Blocks away: Millions of Lego bricks flushed down the toilet

  • Lego bricks flushed away in Britain could build a tower three times higher than the current world record of 35.05 metres
  • Children under 10 have flushed 4 million dolls down the loo
  • Millions of mobile phones have been dropped in the toilet by young children

New research from Direct Line Home Insurance1 reveals 2.5 million2 Lego blocks have been flushed down the toilet by children aged under 10 years of age. Lego bricks that disappear round toilet U-bends could build a tower three times taller than the current world record3 of 35.05 metres, which was built with an estimated 550,000 of these plastic blocks.

Whether it is their own beloved toys, or trying to destroy a sibling’s favourite play thing, huge numbers of children can’t resist dropping things down the toilet. Over 4 million dolls, including the likes of Bratz and Barbie, have been flushed down the lavatory by those aged under 10. When not being used to draw and scribble on walls, pens and crayons are also a popular choice to meet a watery fate, with 4.2 million flushed away.

The research highlights the perils parents face as their children flush mobile phones down the toilet, deface walls and even feed £20 notes to the family pet. One in ten (12 per cent) parents with a child aged under 10 has had their mobile phone dropped down the toilet at least once. One in twenty of these parents have seen their car keys flushed down the loo and 10 per cent have seen cash disappear down the U-bend.

Table one: Items flushed down the toilet by under 10s

Items Number of times item dropped down the toilet
by children aged under 10
Dolls (including Barbie and Bratz dolls) 4,295,244
Pens and crayons 4,231,516
House and car keys 3,963,860
Credit/debit/loyalty cards 3,568,749
Jigsaw and board game pieces 3,313,838
Mobile phones 3,007,945
Lego blocks 2,472,633

Source: Direct Line Home Insurance 2016

When not dropping items down the toilet, children are also causing all sorts of other mischief around the home. Half (50 per cent) of parents with children under 10 years of age have seen their children draw on the walls of their home, while almost a third (31 per cent) have seen their children scratch the furniture. Millions will sympathise with the 29 per cent of parents that have seen their children tearing wallpaper off the wall, damaging furniture (27 per cent) and even going so far as to switch off the fridge or freezer (9 per cent).

Table two: Household damage caused by under 10s

Household damage Parents with children under 10
who have experienced this issue
Drawn on walls 50%
Scratched furniture 31%
Pulled wallpaper off the wall 29%
Damaged furniture 27%
Scribbled on the floor 26%
Bashed walls 24%
Stained floor 23%
Put something in the washing machine 18%
Scratched floors 16%
Turned on a tap which has overflowed 14%
Damaged socket (e.g. phone) 11%
Scratched the car 10%
Switched off the freezer/fridge 9%

Source: Direct Line Home Insurance 2016

Quotes from parents describing the damage caused by their children:

  • “When he was 3, he plugged in an iron and put it on the cream carpet. It left a huge brown mark and we had to pay for someone to restore it to its former state.”
  • "(Child) Poured whole pack of flour in living room making a fairy out of it"
  • “Painted the landing when she should have been asleep, fed £20 note and crayons to the dog.”
  • “My daughter has a mural (her drawing) on her bedroom wall. It was in our brand new house about 1 month after we moved in. She said it was a family portrait, so she could have the whole family with her in her room every night.”

Morgan Simpson, Direct Line Home Emergency Response Manager, commented: “Children love to explore their environment and are often fascinated by the idea of flushing things away. Whether it’s disposing of their sibling’s Barbie doll or their own Lego creations, children can cause huge plumbing problems in the home. Overflowing toilets and blocked pipes can cause significant damage to a home and neighbouring properties. It emphasises the scale of the costs involved when we highlight escape of water as the highest claimed peril by value that insurers cover.

“Choosing an insurance policy with emergency plumber cover can help ensure a tradesperson is available to tackle any problems and help householders avoid paying expensive minimum call out rates or out of hours surcharges.”

Items flushed down the toilet can cause significant blockages resulting in overflowing water and even burst pipes. Those with a burst pipe can expect to pay an average £101 for a plumber to tackle the problem4. Given these costs are subject to VAT householders could face a hefty bill if they have a plumbing emergency, even before the cost of tackling any water damage to flooring, furniture and ceilings. Some plumbers will also charge for travel on top of the rates quoted.

Consumers concerned about the impact of escape of water in their property can take advantage of Direct Line Home Insurance Plus,’ which includes Emergency Plumber cover, with no excess to pay. The service ensures a plumber attends a customer’s property within three hours to address unstoppable leaks, following an incident such as a burst pipe. Direct Line will pay up to £500 (including VAT) for emergency assistance to cover the cost of the call-out, labour at the customer’s home, and parts to fix the leak. With Home Insurance Plus policies from £174*, customers could make significant savings if they need to make a claim.

Parents concerned about their children causing expensive problems around the home can explore accidental damage cover, as an add-on for their home contents policy. Accidental damage as an addition to an insurance policy will cover the cost of replacements and repairs should carpets be ruined by spills, or DVD players jammed with toys.

Parents seeking to protect their home can take simple steps to help prevent incidents occurring:

  • Consider purchasing lid locks for toilets in the home to prevent children dropping items into the bowl
  • Install universal outlet covers for plugs in the property for the safety of children and to prevent toys such as playdough being stuffed into sockets
  • Limit home access by using doorknob locks for rooms where you don’t want the contents to be damaged or played with
  • Stair guards and stair gates are an important safety tool and can also help limit access to rooms in the property
  • Install safety latches and locks to keep cupboards shut and inaccessible
  • Use endurance paint where you can wash away any stains, such as scribbles or colouring on the walls, without damaging the paint finish

Notes to Editor

1 Opinium Research interviewed a UK nationally representative sample of 2,014 UK adults, between 8th to 12th July 2016, of which 411 were parents of children aged 10 years old or younger.

2 The amount of Lego bricks was calculated by multiplying the base size of children that have dropped an item by the population total. This was then multiplied by the number of items dropped, and were then added altogether for the cumulative total of items dropped.

3 http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/tallest-structure-built-with-interlocking-plastic-bricks

4 Research conducted 11th-22nd April 2016 amongst a sample of 102 plumbers from across the UK.

* 20% of our customers paid this or less between 1st September 2015 and 29th February 2016.

For further information, please contact:

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 300 7838 or visiting www.directline.com.

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