Panic buying of toilet roll is leading to blocked sewers because those left without toilet paper are being forced to use alternatives and are disposing of them incorrectly.
The warning comes from water company Northumbrian Water, which said an increasing number of people were flushing wipes, kitchen roll and newspaper down the toilet.
The company said it understood people were “only improvising” but the consequences could be “devastating” to homes and the environment.
Wrongly flushed items are one of the biggest causes of blockages as they usually clog up inside householders’ plumbing and sewer pipes.
In 2019 around 64% of the 15,600 blockages cleared were caused by wet wipes, the company said.
Simon Cyhanko, head of wastewater networks at Northumbrian Water, said: “Wet wipes and toilet roll alternatives, including kitchen roll and newspapers, are the main causes of blockages in our network.
“We understand some people affected by the limited toilet roll availability may have no choice but to use alternative products, but we really need our customers’ help by making one small change – and that’s to put wipes and any alternatives in the bin.
“Blockages can have devastating consequences, from causing people’s homes to be flooded with toilet waste to the environment being polluted, but by binning the wipe and toilet roll alternatives you can help make a massive difference.
“No one wants to see harm to the environment and to innocent wildlife, or homes flooded with sewage, which isn’t a pleasant experience at any time and especially now, if vulnerable people need to self-isolate because of COVID-19.
“Wipes and alternatives, may leave your toilet bowl when flushed, but can clog up your plumbing and cause avoidable plumber callout charges. Even biodegradable products often don’t break down as quickly as toilet paper and can linger in sewer pipes, contributing to blockages.
“If customers are going to use any sort of wipe or toilet roll alternative, then please bin them. Toilets are not a bin.”