Baby wipes are not meant to kill germs or viruses
- Baby wipes do not kill a significant number of germs because they are meant to be gentle on a baby's bottom.
- Household wipes contain disinfecting ingredients like sodium hypochlorite, but baby wipes are water-based and contain no active germ-killing ingredients.
- The best way to keep germ-free when changing your baby is to wash your hands and your child's hands after changing their diaper.
- This article was medically reviewed by Tania Elliott, MD, who specialises in infectious diseases related to allergies and immunology for internal medicine at NYU Langone Health.
- For mores stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Baby wipes don't kill germs because they're not designed to. In this article, we discuss the ingredients in baby wipes, why they're not designed to kill germs, and how to keep you and your baby clean through the whole diaper changing.
What's in a baby wipe?
Baby wipes are designed mostly to clean the poop off a baby's bottom without damaging the skin or making it red and sore. To do this, baby wipes are made from cloth, that's soaked in a water-based solution and contains softeners and conditioners like aloe vera. Baby wipes may also contain preservatives.
But what baby wipes don't include are germ-killing disinfectants. For example if you compare a baby wipe with what's in a traditional disinfecting wipe - in the disinfecting wipe you'll find sodium hypochlorite, the germ-killing ingredient in many bleach-based cleaning products. There's also an antimicrobial ingredient called Alkyl (50% C14, 40% C12, 10% C16) dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride that's common in household disinfectants.
For more information on which cleaners do - and do not - kill bacteria and viruses, check out our guide on how to kill germs.
Why don't baby wipes kill germs?
The reason baby wipes don't contain disinfectants, and therefore don't kill germs is that "a baby's skin is very sensitive because it hasn't been exposed to a lot of things," says Ilan Shapiro, MD, a pediatrician and medical director of health education and wellness for AltaMed Health Services in California.
Therefore, don't use a household cleaning wipe on your baby because they're not designed to be used on a person's skin. Similarly, don't bother using your baby wipes as makeshift wipes for cleaning and sanitising your counters and faucets because they don't contain those disinfecting agents.
How do I keep my baby and myself clean?
Don't rely on a baby wipe to get your hands clean. If you're worried about germs, it's really not enough to swab your hands with a baby wipe after a diaper change, according to Shapiro.
"The most important part is washing your hands," he says.
So, when changing a baby's diaper, follow these steps to be sure that everyone's clean:
- Wipe the baby's bottom as necessary. You don't even have to use a baby wipe on the baby's bottom if you're just changing a wet diaper. Throw away both the diaper and the wipe.
- Wash your hands. If you're not wearing gloves, be sure to carefully wash your hands with soap and water after changing a diaper. Remember the 20-second rule to make sure you've take the time to get them really clean.
- Wash the child's hands. Some babies love to frustrate their caregivers by sticking their hands down into the diaper area during a change. Wash their hands after changing them, just in case. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using soap and water between 60°F and 120°F (15 and 48 degrees Celsius).
The bottom line on clean bottoms: a baby wipe is good for getting the situation clean, but not sterile. To really kill off the germs, opt for soap and water.
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