You can do better than disposable wipes

Zwoice . Oct 11, 2019

Black & white drawing of a person throwing a wipe into a trash bin.

Disposable wipes have conquered the world! In only a few years, they have become an essential accessory and found their way onto numerous homes, schools, toilets, handbags, changing tables and diaper bags. But, are they as safe and convenient as we are told? On the spur of the moment, most of us would say “yes” without hesitation, however, if you look closer and consider the bigger picture, the yes becomes more and more blurry.

Why avoiding using disposable wipes at all cost?

Well, the short version is that they are not ideal for our health; they damage our sewerage systems when not disposed of correctly and even if thrown away as they should, they are terrible for the environment. Here is why…

Does a wipe really need a scent? The artificial perfumes and fragrances used in wipes are among the top five allergens worldwide, and can cause irritation or burn and aggravate skin conditions, diaper rash, not even mentioning their capacity to disrupt hormone function, increase risk of breast cancer and reproductive issues.

Furthermore, due to the humid nature of the product, all wet wipes contain preservatives. Unless a company is recommending that you keep their skin care products in the refrigerator, have short expiration dates, do not use water or aloe, then they are using some type of ingredient to preserve their product, as these help preventing mould, bacterial and microbial growth. Here are a few examples: paraben, formaldehyde, sodium benzoate, benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, methylisothiazolinone, bronopol or phenoxyethanol. The trouble with preservatives is that they make the wipes safe to use and prolong their shelf life at a cost of sensitising, drying and irritating the skin, because they strip it off of its natural protection.

But things get better when opting for dermatologically tested, all natural, so called sensitive or hypoallergenic varieties, right? Not necessarily, as these labels are not regulated and do not keep to any particular standards. In other words, they are just marketing terms that mean the wipes contain ingredients that are not likely to cause allergic reactions.

Now, let’s consider the environmental impact of disposable wipes. Due to their moist nature, all of them, with no exception, come in cheap non-recyclable plastic packaging, which is destined to end up in a landfill. In addition, as if that wasn’t bad enough, its contents are also far from being Earth-friendly.

Contrary to what most people believe, wet wipes are not flushable, even though some of them claim to be. They do not break down in water, they mix up with fat and grease instead and cause clogs of sewerage systems. These then gradually restrict the flow of wastewater leading to damaging sewage overflows and back-ups, which result in expensive unclogging treatments that could be avoided in the first place.

Disposable wipes do not magically disintegrate either. For the most part, they contain plastic fibres and are not biodegradable, which means that they are just as bad for the environment as a plastic bag. Or even more so, given the average amount of them used in a household largely exceeds that of plastic bags. In fact, even the wipes labelled as biodegradable do not break down, because they need sunlight and air in order to do so, which is not something they get in landfills, where they are buried under mountains of garbage.

Stack of pastel coloured fabric remnants.

Did your firm “yes” get blurry too? Here is what you can do instead.

You have the choice to ditch the disposables, forget about the health risks they bring, reduce the waste burden on our planet and save a fair amount of money by simply switching to soft, gentle and chemical-free reusable cloth wipes. How does that sound?

Cloth wipes are extremely multifunctional and you will surely love assigning them newly discovered roles, split by colour or pattern. They can elegantly step in as practical reusable washcloths, face wiping, makeup removal and postpartum mama care pads or even reusable toilet paper.

They are also safer for your baby and can do a nice job replacing disposable face wipes, spit up cleaners or covering your little one’s naked private parts, and avoid them peeing all over the changing table in the few seconds window of time between when you take the dirty nappy off and put the clean one on. In addition, they do a much better job at cleaning poopy baby buttocks and keeping your hands clean than their thin disposable counterparts, because the fabric nicely grabs the mess and offers protection. Cleaning up with cloth is as simple as just add water and wipe:

  • Have the wipes handy, ideally close to the changing table and why not in a cute decorative basket.
  • Keep a spray bottle with water next to them. There is no need for wipe solutions, tap water at room temperature will do just fine.
  • If it is a pee you need to deal with, simply use a dry or damp wipe to dry it off. If baby has pooped, use a damp wipe or two to clean baby’s buttocks and if needed, spray some water directly on it and wipe until dry.
  • Rinse the used wipes in the sink before letting them air dry and placing to your laundry bag or if you have one, simply place the used wipes in your wet bag along with the reusable diapers and wash everything together.
  • When on the go, simply pack a few dry wipes, a wet bag and a small water filled spray bottle into your bag. You will love having a spray bottle with you, especially on hot days, as it will work wonders to refresh both yourself and your little one from the heat.


Last but not least, why not trying them out on your bottom too? You simply make one or two of them damp before use, if needed you fold them a few times to clean yourself, just as you would do with a toilet paper and rinse them again after use. If it’s a wee, reuse again next time, if it’s something more, let them air dry before adding them to your laundry bag or place them in a wet bag. That’s it. You will not only be and feel cleaner than after using a toilet paper, but you will be saving tons of trees from being cut down for your buttocks sake.

Composition of scissors, an orange thread, a white centimeter and a few needles.

DIY

Do not wait any longer. Make your own by simply cutting up old towels, flannel cloths or baby wash or burp cloths into squares and sewing an edge all around them with a serger or overlock sewing machine to avoid fraying. Happy conscious sewing!

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