Fatbergs – those revolting sewer mountains made of wet wipes, grease and other gunk – have been cropping up all over the place in the past year or so, from London and Cardiff to Staffordshire and Devon.
As well as causing trouble in wastewater systems, wipes can find their way into oceans. Along with other types of plastic pollution, they can cause long-term problems for sea creatures and the marine environment.
Wet wipes made up more than 90% of the material causing sewer blockages ? that Water UK investigated in 2017.
Friends of the Earth commissioned a report from research group Eunomia, Reducing Household Contributions to Marine Plastic Pollution [PDF]. This reveals our everyday habits that result in all sorts of plastics getting into our seas. Sometimes from seemingly unlikely sources, such as wet wipes.
What's so wrong with wet wipes?
Millions of us have grabbed a wet wipe to clean our hands, faces, worktops, children, and almost everything else at some point. What harm can it do, we might think – they’re only little squares of wet tissue. Aren’t they?
But now people are realising that wet wipes, like so many other everyday throwaway items, contain plastic, and aren’t so harmless after all.
Three particular stories in the past year have highlighted the growing concerns over wet wipes.
Baby wipes are essential for keeping your baby fresh, clean, moisturized, and comfortable between baths.
But not all baby wipes are created equal, which is why we put so much time into finding the best baby wipes every year!
In this article, we dive into the details to teach you over a dozen important facts about baby wipes, including how they're made, ingredients, textures, cleaning effectiveness, and disposal.
What are Baby Wipes?
Baby wipes are pre-moistened towelettes designed to effectively clean and soothe a baby's skin during diaper changes.
They are usually dispensed single-serve in thin rectangular sheets made from cotton, bamboo, polyester, and other non-woven blends. Importantly, baby wipes use sensitive ingredients to avoid irritating your baby's skin, and usually contain at least one moisturizing and soothing ingredient.
For these reasons, baby wipes are perfect for cleaning both number 1 (urine) and number 2 (poop) off your baby's private parts.
How are Baby Wipes Made?
Most baby wipes are made from cotton, polyester, bamboo, or a nonwoven blend of multiple fibers that are saturated with water, oil, cleansers, and preservatives.
Instead of using a time-consuming fabric weaving process, baby wipe manufacturers use a non-woven fabrication process (similar to how dryer sheets are made).
Here are the typical steps involved in making baby wipes:
Raw ingredients such as cotton, polyester, viscose, cellulose, polypropylene, and bamboo fibers are blended together in giant vats of wet mixture.
Short and long bonds are created between the fibers using chemicals, heat, and/or force, causing them to stick together.
These fiber mixtures are then flattened, spun, and dried, and rolled into spools resembling giant paper towel rolls (see image below).
These rolls are then sent into large industrial machines that cut, shape, saturate (with the wet ingredients), fold, and package the wipes.