The Benefits of Antibacterial Wipes
Wipes–or wet wipes–have been around for some time. Chances are you either already use them regularly, or have used them on occasion in the past, either for personal care or general cleaning purposes. They can be incredibly convenient, but depending on why you use them, it is important to remember that not all wipes serve the same purpose. The ingredients used in the wipes show whether they are effective only for general cleaning or for cleaning and sanitising, and that is what you should be paying attention to.
Why Use Wipes
Every day we are exposed to millions of bacteria and viruses. They float through the air and rest of surfaces we touch. But they don’t all make us ill. Some are harmless to humans, while others don’t manage to get into our systems. But there is no way of knowing this ahead of time, so there is no way for you to know which areas to avoid or which surfaces to not touch. You can carry a sanitising spray or gel with you, but this is mostly effective for cleaning and sanitising your hands. They can only be used on some surfaces, and only if you have a cloth with which to wipe the surface down. Antibacterial wipes are a convenient way to carry out both actions. You can use them to clean and sanitise your hands and you can use them to clean and sanitise any surfaces you have to touch. Whether the surface be a countertop, your computer keyboard and mouse, door handles, or even toilet seats. In one swift action you not only clean, you also disinfect, preventing the transfer of any harmful viruses and bacteria.
- Antibacterial Wipes Kill Viruses
Depending on what they contain, most antibacterial wipes do kill bacteria, but only some are effective against viruses. Wipes containing benzalkonium chloride can be advertised as antibacterial because they are good at eliminating most bacteria. However, they are significantly less effective at killing viruses. For antibacterial wipes to also kill viruses they need to contain between 60 and 90 percent alcohol. Only alcohol–and in that percentage range–has been shown to reliably kill many viruses, while also being kinder to skin. But a good antibacterial wipe shouldn’t only list the alcohol content as a percentage, it should also list the type of alcohol used.
Ethanol and Isopropyl alcohol are the two most common types, and the most suitable for general use. Ethanol is more environmentally friendly of the two since it is usually processed from corn or sugar cane, and is the same type of alcohol used in alcoholic beverages. Although isopropyl alcohol is chemical compound, it is safe for use in sanitisers and is frequently used in cleaning solutions. Methanol is the alcohol to avoid and you should never use any sanitisers with methanol listed as an ingredient. Methanol is an industrial alcohol that is not only toxic to drink, it is also toxic when absorbed through the skin.
- Antibacterial Wipes Are Easy to Use
Because they are premoistened, antibacterial wipes are ready to use in most situations. Different packaging types makes them suitable for keeping in your car, at your desk at work, or even in your pocket or handbag. Every time you need to use one, you just remove a wipe, clean and sanitise, and then dispose of. Using a spray would mean also having to carry cloths with which to wipe surfaces down. And to be truly effective, you wouldn’t be able to reuse a regular cloth without cleaning it first.
If using wipes to clean visibly dirty surfaces, using two wipes can be more effective than one. Use one wipe to first thoroughly clean all the visible dirt away, and the second wipe to then ensure the surface has been properly sanitised.
What to Look for in Antibacterial Wipes
As mentioned earlier, for antibacterial wipes to be most effective against a range of bacteria and viruses, they must contain 60 to 90 percent alcohol; either ethanol or isopropyl. Lower levels of alcohol would still work but be much less effective. And alcohol levels higher than 90 percent are no more effective than lower levels, but there is the risk of the alcohol content evaporating more quickly and making them less effective. Wet wipes with benzalkonium chloride as an active ingredient as also less effective against a broad range of bacteria and viruses; they’re suitable in some situations, but not for when you want a higher level of protection against exposure to various pathogens.
You should also look for any mention of the wipes being made from non-woven cloth. While not essential, non-woven cloths can be a little tougher when used as wipes than other materials. Additionally, they can provide a bacterial barrier between the surface you are cleaning and your hands.
Pay attention to any other ingredients listed. Glycerol might be listed, and is used to help keep the wipes moist or to moisten your hands when using the wipe. Antibacterial wipes with glycerol are more suitable for using to clean and sanitise your hands, particularly when you don’t have access to soap and water, or when using a spray or gel isn’t convenient. Wipes without glycerol can still be used on your hands, though they might dry your skin out. They are more suited to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
Finally, look for an expiry date or a manufacture date. Antibacterial wipes don’t spoil, but alcohol does evaporate. Under the right circumstances, sanitising wipes should still be very effective for up to two years. After that the alcohol content might have dropped below 60 percent, making them less effective. This is why it is also better to store your wipes in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. The container should also seal properly, to reduce the rate of evaporation.
Proper Use of Wipes
As with any other sanitising product, antibacterial wipes are most beneficial when used properly. They should always leave the surface they are used on–whether it is your desk or your hands–slightly wet for a short period of time. This gives the alcohol time to properly eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses, and you should avoid drying your hands or surfaces with another cloth. And while sanitising wipes can be reused, this is only within a short period of time, and only as long as they are still moist. Once they start to dry out they are no longer of any benefit.