While walking on Monterey Beach with a grandson recently, we noticed an unusual mess. The beach was covered in a bubbly foam that resembled shredded and regurgitated paper. We have seen small amounts of this type of foam before, but this time it covered a huge area.

We speculated what in the ocean could have caused such an amount of unusual foam. It brought to mind the current “Do Not Flush” campaign and how harmful trash gets into water systems. Beginning last July in California “Do Not Flush” labeling, wording with symbols, is required on nonwoven disposal wipes likely to be used in a bathroom.

Non-flushable wipes are made with petrochemical-type fibers. Some examples are baby wipes, hard surface cleaning and disinfecting wipes, makeup remover wipes, and personal care and hygiene wipes. These products are very strong and do not pull apart easily.

The only commercially processed product to flush into public sewers is toilet paper. Toilet paper is designed to decompose quickly when wet, so it can move easily through pipes.

Some products seem similar to toilet paper but should not be flushed. In a pinch, when that last roll of toilet paper is gone, folks might grab a facial tissue, a napkin or paper towel. These papers are not designed to break down easily. Quite the contrary, facial tissue, napkins and paper towel are made to hold their strength while wet.

Automobile products such as motor oil and antifreeze need to remain out of water systems. The same is true for paint products. Neither prescription drugs nor over the counter medications should be put into drainage systems. Grooming aids such as nail polish should not be washed away into the water system. Anything that contains a chemical should not go into the water treatment system.

Never flush feminine products, candy wrappers or food waste. Assume that any product that is not toilet paper might clog a toilet, drain lines or waste treatment systems. Products put down drains have the potential of seeping into water systems. This poses a possible health threat.

When shopping, look for Do Not Flush warnings. The Do Not Flush logo shows a stick person dropping something into a toilet with the “do not” circle that has a diagonal line superimposed over it.

Some logos take the positive approach in which the person figure is dropping items into a trash can near a toilet. Every toilet should have a trash can next to it to encourage everyone to deposit in the trash, not in the toilet.

Some packaging can be deceiving. Recently, a nurse gave me a pack of adult wipes. Because the wipes were very sturdy, I searched the entire package for the Do Not Flush warning but could not find it. The pack was the type with a pull tab that could be resealed after each use. After several openings, I accidently pulled off the entire resealable tab. There, on the back at the bottom was the Do Not Flush symbol. Fortunately, I was using the trash and not the drain to dispose of these used sturdy wipes.

Keep it simple is the best practice. Only flush toilet paper. Teach children from an early age never to put anything in the toilet. With toddlers around, this lesson might also save keys and other valuables.

Enjoy the convenience of infused wipes for household cleaning and personal grooming. Follow the disposal instructions on packaging. Remember toilets are not trash cans. Keep our local water systems clean, safe and flowing.

As always, shop locally for all cleaning and personally hygiene products in our many wonderful stores.