Can I flush my tampon down the toilet?

Can I flush my tampon down the toilet?

by Millie Smith

A study conducted in 2018 found that 45% of respondents did not know that many menstrual products contained plastic, however, 80% knew that they shouldn’t be flushed. Whilst many respondents knew that the tampons couldn’t be flushed, they didn’t know why.

Conventional tampons break down significantly faster than menstrual pads as they are often made from fewer materials, however, they can still contain microplastics and are most often wrapped in plastic. . Plastic period products break down into microplastics which pose serious risks to marine ecosystems and human lives. Plastic tampon applicators are regularly found on beaches and inside the stomachs of dead seabirds. Period products were advertised as flushable many decades ago, alongside other problematic items such as wet wipes, condoms and nappies which has further compounded the confusion surrounding if these items are in fact flushable.

Sanitary bins, now found in almost every female bathroom, rose in popularity in the 1970s-80s alongside anti-flushing campaigns but have still not reversed the implications of advertising these products as flushable when they are in fact not

Tampons are designed to expand when they touch liquid, meaning when a tampon is flushed down a toilet, it can expand to multiple times the size of a dry tampon. This can create blockages in the sewerage system, which can not only be expensive to repair but also have serious health implications because of the backflow. Toilet paper is specifically designed to break down almost immediately after making contact with liquid, however, tampons are designed to hold together despite hours of contact with liquid. 

How should you dispose of used period products?

  • Place them directly in a sanitary bin
  • Wrap them in toilet paper and dispose of them in the general waste
  • Wrap the used pad in the packaging from the new pad you are opening and place it in a sanitary or general waste bin (if no sanitary bin is available)
  • Opt for a plastic free range of period products (like TABOO’s range!) to avoid adding more microplastics to landfill. Even though these products are plastic free, please don’t flush them!!!


  • Hawkins, A, Sharpe, R, Spence, K and Holmes, N 2019, Inappropriate flushing of menstrual sanitary products. In Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers-Water Management, vol. 172, no. 4, pp. 163-169.
  • Peberdy, E, Jones, A and Green, D 2019, A study into public awareness of the environmental impact of menstrual products and product choice, Sustainability, vol. 11, no. 2, p. 473.
  • Rostvik, C 2021, ‘Do not flush feminine products!’ The environmental history, biohazards and norms contained in the UK sanitary bin industry 1960-2020, Environment and History, vol. 27 , no. 4 , pp. 549-579. 

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