Eco-Tips: How to Dispose of Wet Wipes Safely

Wet wipes are one of the most convenient ways to take care of all kinds of messes. Whether it is for your personal hygiene or the household cleaning, wet wipes are easy to carry around anytime you want. In addition, wet wipes are also gentle and smooth as they contain natural cleansing agents that won’t irritate your skin. Even some antibacterial wipes are highly effective in killing bacteria.

However, did you know that wet wipes can cause a lot of damage if not disposed of properly? From a small piece of wet tissue that you throw away, a bigger environmental problem will come. As part of Ecomaniacs, we will not let that nightmare happen! So, let’s take a look at this article to get more insight and tips on how to safely dispose of used wipes. It’s time to be a smart environmentalist and avoid unnecessary damage that may be caused by improper handling in the future.

What Is Wet Wipes?

In general, wet wipes are small to medium-sized moistened pieces of plastic or fabric that are either conveniently folded and individually wrapped. They can have various purposes based on the chemicals included in the product. For instance, diaper wipes, makeup wipes, cosmetic wipes, hand wipes, or baby wipes are designed for skin hygiene. Meanwhile, cleaning wipes are the best for house or office cleaning.

how to dispose of wet wipes
Wet Wipes

1. Why Do We Use Wet Wipes?

The main reason we use wet wipes is because they are practical. You can use wet wipes to clean anything. Form spills on the table to your dirty hands, simply use wet wipes to clean up the mess quickly. 

In addition, wet wipes are absorbed well for any kind of dirt since most of them consist of plastic materials. In fact they are made of polyester and polypropylene, which are more robust than other disposable wipes. Although they are made of plastic, don’t worry! Wet wipes are mostly soft and resemble cotton qualities.

Besides, wet wipes are also frequently made with antibacterial materials. Therefore, not only clean the mess, wet wipes also can sterilize the surface.

2. What Are Wet Wipes Made Of?

Beside plastics, wet wipes are made of various materials that make them stubborn fabric with a great absorbency, resilience, softness and strength. Therefore, this makes them non flushable wet wipes and needs a proper waste disposal strategy. As you learn what materials that create your used wet wipes, we hope you can dispose of used wipes properly.

Polyester (PET) & Polypropylene (PP)

As previously mentioned, PE and PP are the plastic materials that make your cleaning wipes and also cosmetic wipes. These plastics are famous for having good strength, which is why they are frequently employed in the production of wet wipes. However, due to their innate hydrophobicity, these synthetic fibers have a poor absorption capacity.

Viscose (Rayon in USA) & Tencel

Made from wood pulp or bamboo pulp, these materials are a great renewable source of raw material. They are renowned for their softness and for having good strength and absorbency qualities by nature. So, they frequently have uses in which they guard against skin irritability in baby wipes, diaper wipes and makeup wipes.

Wood Pulp

This is the primary raw ingredient in wet wipes. They have good cleaning and absorbency qualities due to their huge surface area and flat, ribbon-like shape. However, this material has poor strength.

Cotton

Cotton has a better absorbent capacity and wicking compared to viscose. They are ideal for flushable products such as cottonelle wet wipes. Moreover,  cotton has a flat, ribbon-like surface that is noted for having good cleaning qualities. In comparison to viscose, cotton has less softness.

3. The Harmful Chemicals In Baby Wipes

Many baby wipes available today have corrosive substances, poisonous perfumes, and chemical preservatives. These hazardous materials can cause diaper rash, skin irritation, and other health problems in babies. If you find these hazardous materials below on your baby wipes, we recommend you choose the safer products.

The Harmful Chemicals
The Harmful Chemicals In Baby Wipes

Parabens

Parabens are a selection of typical preservatives, which add to the list of dangerous components in baby wipes. Parabens serve as a preservative to let the wet wipes last longer and absorb into the skin more swiftly. However, some chemicals in this family, such as methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, and butylparaben may irritate your baby skin.

Bronopol

Bronopol is a preservative also known as 2-Bromo-2-nitro-1,3-propanediol.  It is a well-known irritant and shouldn’t truly be present in infant products. When this discarded material is dumped into rivers and oceans, aquatic life is also severely poisoned.

Triclosan

To kill germs, this chemical can be put to baby wipes as an antibacterial agent. Despite how amazing this sounds, there is evidence that triclosan is neither highly safe nor effective. Triclosan is regarded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a probable endocrine disruptor due to animal studies demonstrating decreased thyroid hormone levels. Recently, it was prohibited from being used in several antibacterial wipes.

Phenoxyethanol

As producers strive to eliminate parabens, phenoxyethanol is becoming increasingly widely used in baby wipes. However, it can irritate the mouth, so we recommend you to avoid using it there. According to the FDA, it shouldn’t be used on babies because it can also depress the infant central nervous system.

Phthalates

These are no longer frequently used as separate ingredients in baby products, but they may still be present in perfumes or other smells. Because of this, you should always steer clear of scented baby products unless they are only prepared with essential oils. Phthalates are a problem since it’s assumed that they act as endocrine disruptors and alter how hormones function in the body.

4. How Many Wet Wipes We Are Using?

In our daily life, cleaning is an important activity to keep yourself and surroundings hygiene. And, wet wipes are a practical tool for many people around the world in case they need a quick and simple cleaning. No wonder that by 2017, there were almost 68 billion individual wet wipes used in the 28 EU member states, producing 511,000 tonnes of waste annually. Meanwhile, 16.31 million Americans used pre-moist wipes or towels at least 31 times in a week in 2020.

How Many Wet Wipes We Are Using
How Many Wet Wipes We Are Using

According to Metro.co.uk, there are an astonishing 11 billion wet wipes used each year in The UK, especially baby wipes which become newborn essentials. In fact, you will use about 8,280 wipes in your baby’s first year. The number of wet wipes you need will increase as the baby grows which causes environmental chaos to our waterways. 

Moreover, you also need a different wet wipe to clean a certain mess. Did you know how many types of wet wipes we are using? To answer the question, let us explain 5 common wet wipes we frequently use everyday.

Baby Wipes

The majority of these wipes are fragrance-free to reduce the risk of allergic reactions. Because disposable baby wipes are soft, soothing, and created especially for a baby’s skin, they can assist parents deal with the regular bowel movements their child makes. Baby wipes can be used for a variety of other purposes, such as wiping toys or cleaning food off a baby’s hands or face.

Antibacterial Wipes

Antibacterial hand wipes are the most practical and well-liked kind of wipe. These are helpful if you don’t have access to soap and water to wash your hands since, depending on the type you use, they can help eliminate 99.9% of the bacteria on your hands.

Flushable Wipes

It’s crucial to be aware that not all wipes can be flushed. Therefore, flushable wipes are made of renewable material that won’t harm your septic systems. For instance, cottonelle wet wipes are flushable compared to other products. Additionally, because they are softer for wiping than toilet paper, flushable wipes can be more calming and useful.

Cosmetic Wipes

Since the face is more sensitive than other skin parts, usually we use cosmetic wipes to remove our makeup. It can clean your face and treat the acne well. Additionally, if you don’t have time to shower after a long day, they can be a welcome way to remove dirt.

Disinfecting Wipes

For household cleaning, we recommend you to use disinfecting wipes. These are designed particularly to kill bacteria, some may also destroy viruses and mold. Although they can’t always ensure complete eradication, they can lessen the danger of subsequent contamination. They typically include potent chemicals like ethanol, benzalkonium chloride 0.1%, and fragrance components.

How Long Do Wet Wipes Take To Disintegrate?

According to experts, it could take 100 years for wet wipes to break down. As we know, wet wipes which are widely used for cleaning homes and removing makeup were discovered to contain up to 75% polyester. Similar to plastic bags, because wet wipes contain plastic, they are also difficult to decompose.

how to dispose of wet wipes
How Long Do Wet Wipes Take To Disintegrate

Even if they are flushed down the toilet, the plastic will linger as synthetic fibers in rivers and seas for decades, endangering marine life. In the same way that microbeads discovered in scrubs are expected to infiltrate the human food chain through seafood, so are these plastic fragments. If consumed, the polyester fibers can jam an animal’s stomach, making it feel full and increasing the likelihood that it would starve.

Wet Wipes Environmental Problems

As wet wipes can’t be broken down easily, they may cause environmental issues without a correct waste disposal strategy. Wet wipes aren’t biodegradable material, so we don’t recommend you flush them on your toilet. Despite this, a lot of individuals continue to flush them down the toilet, which leads to over 300,000 sewage blockages annually, according to Envirotech

Moreover, wet wipes contain plastic that may create microplastic issues when thrown away on the ocean. Wet wipes that find their way into the water are swallowed by marine life, including turtles, which mistake them for jellyfish and therefore perish.

The Right Ways On How To Dispose Wet Wipes

We should dispose of wipes safely to protect the environment, your home’s plumbing, and the sewage system. It’s because plastic is a common ingredient in baby wipes, cosmetic wipes, and home cleaning wipes. However, if they are flushed down the toilet, they can create bigger problems by contaminating the sea and rivers. So, we will guide you on how to dispose of wet wipes properly in the following points below!

how to dispose of wet wipes
The Right Ways On How To Dispose Wet Wipes

1. Create A Wet Wipe Disposal Bin

Similar to separating an organic disposed trash and inorganic disposed trash, you can place them in a wet wipe disposal bin. Make sure you place the trash bin in the toilet or kitchen where you frequently use wet wipes.

2. Compost Your Flushable Wipes

If your wet wipes are labeled as flushable, you can also compost them in your backyard. As they are made of natural ingredients, they will decompose in a few months without any toxic elements. 

3. Do Not Flush Wet Wipes In The Toilet

Although they are labeled as flushable, we don’t recommend you to flush them in the toilet to avoid clogging your pipes. Even flushable wet wipes take several times to break down, so there is still the possibility of clogging.

Wet Wipes Alternatives

Instead of disposing of wet wipes that take a long time and may harm the environment, we have compiled several eco-friendly wet wipes alternatives for various purposes. These are great options which are safer and sustainable to protect our planet!

Biodegradable Wipes
Biodegradable Wipes

1. Recycled Toilet Paper

Use recycled toilet paper instead of products that are mislabeled “toilet wipes” to promote paper recycling and reduce landfill waste. Recycled toilet paper is also a great alternative to disposable wipes. Moreover, toilet paper decomposes quickly, in contrast to wet wipes. 

2. Cloth Wipes

For more sustainable alternatives, using cloth wipes is a brilliant choice. These are ideal for replacing baby wipes as they are washable and can be used many times. You can also add your preferred soap and essential oils to the cloth wipes, which are safer for your baby skin.

3. Toilet Paper Spray

Instead of buying wet wipes, why don’t you buy the toilet paper spray? Spray your sheets with a mixture of organic and natural components, making an eco-friendly option that won’t flush with plastic. Additionally, they are ideal for delicate skin due to their all-natural composition. 

4. Biodegradable Wipes

Biodegradable wipes offer versatility and convenience in an eco-friendly way, which is just what you’re looking for. They are usually made from cotton or bamboo. Besides, biodegradable wipes are suited for a variety of uses. They are effective for personal care, removing waste-free makeup, and even cleaning up a baby’s mess without leaving any pollution behind.

Final Thought

We prefer using wet wipes because of its practicality and convenience. However, they will become environmental problems if we don’t know how to dispose of wet wipes safely. Therefore, we also have responsibility in disposing of wet wipes in the right ways. Besides, we can also promote paper recycling by using wet wipes alternatives. Hopefully, our explanation can give you a lot of fruitful insights on how to dispose of wet wipes everyday and use them wisely. 


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FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)

What to use instead of baby wipes for diaper rash?

You can use washable baby clothes for your babies in case baby wipes rash their skin. The fibers of washcloths are gentle enough to protect the baby’s tender bottom while still being strong enough to be utilized for wiping. Besides, you might place the infant in a tub or basin filled with lukewarm water for a while.

Why should you not flush wet wipes?

Because wet wipes will gradually accumulate in your pipes, preventing proper toilet flushing and perhaps causing sewage to back up into your home through your toilet. You may have a costly mess to clean up if the blockage happens on a pipe that you are in charge of. For more tips on how to dispose of wet wipes in the right ways, you can check in the article above.

Where do you throw away baby wipes?

The only acceptable way to get rid of baby wipes is to put them in the trash. We don’t recommend you to throw away baby wipes unless they are made of biodegradable materials. In addition, flushing them in the toilet may cause clogging in your pipes.

Which wet wipes are really flushable?

Wet wipes that are made of biodegradable materials such as cotton and bamboo can break down quickly after flushing them in the toilet. The product should be fully made of natural ingredients to make it really flushable. For instance, Cottonelle Flushable Wipes are completely made of 100% biodegradable fibers which are flushable and begin to decompose right away.

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