As fears Australia could be running out of toilet paper reaches fever pitch, a national plumbing association has warned shoppers not to reach for wipes instead.

This week shoppers across the country have rushed into supermarkets to stock up on essential items amid fears a coronavirus pandemic could cause disruptions to food supply.

READ MORE:
NT News prints eight-page 'toilet paper' lift-out in response to Australia's shortage
The Conversation: Why are people stockpiling toilet paper?
Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern urges calm as panicked shoppers empty supermarket shelves
Coronavirus: 'Panic buying' hits supermarkets around the globe

But while pantry staples such as flour and pasta have flown off shelves, shoppers seem to have stocked up the most on toilet paper.

Advertisement

The panic buying of toilet paper has prompted supermarkets to enforce limits on how much stock you can buy while Kimberley-Clark, which manufactures Kleenex toilet paper, has now increased its production to 24 hours a day at its South Australia factory.

Now, along with toilet paper, reports are emerging on social media of people buying up big on wipes, a product that can damage pipes and cause "fatbergs" to form in sewerage systems — even the "flushable" variety.

"Toilet paper is specifically designed to break down quickly in the sewer system. Flushing wipes down the toilet, whether labelled 'flushable' or not, can cause problems with your plumbing and can contribute to blocked sewers.

"These can be very expensive problems to fix – bills for households can be in the thousands and it's estimated that Australian water authorities spend $15m each year removing wipes from pipes and pumps. On top of this is the environmental cost."

Instead, Mr Daly said if you don't have any toilet paper you should reach for washable cloth baby wipes instead.

If people have no other choice than using wipes in an emergency, consider wrapping them and placing in the bin rather than flushing," he said.

"An alternative may be to use washable cloth baby wipes instead, ensuring these also go in the rubbish when disposing of them, not down the toilet."

For those looking at more long term alternatives to toilet paper, Sustainability Victoria recommends shoppers look at installing a bidet or buy cloth toilet paper.

Advertisement

Manufacturers of toilet wipes have been slammed by consumer groups over the years and Kimberley-Clark was previously taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over claims its Kleenex wipes were flushable.

The ACCC claimed Kimberley-Clark made false or misleading representations by labelling the products as "flushable", leading consumers to believe they had similar characteristics to toilet paper.

But in the Federal Court Justice Jacqueline Gleeson said she was not persuaded the ACCC's evidence was sufficient to support a conclusion the wipes were unsuitable for flushing.

Back in April 2016 the manufacturer of White King, made by Pental, was fined $700,000 for similar accusations.

Hysteria over toilet paper comes despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison telling people yesterday not to panic buy.

"Just before coming into this press conference earlier today, I spoke to both Coles and Woolworths, just to get an update on their arrangements, and I appreciate their response and the steps they are taking to assure people and their own customers," he said.

Advertisement

"They would send the same message I am sending you today. It is important that people just go about their business and their normal processes in a calm manner. They had spoken to me about the arrangements they have in place around their supply lines and things like this, but I would just urge people to be going about their business in the normal way when it comes to those matters."

Earlier today, footage emerged of panicked shoppers pushing and shoving one another to get their hands on toilet paper packs.

Taken inside Woolworths Revesby, in Sydney's south-west, customers can be seen scrambling to grab packs of toilet paper around 7am on Wednesday.

In response, Woolworths has restricted customers to four packs per person to make it "fair".

Leading Australian toilet paper manufacturers have also told news.com.au there is no need to panic as "we won't be running out of rolls anytime soon".

Solaris Paper, which manufactures toilet paper brands such as Sorbent, told news.com.au they anticipated "no shortage of supply".

Advertisement

"Concerns over the coronavirus contagion has resulted in some panic buying. Australian consumers should be assured of Sorbent Paper's ability to maintain ample supply of its tissue products of toilet paper, facial tissues, paper towel and wipes to its retail customers," Solaris Paper's corporate affairs director Steve Nicholson said.

"Some products may have been depleted from shelves, but replenishment will catch up and there will be no shortage of supply from Sorbent's Australian production."

Kimberley-Clark, the company which makes Kleenex toilet paper, told news.com.au: "Kleenex toilet paper for Australia and NZ is made at our mill in South Australia so whilst we are seeing increased demand by consumers, we have sufficient supply. We're now working with our customers to replenish supermarket shelves faster."