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What are Antibacterial Wipes?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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Antibacterial wipes are single-use wipes which are pre-moistened with an antibacterial solution. They typically come packed in a tub or canister which keeps the wipes moist, with a dispenser which allows users to pull out a single wipe at a time. Some are designed for use in sanitizing surfaces such as countertops, while others are meant to be used as hand or body wipes for a quick cleanup in the absence of water. Many drug stores stock antibacterial wipes, and they are also available through medical supply companies.

The antibacterial solution used in antibacterial wipes is designed to kill most bacteria on contact. In the case of wipes used on the body, the solution tends to be more mild, so that it will not damage the skin, and some companies add moisturizers to their antibacterial wipes so that the skin is soothed during the wiping process. Wipes designed for cleaning are usually equipped with harsher solutions, since household surfaces are not nearly as delicate as human skin.

When used properly, antibacterial wipes can be effective at killing the bulk of bacteria on a surface. However, researchers have noted that when the wipes are re-used, utilized on multiple surfaces, or dragged across a long surface, they can actually transfer bacteria. Since the wipes eliminate most bacteria, the remaining bacteria can quickly multiply without any competition, colonizing surfaces which were swiped with the wipe. Ironically, using an antibacterial wipe can actually cause bacteria to spread.

Some researchers have also raised more general concerns about the widespread use of antibacterial products. The worry is that consistent use of such products may be contributing to the proliferation of so-called “superbugs,” bacteria which are highly resistant to antibacterial products and antibiotics. By eliminating weaker bacteria, these products promote the flourishing of more aggressive bacterial species, while lulling users into a sense of security as they mistakenly believe that they are eliminating all bacteria.

Traditional soap and water can be just as effective, when used on a regular basis. However, antibacterial wipes can be handy for people who are traveling, because they can stand in for a rinse with soap and water when water is not available. It is also possible to find generic cleansing wipes designed for this purpose. Keeping a pack of cleansing wipes, antibacterial or not, in the car or in a diaper bag can be a good idea for people who like to be prepared.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By CaithnessCC — On Sep 07, 2011

I have been using alcohol wipes for years, since long before they became really popular. I prefer them to anti bacterial wipes because they do the same job but are that little more flexible. (For instance I clean my computer screen with them.)

The downside is that the alcohol can dry your skin out, so it's best to not use them all the time. That suits me as I think there's a real danger of us becoming ultra paranoid about germs.

By SarahSon — On Sep 07, 2011

I make sure I always have enough baby wipes in the diaper bag when I leave to go somewhere. I don't like using the antibacterial baby wipes when I change my baby's diaper though.

I think the antibacterial solution is too dry on her skin and would much rather use something that is softer and not so harsh on her bottom.

I think the antibacterial wipes are great for other reasons. They are nice to use to wash my hands after I am done changing the diaper, but I don't usually carry two different kinds of wipes in the diaper bag.

By bagley79 — On Sep 06, 2011

We go camping for a week every summer in the mountains. I always make sure I have more than one pack of Wet Ones antibacterial wipes for our trip.

Since we don't have a sink or any hot water readily available, the wet wipes really come in handy. Our hands can get pretty dirty and this is the easiest and quickest way to get them clean.

I also like to know that they are sanitizing my hands at the same time with the antibacterial solution that is in them.

By wander — On Sep 06, 2011

When I travel I always carry a packet of antibacterial wipes in my backpack. I like to wipe down the toilet seat and phone before using it as I am not always positive about the cleanliness of the places I am staying in.

With the antibacterial wipes it keeps you from having to buy cleaners when you travel and pretty much does the same job if you let the surface you have wiped just dry on its own.

Non-antibacterial wipes are great too, especially if you have had a long flight. They work like a miniature shower and can make you feel a lot fresher after a long day of travel.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 05, 2011

I always keep antibacterial wipes in my kitchen because there are constantly spills and I really don't want my family getting food poisoning. My mom used to wipe everything down with bleach after she cooked with things like chicken, and while I am sure that worked well enough, I really hated the smell.

The antibacterial wipes I currently buy are pretty much odor free, are easy to travel with when needed, and of course, they are disposable. I don't think it is too sanitary to keep wiping your kitchen down with the same cloth. You can only get it so clean. Plus, less dish cloths to wash mean less laundry to do.

By EdRick — On Sep 04, 2011

The thing that people don't always realize about the antibacterial moist wipes is the the surface has to be left quite wet in order for it to work. The Lysol wipes that my gym has for the mats need 30 seconds in order to disinfect or 10 minutes to sterilize! And it has to air dry.

So a quick wipe on your grocery cart handle may make it less sticky, but otherwise it's not going to do a ton of good. Just wash your hands when you get home.

Kids especially should not be too protected from germs. I know it's a pain when they get sick, but the new research shows that protecting kids too much may actually be causing asthma! You have to let them get a little dirty and catch some colds to strengthen their immune systems. (Generally healthy kids only, obviously.)

By Bhutan — On Sep 04, 2011

@GreenWeaver - I carry antibacterial hand sanitizer, but I prefer using wet wipes. It works better when I go to the grocery store and want to wipe down the grocery cart handle.

I never used to think about the invisible germs that were on surfaces until I got hooked on antibacterial wet wipes. Now it seems I am a little obsessed with germs and really feel weird if I forget my arsenal of hand sanitizer and wet wipes when I leave the house.

I think that you can get addicted to killing germs, but I heard some experts say that some germs are necessary in order for our body to learn to fight infection. So I guess I probably need to relax a little, but it is not easy to do.

By GreenWeaver — On Sep 04, 2011

I always buy a ton of antibacterial hand wipes. I keep them in the bathrooms and I always have to buy some for my kids to take to school. These are great for school because there are so many germs all over the place and having these wipes around make it easier for the students to clean their hands which control the spread of germs.

This is really how kids get sick all of the time. The school also requests Lysol antibacterial wet wipes to clean the surfaces like door knobs, faucets and sinks in the classroom. I love using these cleaning wipes and use them at home too because not only do they do a great job at cleaning surfaces, but they also leave your room smelling fresh.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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