School Sanitation is a Community Problem, But Support Starts at Home


By RFA Staff

Almost two years into the pandemic, we can all agree that a safe, sanitary environment in which to learn is crucial for a child’s education. But as The Toilet Board Coalition will discuss in their virtual panel, school sanitation has been on the decline since before COVID hit. Globally, 66 percent of schools had basic sanitation in 2016 – but by 2019, that number decreased to 63 percent. It may be a problem that’s often out of sight, but that doesn’t mean we need to be silent about it.

In fact, it’s as simple as starting at home. Teaching smart flushing habits during potty-training means that as you wave off your child to their first day of kindergarten, they’re likely to take those responsible behaviors with them into the schoolhouse.

There are multiple benefits to discussing smart flushing habits, as well as good hygiene more generally, with your child – both at home and at school. Proper hygiene and flushing behavior not only help our communities by protecting our wastewater systems, but there’s another collective good of keeping our children healthy.

In other areas, we’re accustomed to telling our little ones how their actions impact others around them. We tell them how important it is to put toys away because we don’t want anyone to trip and get hurt. Or talk about why we clean up a spill to avoid unwelcomed critters.

But one everyday action that we often don’t teach our kids (or know ourselves!) are the consequences of improper flushing. The consequences of a flooding bathroom are not to be taken lightly. While janitors may be able to handle a clog or two, when they become a frequent occurrence, it takes away from time spent cleaning cafeterias or classrooms. Plus, the general commotion can be a big distraction in the classroom, especially if the kids are debating who the culprit is. The overflow of contaminated wastewater can create an unsafe and uncomfortable learning environment, too.

A flooding toilet doesn’t just impact your child’s education – it can directly impact your wallet. When a toilet breaks from one too many improperly flushed items, a school will have to call in plumbers. That means valuable tax dollars that could have been spent in the classroom are now being spent in the school bathroom. When the issue affects main pipes and waste lines, big bucks are spent in the wrong place.

As we can see, taking the time now to instill good flushing habits in your children will pay off ten-fold down the line for our homes, schools, and communities. Talk to your children about what shouldn’t go down the toilet and, most importantly, teach them to spot the “Do Not Flush” symbol on packaging so they know what goes in the trash instead of the toilet. Consider downloading our fun matching game (recommended for K-2 grade) to test if they know what can be flushed and what can’t. Other educational enrichment activities, in both English and Spanish, can be found here.

Overall, the more fun you can make it, the better you can protect your child’s environment, their education, and your wallet. Check out the list below if you need a refresher on what can and cannot be flushed:

What Not to Flush:
• Baby Wipes or Household Cleaning Wipes
• Paper Towels, Facial Tissue, Plastic Bags
• Fats, Oils, and Grease
• Food, Trash
• Pads, Rags, Cloth, Disposable Gloves
• Cotton Balls, Cotton Swabs, Dental Floss
• Feminine Products
• Hair/Hair Weaves
• Medications/Syringes

Pro Tip! Need some reinforcements? Remind your children not to feed the Clog Monster! Flushing the wrong thing could awaken the beast. Watch out!

With its #FlushSmart consumer education campaign, the Responsible Flushing Alliance is dedicated to keeping homes and communities healthy through proper flushing practices. This includes supporting clear and prominent labeling of all items that should not be flushed, including promotion of the “Do Not Flush” symbol on non-flushable wipes.

For more information, go to or @flushsmart on Twitter or Facebook.

About Responsible Flushing Alliance

The Responsible Flushing Alliance (RFA) is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization dedicated to consumer education focused on what should and should not be flushed. RFA’s goal is to change consumer behavior to help reduce damage to our nation’s sewage systems caused by objects and materials not designed to be flushed.

Responsible Flushing Alliance Coalition Members

Albaad, ANDRITZ, DUDE Products, Essity, First Quality, Johnson & Johnson, Glatfelter, Kelheim Fibres GmbH, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Nehemiah Manufacturing, Nice-Pak, Papel Aralar S.A., Procter & Gamble, Rockline Industries, Sellars Nonwovens, and Suominen Corp.