10 Times You Should Never Use Antibacterial Wipes
Antibacterial wipes are a time-crunched cleaner’s best friend—but here are ten things you should never use them on.
When you wipe a surface with an antibacterial wipe, you see a gratifying smudge of grime on the white rag. What you don’t see is what’s left behind—chemicals. “The major reason that I believe that people should not use antibacterial wipes as an everyday go-to wipe is that we are seeing an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” says John Manolas, co-owner of Whyte Gate and chemist. “Some of the blame for this phenomenon goes to antibacterial soaps and wipes. Most surfaces will probably be equally germ-free after regular cleaning with soap and water or other household cleaners,” he says. Manolas also stresses that parents shouldn’t use the wipes on children’s toys because kids are likely to put the toys in their mouths. Learn why you don’t need to use antibacterial soaps.
Anything that absorbs moisture
To be effective, antibacterial solutions often need to sit for several minutes to kill bacteria. If the surface is soft—foam or carpet, for example—it won’t stay wet long enough to be truly effective. If you have to use multiple wipes to achieve the result, the moisture could damage the surface. If you want to know how long your surfaces must be wet to be sterilized, look at the bottle, says Jason Courtney, owner of the Office Pride in downtown Pensacola. “Every kind of wipe has a ‘kill claim’ on the back, which indicates what it will kill in a certain amount of time. In a lab, wipes are tested for everything from hepatitis B to influenza to staphylococcus,” he says. “If the wipe kills the germ, it can be listed on the container. How long the surface must remain wet to kill the germ is spelled out on the container, too.”
If you think a swipe of an antibacterial wipe on a kitchen counter that just had raw chicken is enough to keep your family safe, think again. “Kitchen counters are hot spots for germs and bacteria, and cleaning them using only antibacterial wipes isn’t nearly enough,” says Lily Cameron, a cleaning and organizing professional and supervisor at Fantastic Services. Instead, Cameron says, when you need to disinfect your counters, use soapy hot water and a sponge. By the way, these are the 10 things you should never clean with a Magic Eraser.
Bathroom countertops and fixtures
Your bathroom sees a lot of bacteria day in and day out, and a quick swipe with an antibacterial wipe isn’t doing much to keep bacteria growth at bay. “To kill bacteria effectively, a disinfectant needs to stay on the surface for about five to ten minutes,” Cameron says. “Cleaning with antibacterial wipes leaves the surface dry less than five minutes for sure. Overusing of such wipes may expose your family to harmful chemicals without the germ-destroying benefit.” Learn the 13 secrets of people who always have a clean house.
The chemicals and other ingredients in antibacterial wipes can do damage to some of your home’s surfaces over time. This includes hardwoods, which might lose their shine after repeated scrubs. They can also be damaged by moisture. “Wood surfaces need to dry quickly, but wipes leave the surfaces relatively wet,” says Alberto Navarrete, the General Manager of Frisco Maids in Dallas, “so that is counterproductive.”
Greg Shepard founder of Dallas Maids home cleaning, also in Dallas, says: “With wood, less is more. Wood floors, furniture, and wood trimming should not be cleaned often with products because with frequent cleanings the finish dulls over time. This goes double with bacterial wipes because they contain alcohol, which damages wood’s finish.”
Wiping down the whole kitchen
If you’re tempted to take out a wipe from the canister and quickly move from your stove to your fridge to your microwave to your sink—stop yourself. Antibacterial wipes are not meant to clean large areas. In fact, you may make a bacteria problem worse if you use them for multiple spaces. “Never use one antibacterial wipe to clean more than one surface,” Cameron says. “A dirty wipe has germs remaining on it and can transport bacteria to another location. Instead, use one wipe per surface, and then toss it. Here are 10 more cleaning mistakes that actually make your home dirtier.
Surfaces with a sealant
The chemicals and acids in antibacterial wipes can eat away at the polish of sealed surfaces, like marble and granite. They may make the surfaces look dull, even scratched. Look for specially-designed sealers for these surfaces, or use plain soap and water, which is highly effective as a multi-purpose cleaner. Read about the appliance you should be cleaning every single day.
Here’s that alcohol problem again: Many disinfectant or antibacterial wipes contain it, and alcohol can dehydrate supple leather. Repeated use may leave your leather goods looking dry and chalky. If you do want to use disinfecting wipes on leather, be sure to read the label and make sure it doesn’t contain alcohol.
You can dull the beautiful finish of lacquered chairs and desks by using these alcohol-containing wipes. The same is true for any woodwork in your home, such as staircase railings or chair molding, which may have a high-sheen lacquer finish.
If the disinfectant is good for door knobs and kitchen surfaces, it should be good for your hands, right? Not so fast, Cameron says. “Never clean your hands with antibacterial wipes before or while eating, because the wipes leave a residue on the skin. Plus, not all the microbes and bacteria will wipe away,” she says. “The alcohol may irritate the skin, too. Instead, stop the spread of germs by washing your hands with soap and warm water.”
According to Brian Sansoni, vice president of communications for the American Cleaning Institute, you just need to make sure you don’t confuse antibacterial wipes designed for your hands with the disinfecting antibacterial wipes for homes and offices. “Hand wipes are a convenient way to keep your hands clean when you are away from soap and water,” he says. Check out the 10 ways you’re washing your hands wrong.