and asking if we could please avoid flushing "feminine products," thank you very much.

For instance:

Hi. Your cutesy script font at the bottom is not making your rude all-caps message seem any nicer, so please stop trying.

Moving on, though, let's talk about the types of places I've seen these. The one that stands out most in my mind is the dorm I was in my senior year of college. Yakeley is one of the older dorms on MSU's campus, and the poor old system couldn't handle tampons. The powers that be were constantly on our cases about flushing tampons. I remember one email (I wish I still had it!) that talked about how terrible it had gotten and how the janitor had to snake the drain and pulled out like a hundred tampons.

And you know, ew, yes, and I'm sorry he had to go through that, but you are a residence hall for college-age women. It is rude to expect them not to flush tampons. Update your system.

The picture above was taken at the Fonda theatre in Hollywood last week. You are a business that was recently renovated. Update your system.

The only one I kind of understand was the Blue Dress Barn, a wedding venue I went to recently that is quite literally a barn. But even then it's like, you host weddings and events all the time, full of women needing to use the restroom. Update your system.

These are three examples, but this has happened countless times in my life.

Now that we're past all that, let's talk about why this is unacceptable and rude. As we discussed above, you generally just pull tampons out by their string and drop them right into the toilet. This is normal. This is what people are used to, so it's basically muscle memory.

Here is the real purpose of this post, because if this was not the case, not flushing wouldn't be an issue: The process of not flushing a tampon is gross and terrible. You are pulling a blood-soaked wad of cotton out of your body and trying not to let it touch anything while you awkwardly wrap it in enough toilet paper that it won't soak through. This is in addition to the fact that you're either holding a dress up or having your legs restricted by half-down pants (or, you know, both). It is an awkward, terrible experience that we shouldn't have to deal with.

There are people who don't know that these signs are in reference to actual tampons and think it's just a polite reminder not to flush pads and applicators. They are sadly mistaken. In fact, I was one of those people until the dorm situation, but after that and how specific they were, I now know what they meant. There are also some people who completely ignore these signs and just flush anyway. I am jealous of those people. I'm such a rule-follower and natural worrier that I pretty much can't flush a tampon if I'm being specifically instructed not to. What if the toilet overflows? (Worst thing ever!) What if it seriously just doesn't flush and I have to fish it out? (So gross!)

So I'll keep throwing away my tampons instead of flushing them if you ask me to, but I'm definitely going to think less of you for it.

1 comment:

  1. This isn't a business issue. This is a waste treatment issue. Tampons aren't supposed to end up in the wastewater stream. There are several issues.

    1) They clog toilets. The curve in the toilet accumulates grime and large items eventually snag and will permanently clog the toilet. This happens to new and old toilets.

    2) Sewer lines that leave buildings typically range from 4-8 inches depending on the outflow. If a pipe is too large it will clog because there isn't enough flow. If a pipe is too small it will clog because flushed material doesn't pass through. Tampons are notorious for clogging lateral sewer lines and can cause thousands in repairs.

    3) If the tampon makes it out of the building and lateral sewer into city lines, it can become lodged in the city lines and cause back ups (when a city line backs up it can flood an entire BLOCK of homes.) I've been honored to clean sewers myself and there's nothing grosser than pulling out a jet nozzle covered in tampons (and condoms... stop flushing the condoms!)

    4) Let's say that your tampon makes it to the wastewater plant. It gets caught in a screen. Then raked out (often manually, also been honored to rake tampons and condoms and rags off of a screen). The raked goods then they are placed in a dumpster and brought to a landfill.

    So please stop flushing your damn tampons. The world isn't trying to make your life difficult.

    And I'm a female. I have no problem wrapping a tampon up and throwing it in the trash like you should.

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