Carnival Cruise Line’s Brand Ambassador John Heald is urging guests to be mindful of a particular popular product that can cause very unpleasant problems onboard a cruise ship – wet wipes.

While sanitary wipes may be great for cleaning hacks or personal hygiene, they are a terrible nuisance to cruise ship plumbing systems and can cause significant blockages and damage.

Whether they are called wet wipes, disposable wipes, disinfecting wipes, baby wipes, moist towelettes, or any specific brand name, these small pieces of sanitizing cloth cause big problems in cruise ship toilets.

Cruise Ship Cabin Toilet (Photo Credit: cherry-hai / Shutterstock)

“All our plumbers hate Wet Wipes because despite the signs that plead with [guests] not to flush them down the suction toilet system they still do,” Heald said. “The world it seems has gone crazy for wet wipes and the wet wipes are breaking our toilet system.”

Despite manufacturer claims that the wipes are flushable and disposable, those claims apply only to standard plumbing systems on land. Cruise ship plumbing systems use suction-assisted flushes and have much narrower pipes than a typical land-based home, hotel, or business.

Those pipes can easily clog with too much material, especially since cruise ship toilets use far less water than traditional toilets. Therefore, there is more friction within a pipe, and a cloth or wipe can easily become stuck in the line or at a junction.

A clogged toilet can then cause backups with sewage overflowing into a stateroom or public restroom onboard, and because of how the plumbing is arranged onboard, more than one toilet may be affected by clogs. This could lead to flooding in bathrooms or even into staterooms if the water is not quickly controlled.

This does not mean that wipes are banned onboard. Cruise travelers can still bring them along to further sanitize their staterooms, maintain good hand hygiene, have a quick cleanup after a shore tour, assist with diaper changes for young cruisers, or personally feel refreshed after – well, you know.

Wipes must be properly disposed of, however. After use, they should be thrown in the trash – never disposed of in the toilet or flushed in any way.

Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive

“On behalf of ‘Luigi the Plumber’ can I ask you not to put these into the toilet and flush,” Heald said. “If you use them for any reason drop them in the sanitary bags and let your stateroom attendant know and they will dispose of them.”

Sanitary bags – small paper bags for disposal of wipes, feminine hygiene products, and similar items – are available in all cabin restrooms as well as the public restrooms onboard. These bags should also not be flushed, but should be firmly closed and placed in the nearby trash can. If guests run out of bags, the cabin attendant will replace them.

It should be noted that cruise ship toilet paper is also a thinner, more easily flushed and readily-dissolving material than some brands of tissue. If travelers have very sensitive skin and require a specific toilet paper other than what is supplied onboard, they can bring it along, but should also use sanitary bags to dispose of the paper rather than flushing it.

All cruise lines have signage in the restrooms about not flushing anything except human waste down the toilet. No foreign objects – wipes, cotton swabs, makeup remover pads, paper towels or napkins, condoms, diapers, menstrual products, etc. – should ever be flushed.

Read Also: How Do Cruise Ships Get Rid of Human Waste

Every ship has an onboard sewage treatment facility, and all water is thoroughly filtered and sterilized before being released in accordance with environmental regulations. This includes not only water from toilets, but also from kitchens, laundry facilities, handwashing stations, etc.

Solid waste material that cannot be released is stored until it can be offloaded in port and disposed of properly, either through further processing or in a landfill.

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