Reaching for a packet of antibacterial wet wipes has almost become second nature, whether you’re cleaning bathroom surfaces, scrubbing off make-up or freshening up hands and faces after a picnic.
But according to researchers at Cardiff University, while wipes might be super handy, they’re not necessarily doing what they’re meant to.
After testing seven types of wipes used in hospitals, they found the efficiency of the wipes at removing traces of MRSA bacteria, Clostridium difficile and Acinetobacter from surfaces was not up to scratch – and in some cases, they even spread the bacteria.
“This is a single small study which needs to be repeated on a larger scale to provide more reliable conclusions,” says medical director at The Smart Clinics, Dr Michael Spira. “Meanwhile, a policy of ‘one wipe, one surface’ would seem sensible.”
Wipes haven’t just been in the news because of their questionable cleaning abilities either. Since June, a six-month-old baby has suffered chemical burns from counterfeit Pampers baby wipes, a woman in Norwich has discovered a dead mouse in a packet of Huggies wipes, and in California, Huggies wipes have also been found to have glass shards in them. Still want them near your face?!
The majority of wet wipes aren’t biodegradable, meaning they can cause serious drainage problems if flushed down the loo. In June, the Guardian went so far as to call wet wipes “the biggest villain of 2015” after it was discovered wet wipes contribute to giant fatbergs in the sewage system.
These are formed by wet wipes and oil and grease that have been poured down the sink – and have been said to be as big as doubledecker buses and even jumbo jets. Eww.
Think of the turtles
The Marine Conservation Society found that the number of wet wipes found on beaches in 2014 had increased by 40%. Not only that, they estimate that 35 wipes are found for every kilometre of beach and, worst of all, turtles get confused, think the wipes are jellyfish, eat them and die.
What to do
What can we do about it? Simple: go old-school, and use a flannel and hot soapy water. Hot water and soap is more effective at killing bacteria, flannels are reusable (saving the planet and your bank account), and the turtles will appreciate it.