Did you know there is a difference between antibacterial wipes and disinfectant wipes? Antibacterial wipes are EPA-approved for killing bacteria but not viruses. Disinfectant wipes are EPA-approved to kill bacteria and viruses. There are a few things to keep in mind when using either kind of wipe that will ensure you receive the desired results and do not have any household or health issues.
It is important for consumers to read the manufacturer’s instructions on disinfectant or antibacterial wipes, remembering they are only approved to kill bacteria or germs and may not kill viruses. If you're still uncertain, you can check the EPA government website to learn about the official registration status of the wipes you bought.
Antibacterial wipes should not double as cleaning cloths. Clean the surface you want to sanitize with mild soap and water, then allow it to dry, before pulling out your wipe. The wipes are designed to remove germs and bacteria and they may not work effectively if the surfaces are not clean enough for the chemical solutions to make direct, complete contact.
Soft surfaces, like carpet and furniture with fabric coverings, are not good candidates for disinfectant or antibacterial wipes because they tend to absorb the liquids before they have a chance to kill the germs. Other soft surfaces to avoid are leather-covered items — the chemicals in the wipes can damage these materials. For best results, reserve your disinfectant or antibacterial wipes for hard, non-porous surfaces like the plastics and steel on kitchens appliances and sinks. Luckily, these are also the areas where germs tend to live longer.
Food and toys cleaned with antibacterial wipes can cause nausea when eaten or put into a child’s mouth. Fruit should be washed using water and a soft brush, while toys should be cleaned with mild soap and water or products recommended by the manufacturer, to limit the ingestion of any chemicals. For assistance or guidance on exposure to antibacterial wipes, consumers can contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
One antibacterial wipe contains enough bacteria-killing chemicals for about 2 square feet. The wipes should leave enough liquid on the surface to remain wet up to several minutes, to kill any germs or bacteria. The longer a wipe is used, the less liquid it has and the dryer it becomes. Once a wipe is dried out, it is no longer effective in killing germs and bacteria, and continuing to wipe surfaces with it could result in sliding the germs around.
Do not put antibacterial wipes in the toilet. The material used to manufacture the wipes does not break down easily and can block sewer lines and cause costly plumbing issues. Use caution even when disposing of disinfectant or antibacterial wipes labeled "flushable," since not all sewage systems can accept these. Follow the local guidelines for disposing of wipes — this may require you to put them in your household trash.
If overused, the chemicals in antibacterial wipes can cause issues with the fingerprint-proof coating on electronic device screens, like smartphones. Installing a shatter-resistant cover on devices will offer a layer of protection against this damage. When using wipes to clean electronics, keep the wet fabric away from any open device ports to limit device malfunctions.
Although some antibacterial wipes are safe to use on your hands, care should be taken since the chemicals they contain, like alcohol, can irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions. Antibacterial wipes should not be used as a substitute for cleaning hands with soap and water; for skin health and environmental purposes, save this use for when you don't have access to water.
It is important to sanitize and disinfect surfaces in your home, especially if a family member is sick. However, overuse of antibacterial wipes can actually work counter to their intended effect. Wipes that are intended to kill bad bacteria may also kill healthy bacteria, which could contribute to superbugs. Using wipes only as directed by the manufacturer, and turning to other cleaning products, like soap and water, for the majority of tidying, will help minimize these issues.
As with any other product containing chemicals, store disinfectant and antibacterial wipes safely away from young children and pets. In addition to the ingredients themselves, the packaging of these wipes can pose a choking hazard. Even antibacterial wipes that are labeled as "all-natural" should be kept in high or locked cabinets, as allergies or toxicity are possible with natural products as well as synthetics.