It's coming up on back-to-school shopping time again and we'll all be gathering up our mile long lists of supplies. It can challenging to be a non-toxic ninja when it comes to surface cleaning wipes though, and now that they've firmly planted themselves on all supplies lists, we find ourselves with the task of locating safe options. Here we examine the most common cleaning wipes and point out which ones are natural, which ones are nonsense, and which ones are all-out toxic.
Most of the mainstream wipes have multiple ingredients we want to avoid, and at school they're used to clean desks and whatever you slather on there will definitely be touching some skin throughout the day. That means it's important to choose wipes with the best ingredients whenever possible. Luckily, we found a handful of great options!
Ingredients to Avoid in Cleaning Wipes
There are several ingredients to avoid when looking for surface wipes to send to school with your kids. Keep this list handy and you'll be able to tell which products to stay away from just by reading the label.
- Synthetic fragrance is the most common offender with its 3,000 ingredient umbrella. The truth is, we'll never know what toxins are really in there, but any fragrance term on any label most likely contains endocrine disrupting phthalates.
- Ammonium chlorides including alkyl dimethyl benzyl and dioctyl dimethyl can cause reproductive toxicity and asthma.
- Quaternary ammonia compounds including myristalkonium saccharinate and quaternium ingredients are suspected reproductive toxicants and can release formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen.
- Preservatives including methylisothiazolinone, octylisothiazolinone, isothiazolinone that are immune toxicants and suspected neurotoxins.
- Ethanolamine is an asthmagen and a potential nervous system depressant.
- Hexoxyethanol is a central nervous system depressant and severe skin, eye, and respiratory tract irritant.
Safest Cleaning Wipes
This roundup of all purpose wipes includes six brands that have created a cleaning wipe without any worrisome chemicals. Let us know in the comments if you've used any of these brands — we're very curious to know how they perform in real life.
Note: Dapple and Babyganics contain the preservative sodium benzoate. After reading through many different studies and professional opinions, we've come to the conclusion that it's safe enough to use in non-skincare products, although it's important to be watch for contact dermatitis or allergic reaction.
Next Best Cleaning Wipes
We're giving the following cleaning wipes second place because they contain very small amounts of one or two ingredients have the potential to be problematic (and we're not talking about a personal care product that is meant to be used on the skin every day).
- Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes contain sodium lauryl sulfate but the company addresses concerns about contamination with the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane by using non-petroleum based ethoxylated surfactants or SLES. They claim to provide a 1,4 dioxane free, plant-derived SLS that is biodegradable and doesn't bioaccumulate in water or land.
- CleanWell Botanical Disinfecting Wipes contain polysorbate 20 and sodium coco sulfate, both of which can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane
- Better Life All Purpose Cleaning Wipes contain methylisothiazolinone but it's less than 0.01%, so keep an eye out for contact dermatitis or allergic reactions
Cleaning Wipes to Avoid
- Simple Green contains ethoxylated alcohol, isothiazolinone and unknown synthetic fragrance.
- Greenworks contains fragrance, unnamed preservatives, methylisothiazolinone and octylisothiazolinone.
- Melaleuca Tough & Tender contains fragrance for sure, but only lists a generic, undetermined amount of cleaning agents, solvents and preservatives (see EWG's score here)
- JR Watkins contains fragrance and methylisothiazolinone.
- Lysol and Clorox contain fragrance, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, alkyl dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chlorides and myristalkonium saccharinate
- Great Value and Up & Up contain fragrance, quaternium-24, dioctyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, didecyldimethyl ammonium chloride and alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride.
- Pledge contains fragrance, hexoxyethanol, quaternium-15 and ethanolamine.