What is a baby wipe?
A baby wipe is a moist disposable piece of cloth meant to clean babies and young children. These wet wipe usage is growing extensively due to their convenience. They act as a perfect anytime ease for cleaning dirty hands, faces and bum during a diaper change. Are Baby Wipes Safe to Use on Your Baby’s Face?
How baby wipes were born?
The convenience sought product baby wipe appeared in the market in the late 1970s. Initially, the big brands could only afford the technology to make disposable diapers & wipes like Kimberly Clarks – Huggies and P & G’s Pampers. However, with time, the technology became much more affordable making many more players enter the market.
And in the last 1-2 decades, we see many existing & new baby product brands and supermarket chains coming up with their own private label wipes made by contract manufacturers.
How are baby wipes made?
Baby wipes or says wet wipes are made up of 2 things
1. Fabric – More than 90% of wipes (Baby Wipes) found in the market are made up of non-woven fabric. Non –woven fabric is an artificially created fabric-like material that is neither knitted nor woven. The fabric-like character of the wipe gives the feel that the wipe is made up of cotton-like textile. As a result, most consumers think wet wipes are made with cotton and not with plastic.
Difference between Non- woven & woven fabric
The traditional fabric or woven fabric is made by weaving together fibers of silk, cotton, wool, bamboo to form an interlocking matrix of loops.
While synthetic fabric or non-woven fabric is fabric-like material bonded together by entangling fiber or filaments mechanically, thermally, or chemically. The commonly used synthetic fibers made of non-woven fabric are polyester, polypropylene, polyamide, rayon, etc.
The manufacturer chooses the fabric keeping in mind factors like durability, thickness, absorbency, cost, etc.
2. Cleansing ingredient – Water is the major ingredient in baby wipes. The presence of water makes the wipe susceptible to microorganism growth; hence the use of preservatives is necessary to prevent microbial growth. Any wipe including baby wipes also contains surfactants (detergent/cleanser) to lower surface tension to provide better cleaning.
Thus, a baby wipe certainly contains much more than a fabric moistened with water.
Are baby wipes free from Chemicals & Preservatives?
Baby wipe = Fabric + Water + Surfactant + Preservative
The market is continuously evolving to cater to different segment consumer needs with respect to new styles, sizes, formulation (natural ingredients, pH balanced), convenience (more absorbent), cost-effectiveness, etc.
The skin-nourishing natural ingredients like aloe vera, grapeseed oil, lavender oil, shea butter, almond oil, etc are featured on the product to give consumers the feel of the product being natural. Most brands appeal to the consumer with fancy dispensing packaging and words like natural and hypoallergenic. This is easy because these words are not regulated or backed by any law or authority but make register an impression in the minds of consumers.
So what you get in the name of the best natural and purest wipe in the world certainly contains cleansing & preservative. Thus, baby wipes cannot be 100% free from chemicals/synthetics & preservatives.
Ingredient Check – Best baby wipe brands
Let’s quickly check the ingredients of some of the best baby wipe brands.
1. Water wipes – Are marketed as the purest wipes made with only two ingredients – 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract. But in reality, there is much more than the two marketed ingredients. Refer to the image. The ingredient Benzalkonium Chloride act as a detergent and preservative in personal care, health care, household, and industrial products.
2. Huggies Natural care sensitive wipes – The baby wipes contain ingredients (Source) Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Caprylyl Glycol, Malic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Citrate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polysorbate 20, Coco-Betaine, Fragrance, polypropylene, wood pulp. There is much more beyond the natural plant-based ingredients and purified water.
3. Pampers Baby wipes –The moistened wipes cannot be made just with ingredients kind to skin. The Pampers baby wipes contain ingredients like propylene glycol. Refer Picture.
Be it any brand, the wet wipes cannot be formulated without the usage of synthetics/preservatives
The growing consumer awareness is demanding and forcing the brands to disclose complete ingredients on the product. However, there is still a lack of transparency when it comes to the nature and composition of the fabric.
Alternate to baby wipes
A baby wipe is an ease giving product. For all those who want to go completely safe with just no usage of safe or unsafe chemicals made products, one will have to sacrifice the time being convenience associated with wipes.
The best alternative to a wet wipe is to make your own wet wipe as and when you need it. Here is how you do it.
1. Carry a pack of dry soft tissue – Soft good quality paper tissue also works. Paper tissues do not cause major ecological concerns as non-woven wet wipes do.
2. Moist the wipe/tissue with plain water to clean the baby’s skin. You can replace plain water with herb water but this can turn out very expensive. This is completely an individual choice.
3. Moist the final wipe with hydrosol/herb water like chamomile, lavender, calendula, etc. These herb water help ease redness, itch or any other rash concern. You can buy a blend of these herb waters too.
So while you are out of home, you can always carry a pack of dry tissues/wipes and a bottle of hydrosol & water. A little effort to moist the tissue before the application can help avoid chemicals/preservatives exposure to the baby.
Ready to use things are a convenience but mom’s informed timely decision and effort can curtail the extensive use of baby wipes and many more sought for convenience products.
Our convenience is a cost to our planet.
Although the ecological impact is not everyone’s worry but a conscious set of consumers are raising the alarm forcing brands to make a shift to sustainable and environment friendly options.
Wet tissues or baby wipes made with non-woven fabric-like– plastic material often makes their way to landfills and finally oceans. The wet wipes are causing major sewer blockages because of their non-biodegradable nature. These wipes degrade into microplastics that disturb the overall ecosystem.