New Ruling in UK Finds Against Kimberley-Clark on flushability ad claims for Andrex toilet wipes

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has that found Kimberly-Clark, owners of Andrex, were misleading customers by not saying whether their toilet wipes were tested against the water industry Fine to Flush standard. The ASA has ruled that content on a Kimberley Clark website for Andrex toilet wipes was misleading advertising following a challenge by a complainant that the claim "flushable" was misleading.

The ASA was ruling on text seen on 21 April 2019 which featured on, a website for Andrex toilet wipes, which stated:

"At Kimberly-Clark we test all our products to make sure they pass all INDA and EDANA industry standards (they're the international associations serving the nonwovens and related industries that set guidelines on flushability of wet wipes). This means our flushable Washlets are specially designed to break down in moving water, so they won't block your toilet if your sewage system is well maintained and you follow the directions on the packaging".

In its response, Kimberly-Clark said that they recognised their product did not meet Water UK’s Fine to Flush specification developed by Water Research Centre (WRc) but disagreed that was the most useful measure of whether a wipe was flushable. They said that Water UK’s study on "Wipes in Sewer Blockage” of December 2017 found no evidence that wipes compliant with GD3 guidelines were the cause of any blockages analysed.

The ASA said it noted the terms "Flushability” and "Flushable” appeared at the top of the web page, with the latter forming part of the label given to the product to signify its ability to be flushed down the toilet. The label included an image of a hand throwing a wipe into an open toilet above the text "Look for this label”.

" In that context, we considered that consumers would understand from the ad that there was a single standard used to determine whether a product was capable of being flushed down the toilet without causing blockages and that the label was the standardised marker which notified them that products met that standard.” the ASA said.

The Authority noted Kimberly-Clark’s comments that those products that complied with INDA and EDANA’s GD3 guidelines had not been found to cause any blockages in Water UK’s study of 2017, but also that Water UK maintained the sewer blockages found in their 2017 report largely consisted of an unidentified mass of wipes, which made it impossible to draw conclusions about the nature of the wipes that caused the blockage.

This ruling represents a significant win in the ongoing effort to get better labelling for flushable products. The ruling recognized that Kimberley-Clarke labelling their products as compliant with the INDA standard was misleading since they did not meet the Water UK Fine to Flush standard. This is excellent news since CWWA has been arguing that the INDA standard is inadequate and has been encouraging the development of a Canadian standard that would better assess the flushability of products.

CWWA continues to raise funds that are being reserved to fund research into laboratory methods to verify flushability and eventually to help fund the development of a standard. You can learn more about our efforts and how to donate by visiting the CWWA website at CWWA was also involved in an EcoJustice submission demanding an inquiry into the labelling of flushable products.

Canadian Water and Wastewater Association