Sure, it’s super easy to pop open a can, grab a wipe, and swipe down the counter top. But besides the waste factor, antibacterial/bleach wipes, aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Bleach wipe labels often say they can be used anywhere to clean, disinfect, and kill 99.9% of germs, including viruses that kill the common cold and flu. But, if you take a minute to actually read the fine print, a few things stand out.
“It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”
“Use enough wipes for the surface to remain visibly wet for 4 minutes.”
“For surfaces that may come in contact with food, a potable water rinse is required.”
Four minutes! And a water rinse?!? That’s not quick and easy!
The truth is we don’t always need to disinfect. Sometimes simply cleaning is enough. Sure, disinfecting is important when cooking raw chicken or if a family member is sick with the flu. But most of the time simply removing the germs through cleaning with soap and water is enough. Over-use of disinfectants leads to “super bugs” and antibiotic resistant bacteria - not good!
While most schools include bleach wipes on back to school supply lists, children shouldn’t be using them. Most labels include the warnings “store in area inaccessible to small children” or “keep out of reach of children”. Some states have even banned them from schools.
Here in Washington State, the Department of Health’s Guidance for Healthy Classrooms recommends fragrance free baby wipes instead. They also say that only teachers should be using district approved cleaners.
Even though I’ve been on this toxin free mission for a few years, I admit that I’ve been buying wipes for my kids’ school! I’m definitely a rule follower and I certainly don’t want teachers to have to fill in the gaps if the supply list comes up short. But next year I’ll be providing information and safer options instead of just buying the bleach wipes. I’ve already shared this information with my daughter’s principal and her teacher and I encourage you to do the same.
Besides the reasons listed above, a quick ingredient analysis shows us why we should avoid antibacterial wipes. Although manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients in their wipes, these are commonly found in many brands:
Akyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride and Alkyl dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride
Fragrance is a proprietary term - manufacturers are not require the disclosure of individual ingredients used to create a fragrance.
So now you know. And in the words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. And then when you know better, you do better.”