WTF is with the Different Wipes?
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WTF is with the Different Wipes?

By Rhiannon Giles

Here’s a secret: most of parenthood is just wiping off various body parts and surfaces. Babies and are surprisingly leaky. Then there is postpartum bleeding and accidental milk letdowns.

There are specialty wipes formulated for almost every accident, fluid, and germ. I bought a variety for my first baby. Mostly because they were brightly colored and smelled good and I was a postpartum mess of hormones and fear. If you buy them all, you will likely find them dried out before you ever get around to using them. And you will probably lose feeling in your arm from carrying the weight of the overly-prepared diaper bag.

All wipes, whether for your baby’s butt or her pacifier, have preservatives. Water is simply a great breeding ground for bacteria. With the exception of disinfecting and sanitizing wipes, the specific ingredients are less about the type of wipe and more about the brand.

You will probably discover that you can make do having just a few types on hand.

Here are some of the wipe varieties you might come across:

General-purpose baby wipes

These are just your basic wipes. The ones you use on your baby’s butt. They span the spectrum from almost-entirely-water to scented like a springtime rainstorm full of unpronounceable ingredients. Avoid unnecessary ingredients such as fragrances if you want to substitute for other varieties of wipe.

Disinfecting surface wipes

Look, I’m all for natural cleaning products. I love letting my kids get dirty. But the second someone pukes in my house, I’m going to bleach the shit out of the place. These wipes (and their spray counterparts) will kill most surface germs but also contain ingredients such as bleach, Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, and Isopropyl Alcohol. Use according to package directions to disinfect any surfaces your little outbreak monkeys have touched. Definitely, don’t use on skin!

For basic messes, I like the more natural wipes that use plant oils to disinfect. Seventh Generation uses thyme oil as the active ingredient — bonus, your counters will smell like pizza! Is that a bonus? I’m not sure.

Sanitizing hand wipes

Germs are not something that have to be feared at every turn – but there are occasional situations where it’s nice to have that back up. Keep a few individually-wrapped wipes in your diaper bag for times when you do not have access to soap and water. Like when your little one picks up a used bandage or dirty diaper on the playground. Alcohol is the most effective germ killer in hand sanitizers. So look for alcohol-based wipes and remember that, when possible, hand washing is always your best bet.

Pacifier, toy, and surface wipes

Full disclosure, I mostly just wiped pacifiers off and handed them back. Or did the questionable “clean with my spit” thing. But sometimes I’m sort of gross, so maybe you don’t want to be like me.

Between brands, the ingredients in these sorts of wipes vary somewhat, though Glycerin, Aloe Extract, Sodium Benzoate, and Sodium Chloride (AKA table salt) are all frequent fliers.

The main takeaway for me was that there is a surprising lack of variation within brands. For instance, Dapple Pure and Clean Everything wipes and their Paci wipes are almost identical. The same is true of Babyganics Toy and Highchair wipes and their Everything wipe.

Wipes for heads, shoulders, knees, and toes (but mostly faces and hands)

For the most part, these also contain water, glycerin, and salt as main ingredients. The variation comes in the oils and extracts that are added. Aloe and chamomile are used by many brands. They all claim that their blends are the healthiest, most gentle wipes you could use on your snot-crusted infant. Some examples include Boogie Wipes, Neet Cheeks, and Babyganics Hand & Face.

Fever wipes

When your kid has a fever you will do almost anything to make them feel better and that is where these come in. Fevers are not the enemy in and of themselves, but it is still hard to see our kids suffer.

Fever wipes are very similar to other face wipes, but add alcohol and peppermint oil for a cooling effect.

Tooth wipes

I tried these with my first. I have since figured I could buy a lot of wine and chocolate for the additional price of specialty tooth cleaning wipes.

They contain natural oils and Xylitol and can be useful if you have a kid who is very resistant to teeth brushing. (Remember that Xylitol is very toxic to dogs, so keep the package out of reach!)

Personally, I found a damp washcloth was good enough for the pre-tooth stage. Later, I just bought some infant toothpaste and a toothbrush

Breast pump wipes

Medela has the market cornered on these wipes for pumping on the go. They contain a variety of types of Ammonium Chloride. Unless I was away from all modern convenience, I usually stuck my pump parts in the fridge and washed at the end of the day.

Bottom line

First, let’s all bask in the glory of that pun. Bottom line.

  • Check the ingredients. Even within each type of wipe there can be a vast difference in ingredients between brands.
  • You can usually employ one type of wipe for more than one type of problem.
  • With teeny tiny newborns or preemies, you will want to use a very soft washcloth with water in most cases.
  • Never underestimate the power of your thumb and some spit to get schmutz off of your baby’s face.
  • After the first time they coat themselves in … whatever that was, you can assume gentle butt wipes will do the job.

Now, I know inevitably someone has a story about how a particular sort of wipe saved their life and is the future cure of world hunger and bringer of peace. So if you see a life-altering use for any of these, go ahead and get them. They aren’t going to hurt anything and they may prove very useful!

Just don’t think you need 89203892034 types of wipes in order to survive until tomorrow.

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