BUNZL Cleaning & Hygiene Supplies Blog

Guide to Wet Wipes & How To Dispose of Wet Wipes

There’s no denying it – cleaners love using wet wipes. As one of the most versatile cleaning products on the market, they offer convenience alongside high performance. Whether you require food-safe cleaning products or industrial wet wipes, this blog will discuss the many different types of wipes – so that you can make an informed decision on which ones to buy, and how to safely dispose of them.

Wet wipes were invented in 1958 and were initially marketed as a ‘moist towelette’. In 1962, they truly took off when KFC decided to provide a free ‘wet-nap’ with every meal. These were simply detergent-soaked paper, but they were soon seen to be of bad quality: disintegrating quickly and falling apart before they were able to be used.

Then, a ‘non-woven towelette’ or wet wipe was developed to be just as useful but a lot more hardwearing, and much more convenient than a damp flannel. This meant that from very early on, wet wipes contained synthetic and plastic fibres as well as a balance of chemicals to help with cleaning.

Types of wipe

Industrial wipes

Industrial wet wipes are formulated to remove various kinds of dirt and grease from hands and tools. Often the best way to remove grease, lacquer or adhesive is to use a dry wipe with something like the Deb Swarfega Heavy Duty Hand Cleaner or the Deb Swarfega Lemon Hand Cleaner – both of which will remove oil, grease and other dirt quickly and effectively. Industrial wet wipes like these WypAll Cleaning Wipes that have an abrasive side to exfoliate the hands in order to remove dirt properly.

There are many different types of industrial wipes: centrefeed, hygiene rolls, large rolls, single sheets and rags. Centrefeed wipes are ideal for wipe dispensers – whether that’s in a commercial kitchen, doctor’s surgery or elsewhere. Wipe dispensers are a hygienic way to store wipes when they’re not in use and will also help to manage costs through controlled dispensing, without the need to touch the dispenser.

Speciality wipes

Multipurpose and speciality wipes are formulated to work on specific problem areas. These plastic-based wipes are soaked in an alcohol-based cleaning solution to help them leave a variety of surfaces clean. For example, these Cleanline Graffiti Cleaning Wipes help to remove all forms of graffiti and marks, leaving surfaces clean – particularly good for those working in public-facing roles where a building needs to be well presented.

For those working in offices, wipes like these Cleanline Multipurpose Office Wipes are ideal for keeping the workplace hygienic – minimising germs on keyboards, headsets and telephones.

There are many different types of speciality wipes, but one thing to bear in mind is that many speciality wipes are non-biodegradable and will, therefore, have a negative effect on the environment.

Disinfectant wipes

Disinfectant wipes are widely used at home, in cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, and even surfaces like desks, dining tables and even sometimes plates and cutlery when running water isn’t available.

In wipes like these Cleanline Sanitising Wipes, active biocidal and viricidal components are combined with alcohol to ensure that they are quick-dry. This means that they are especially effective against viruses that can be harmful to humans. These EndBac Probe & Utensil Wipes are effective at fighting bacteria associated with food poisoning, ideal for commercial kitchens.

Sanitising wipes can be useful as their disposable nature means that they are very convenient. They can be packaged in different ways: small packs (similar to what you’ll use at home), individual wipes and centrefeed. Whichever wipes that you choose to use will also depend on how you intend to use them, and at what quantity.

How to dispose of wet wipes

As the world faces a climate emergency, it’s important that we understand how to properly dispose of wet wipes. If disposed of incorrectly, they can easily clog drains and sewers, causing fatbergs or ending up in the ocean. Wet wipes make up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages, and Water UK estimates that the cost of unblocking sewers of wet wipes is around £100 million a year.

The problem lies with the fact that a lot of domestic wet wipes are labelled as flushable – but this is not the case. Wet wipes contain plastic, and even if these break down, it will contaminate the sea with microplastics that are harmful to human health when they enter the food chain. So when you’re disposing of wet wipes, be sure to send them away with your general waste.