A shortage of toilet paper caused by coronavirus-inspired panic buying could spawn a spate of blocked drains if people use wet wipes instead, says a water company.

Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water has issued a plea to householders not to try and flush wet wipes.

The company said more than 28,000 drain blockages a year are caused by people trying to flush disposable wipes or kitchen roll (93% of the total), costing £7m.

It now fears the current run on stockpiling toilet paper due to fears of being kept indoors for long periods because of the Covid-19 coronavirus could make the problem even worse.

Welsh Water’s Steve Wilson said: “While we encourage everyone to practice good hygiene to protect against coronavirus, wet wipes and kitchen roll can be hugely damaging to our sewers.

“Throwing these items away in the bin instead of flushing them will reduce the number of blockages and the risk of flooding to homes, businesses and the environment during what is likely to be a difficult time for many people.

“It’s too early to say what impact the outbreak has had on our sewers but, as always, we’d urge everyone to only flush the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper – to help avoid problems.”

Drains from the home are normally no wider than four inches (100mm) and disposable and sanitary products combine with other waste and fats to cause obstructions.

Sewerage companies are only responsible for public sewers so any blockages in the home system will be the reponsibility of individual householders.

Around two thirds of sewer blockages on Welsh Water’s network are caused by substances like fat, oil and grease, wet wipes and sanitary products being flushed.

Supermarkets have now put limits on how many products shoppers can purchase after an unprecedented surge in people stockpiling toilet paper, hand gel, pasta and other basic foodstuffs.