We All Have to Stop Using Baby Wipes, or: The Tragedy of the Terrence Howard Effect

So, remember how a bunch of years ago, actor Terrence Howard did an interview with Elle in which he said that his relationship deal-breaker was if he went to a woman’s house and all she had in her bathroom was toilet paper and no baby wipes? Oh, you don’t? Let me refresh your memory; Howard’s exact words were: “If they’re using dry paper, they aren’t washing all of themselves. It’s just unclean. So if I go in a woman’s house and see the toilet paper there, I’ll explain this. And if she doesn’t make the adjustment to baby wipes, I’ll know she’s not completely clean.” First of all, what a catch that Terrence Howard is! As if his history of domestic violence isn’t reason enough to suspect his feelings toward women might just be a little complicated, he also feels the need to mansplain how a woman should take care of her own body. Amazing. But what’s that you say? Who cares if that’s one of Terrence Howard’s little quirks? Just because he has a baby wipe-mandate in his own life, doesn’t mean it affects anyone other than the women lucky enough to be dating him, right? Wrong! That baby wipe-mandate affects all of us because baby wipes are ruining the environment and costing New York City alone millions and millions of dollars a year. No, really!

In the New York Times today, there’s an excellent article on the terrible effect the use of baby wipes (or wet wipes) is having on New York City: “With its sewer system under siege, tallying millions of dollars in equipment damage across its underground maze, New York City is confronting a menace that has gummed the gears of plumbing networks around the world: the common wet wipe.” It turns out that since 2008 (RIGHT AFTER THE TERRENCE HOWARD INTERVIEW), there has been a huge spike in the use of baby wipes by people who then flush them down the toilet (aka not babies). And even though some of these wipes are labeled as being safe to flush, this is “a characterization contested by wastewater officials and plaintiffs bringing class-action lawsuits against wipes manufacturers for upending their plumbing.” In fact, what winds up happening is that “the wipes combine with other materials, like congealed grease, to create a sort of superknot.” They are then “indestructible,” like Terrence Howard’s career.

In just the last five years, the city has spent about $18 million dealing with “wipe-related equipment problems,” because “The volume of materials extracted from screening machines at the city’s wastewater treatment plants has more than doubled since 2008, an increase attributed largely to the wipes.” And while the Times cites reasons like “the intersection of evolving hygienic sensibilities and aggressive industry marketing” for baby wipes newfound popularity among adults, we mostly blame Terrence Howard. Because he’s the worst.

There is, of course, a pretty easy solution to dealing with the problem of baby wipes in the toilet: Throw them in the garbage can instead. Problem solved! But you know another thing you could do? Just use toilet paper! If it was good enough for most people pre-Terrence Howard, then it’s still just fine. If needed, put a little water on it. Just whatever you do, do NOT flush more wipes down the toilet. Or, you know, date Terrence Howard.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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