Run out of toilet paper? Here's what not to use instead

Most brands of toilet paper in New Zealand are made locally.
Most brands of toilet paper in New Zealand are made locally. Photo credit: Getty

With some people reacting to the spread of coronavirus by panic-buying toilet paper, there are concerns those who worry they'll miss out might end up flushing alternatives down the loo.

Supermarkets aisles around the world have been stripped bare in recent weeks as fear - often irrational - around coronavirus seemingly spreads just as quickly as the virus itself, with masks, hand sanitiser and toilet paper among the most coveted items.

"While it's clear there will not be a shortage of toilet paper in this country, panic-buying in the past week due to the coronavirus scare has meant that some people may consider other options such as tissues, wipes or paper towels," says Water New Zealand technical manager Noel Roberts.

"It's timely to remind people that only the three p's should be flushed down pipes: pee, poo and paper - and that means toilet paper, and nothing else."

In Australia the demand for loo paper has been so high that in one case two women ended up fighting over a single pack, resulting in both ladies being charged with affray.

A Foodstuffs spokesperson on Monday said that most toilet paper brands in New Zealand are made locally, meaning there is no chance of running dry in our neck of the woods.

The Warehouse also confirmed they're "satisfied with stock levels", another sign that Kiwis should rest assured the country is well-stocked.

Despite the fact there's enough to go around, Water New Zealand is urging toilet users not to flush anything else if push comes to shove.

Tissues, wipes and paper towels all contain plastic in their weave making them much stronger than toilet paper and harder to break down in sewerage pipes, says Roberts.

"This can be costly for individual householders as it may mean a call to the plumber," he says.

Blocked pipes can also result in sewage overflowing into the surrounding environment.

"The flushing of wet wipes and other non-flushable products has been a significant problem for councils and wastewater treatment operators in recent years.

"It's conservatively estimated to be costing wastewater utilities in New Zealand at least $16 million a year just in unblocking pipes caused by the flushing of wipes."

There have been five cases of coronavirus confirmed in New Zealand so far.