Baby wipes have become an essential product for babies. The wipes are so commonly used that it’s difficult to imagine that there was ever a time parents didn’t have them. Baby wipes have evolved quite a bit since they were introduced onto the market. If you’ve been curious about the history of baby wipes, read on for everything you need to know, including how the wipes are manufactured today.
Baby wipes first originated as generic wet wipes originally designed by New Yorker Arthur Julius. Arthur worked in cosmetics and designed the wet wipes in 1957 to be used in the cosmetic industry as a way to promote skin hygiene. Arthur didn’t take his invention into the mainstream until 1960 when he introduced the wipes at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago. Arthur sold the wipes to Colonel Harland Sanders three years later to be used in his Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the technology was developed to mass-produce disposable wipes. Producing disposable wipes were rather expensive at this time, so only big brand names like Huggies and Pampers had the capital to do so. It wasn’t until the 1990s that smaller brands, particularly supermarket chains with private labels, could afford to add baby wipes to their repertoire and offer the wipes at lower prices.
Baby wipes materials are made with a non-woven fabric similar to the type of design used in diapers and dryer sheets. Non-woven fabrics often contain fibers such as cotton and rayon and plastic resins like polyethylene, polyester, and polypropylene. The process consists of pressing a single sheet of material from a mass of separate fibers. The design is made to be durable enough to handle not only tough diaper changes but also heavy-duty cleaning tasks.
The main ingredient in baby wipes is water and, in some wipes, serves as a diluent for other ingredients. Mild detergents mixed with moisturizing agents, fragrance, and preservatives are also found in some baby wipes. When you look at a package of mainstream baby wipes, you tend to see a long list of ingredients that are supposedly useful in reducing irritation or preventing microbial growth. However, there is a trend in baby wipe ingredients that is beginning to change.
Many parents are looking to use baby wipes that have fewer ingredients that will be more conducive to their baby’s sensitive skin. Companies on a mission to create more natural baby products are producing wipes with fewer ingredients that are not harmful to a baby’s skin and are also better for the environment.
During the manufacturing process, baby wipes must pass a series of quality control checkpoints to ensure safety and proper function. All materials used in the wipes must be tested. The packaging needs to be free of leakage or improper closure to prevent mold. The non-woven fabric must be uniformly formed and meet tear-strength requirements.
The most important quality control piece comes down to the cleansing solution, which goes through more rigorous testing. The formula needs to meet the requirements for mildness to ensure it is non-irritating. This is usually done through a test known as the Human Repeat Insult Patch Test (HRIPT). This test consists of applying an ingredient or series of ingredients to human volunteers after which the area is obstructed with a patch and then tested by dermatologists or clinicians.
While baby wipes are incredibly useful for parents, they’re also quite wasteful. Nearly 90% of baby wipes on the shelves contain some form of plastic, specifically polyester or polypropylene. These materials are not biodegradable and the material breaks up into tiny pieces that pollute the environment and can take up to 100 years to decompose.
Because of this wastefulness, there are more and more brands that are creating wipes that are more environmentally friendly. And, parents who are leading a sustainable lifestyle are opting for sustainable wipes. This trend is continuing to increase and more and more brands will begin changing their ingredients to be less wasteful.
Another current trend regarding baby wipe material is ingredients that are safer and gentler on baby’s skin. Many parents are finding that mainstream wipes cause skin irritation due to a large ingredient list of materials that are not sensitive for babies. Wipes with fewer ingredients that are safe and gentle are starting to dominate and major brands will likely start this shift as well.