Antibacterial wipes are single-use wipes which are pre-moistened with an antibacterial solution. They typically come packed in a tub or canister which keeps the wipes moist, with a dispenser which allows users to pull out a single wipe at a time. Some are designed for use in sanitizing surfaces such as countertops, while others are meant to be used as hand or body wipes for a quick cleanup in the absence of water. Many drug stores stock antibacterial wipes, and they are also available through medical supply companies.
The antibacterial solution used in antibacterial wipes is designed to kill most bacteria on contact. In the case of wipes used on the body, the solution tends to be more mild, so that it will not damage the skin, and some companies add moisturizers to their antibacterial wipes so that the skin is soothed during the wiping process. Wipes designed for cleaning are usually equipped with harsher solutions, since household surfaces are not nearly as delicate as human skin.
When used properly, antibacterial wipes can be effective at killing the bulk of bacteria on a surface. However, researchers have noted that when the wipes are re-used, utilized on multiple surfaces, or dragged across a long surface, they can actually transfer bacteria. Since the wipes eliminate most bacteria, the remaining bacteria can quickly multiply without any competition, colonizing surfaces which were swiped with the wipe. Ironically, using an antibacterial wipe can actually cause bacteria to spread.
Some researchers have also raised more general concerns about the widespread use of antibacterial products. The worry is that consistent use of such products may be contributing to the proliferation of so-called “superbugs,” bacteria which are highly resistant to antibacterial products and antibiotics. By eliminating weaker bacteria, these products promote the flourishing of more aggressive bacterial species, while lulling users into a sense of security as they mistakenly believe that they are eliminating all bacteria.
Traditional soap and water can be just as effective, when used on a regular basis. However, antibacterial wipes can be handy for people who are traveling, because they can stand in for a rinse with soap and water when water is not available. It is also possible to find generic cleansing wipes designed for this purpose. Keeping a pack of cleansing wipes, antibacterial or not, in the car or in a diaper bag can be a good idea for people who like to be prepared.