“Please do not throw paper towels into the toilet”

-The Management

I’m sure we’ve all see the above message before, in all its variations in grammar and language. Some are more creative than others. Sometimes I feel like I’m being scolded, sometimes dared. I especially appreciate the ones that try to be humorous, although clogged toilets really aren’t that funny. But every time I see this sign in a bathroom, I always wonder, “Who actually tries to flush paper towels?”

Toilet paper is made to dissolve in water. It has one main function. This is why a roll of Charmin is terrible when you have a runny nose. A wad of TP quickly rips and leaves a drippy, unhygienic mess upon contact with liquid. Septic and waste treatment systems are designed to handle two things–stuff that comes out of humans and the stuff humans use to wipe. I know in some countries, the septic system can’t even handle toilet paper. But this is America. And if there’s anything we should be proud of, it should be wiping our asses then dropping the whole mess down the hole without another thought.

Paper towels are exactly what the name implies. They are a paper substitute for towels. Every paper towel advertisement out there touts the miraculous integrity of its paper product. In a public restroom, the paper towel is used to dry your hands and for any other major clean up. Once you’re done, it goes in the trash can. And on that note, please stop using the paper towel to open the door of the bathroom and then tossing it on the ground. We all know the handle is disgusting, but that’s no reason for you to make an even bigger mess.

Now that we know the two separate uses for toilet paper and paper towels, why would the paper towel ever be in the toilet? Occasionally, a stray towel might end up in the stall for whatever clean-up duty it has been assigned, but that should be so rare an occurrence not to need a general warning. Hence, most often, you’ll see the sign in single-use bathrooms, in which the toilet is within tossing distance of the door. I hypothesize that the paper towel used to open the handle is just tossed straight into the nearest open receptacle. Everyone should know by now not to clog the toilet with a towel. I feel like the warning will have no deterrent effect on those who would perpetrate the crime anyway.

And as for warnings to keep feminine products out of the porcelain bowl, I am going to stay consciously ignorant of disposal procedures for those items.

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