A trend among families towards using wet wipes as well as loo roll is costing Thames Water a fortune because they clog up sewers, it has been revealed.

Market data shows the UK wet wipe market is growing faster than 15 per cent a year and for Thames Water, the company that serves the Marlborough area, that’s a statistic that is driving them round the bend.

Wet wipes do not break down like traditional toilet paper and block sewers, adding to the water authority’s annual £12 million spend on clearing around 80,000 blockages a year on its 108,000km network.

The water board says that’s money down the drain that it could be spending in other areas making their water delivery network even better.

However, a spokesman for Thames Water said: “There is a solution in hand.”

A Gloucestershire company has come up with a new antibacterial foaming gel called Freshu that can be applied to toilet paper so that it acts the same as wet wipes, but without the sewer-blocking consequences.

“We never expected to be discussing this but we have to adapt to the changes in our customers’ behaviour, and research indicates that using wet wipes is a growing phenomenon,” said Nick Sumption, head of affinity partnerships at Thames Water.

“The problem with wet wipes is that they do not break down like loo roll does, and they can cause nasty blockages in our sewers, which can in some cases lead to sewage backing up into people’s homes and gardens.

“Freshu is used on normal toilet paper, so it won’t block your pipes or ours.”

Mr Sumption said homes should adopt the adage: keep the wipes out of the pipes.

The foam that turns toilet paper into a wet wipe and which can be ordered from the Thames Water website – www.thameswater.co.uk – is the brainchild of former Oxford University student Dr Daniel Darg.