You want to make sure that the baby wipes you use on your baby are safe but do not have the time to research all the unpronounceable ingredients. I get it – I was in your shoes once. When I started researching baby wipes several years ago, the only thing I knew was to look for alcohol-free baby wipes. Since then, label reading has become my full-time occupation and calling. In 2013, I wrote about Kirkland Signature baby wipes. At that time, there were a few red flags among the ingredients – even formaldehyde was in them! So, I published a post about Costco baby wipes.
The post attracted over 1,000 readers daily! And that was when my blog was very small. Apparently, the manufacturers took notice of my blog, too. As a result of consumer pressure, Kirkland Signature baby wipes were reformulated in 2014, and the formaldehyde-releasing preservative was taken out. That is why I always encourage my readers to be proactive and not afraid of asking manufacturers questions. So far, I have seen quite a few changes in product formulations thanks to that!
Well, what about the Kirkland baby wipes today – are they safe? Let’s look at them together. We will first look at Kirkland Signature baby wipes and then explore Kirkland’s Moist Flushable baby wipes.
Kirkland Signature baby wipes ingredients
The Costco baby wipes consist of the following ingredients:
Purified Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Decyl Glucoside, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Glycerin Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate (Source).
Before we dive into the analysis of each ingredient, I would like to say that there are big improvements in the new formula of the Costco wipes. First, there is no more carcinogenic formaldehyde and potential exposure to 1,4-dioxane, a possible carcinogenic contaminant. Second, there is no more potentially skin-irritating propylene glycol. While I am happy about these major improvements, Kirkland Signature baby wipes are not at the top of my best baby wipes rating list, just yet. Let’s go over each ingredient to see why.
Want to know how these baby wipes compare with others?
Water in baby wipes
As we can see, like all disposable baby wipes, Costco baby wipes have purified water as their first ingredient, which seems innocuous. However, water calls for broad-spectrum preservative(s) to prevent bacteria and mold contamination before and after the baby wipes package is opened. The good news is that the Kirkland Signature baby wipes do contain preservatives. You will see that below.
Botanicals and surfactants in Costco wipes
The botanicals in Kirkland baby wipes are quite good and useful.
Aloe barbadensis leaf extract is a great skin-healing ingredient present in many baby wipes. I just wish it were organic. The chamomilla recutita and calendula officinalis flower extracts and cucumber fruit extract are also great for skin healing. On top of that, the licorice root extract has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As for surfactants, Costco baby wipes use decyl glucoside to perform the function of skin cleansing. It is among the safest surfactants and is widely used in baby products. Besides, decyl glucoside is biodegradable and doesn’t contain petroleum contaminants. It is one of the surfactants that are least likely to cause contact allergy. However, some babies may still have a skin reaction to it. Therefore, the American Contact Dermatitis Society added it to the list of allergens in 2017.
Other ingredients in Kirkland Signature baby wipes
Another ingredient in Costco wipes is tetrasodium glutamate diacetate, which is a chelating agent. There is no safety data yet. (Unfortunately, this is true with a lot of ingredients.) We do not know if it is safe for your baby’s skin.
Additionally, there are citric acid and sodium citrate, both of which are very common in baby wipes. They are used to adjust the wipes’ acidity to make them more compatible with the baby’s skin. In bigger quantities, citric acid can irritate the skin, but I don’t think it applies here.
Next is sodium bicarbonate, which is another name for baking soda. There are no concerns here. Note that it is a base and affects the pH of the baby wipes as well.
Finally, there is glycerin, which is a byproduct of soap making and has a moisturizing function. The EWG Skin Deep database rates glycerin at 1-2 with a good amount of data available. It is generally considered safe in skin care products.
Preservatives in Costco baby wipes
The two preservatives in these wipes are phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate.
To begin, phenoxyethanol is a broad-spectrum preservative, which is necessary for preventing mold and bacteria growth in the Kirkland Signature baby wipes. In my opinion, it is a big improvement over formaldehyde-releasing preservatives which these wipes used to have. It is not carcinogenic or an endocrine disruptor or a frequent allergen. However, it is not ideal, and I explicitly explain why it is not perfect in my post about the use of phenoxyethanol in skin care.
First, phenoxyethanol results from the reaction of ethylene oxide with phenol, both of which are carcinogens. And some babies may have a skin reaction to it, even in amounts as low as 1%. Thus, it is also on the list of allergens maintained by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. Second, there is no information as to how much phenoxyethanol is used in the Costco baby wipes. So, if your baby gets a diaper rash, I suggest you discontinue using the Kirkland baby wipes right away.
Then, there is sodium benzoate. It is quite common in natural baby wipes and personal care products. However, in 2017, the American Contact Dermatitis Society added sodium benzoate to its Core Allergen Series as one of the allergens. They say that it increases the risk of an allergic reaction if used in concentrations over 5%. Since there is no information as to the amount of this preservative in the Kirkland Signature baby wipes, I suggest extreme care in using the wipes. If you see some irritation on your baby’s skin, discontinue the use of the wipes immediately and refer to my Baby Wipes Rating List for wipes devoid of phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate.
A word on sodium benzoate and citric acid
There exists some confusion about the safety of sodium benzoate used as a preservative when in contact with ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C) or citric acid. It seems that a tremendous amount of inaccurate information circulates on the Internet and among consumers around this subject in connection to benzene formation. The good news is that I was able to filter out myth from real science. As a matter of fact, benzene may form only in the presence of sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid in the same product. It must be ascorbic acid for this to occur, NOT citric acid. I expand on why it must be so in my post about sodium benzoate preservative and citric acid.
Wouldn’t it be better to avoid preservatives altogether?
If phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate in Kirkland Signature baby wipes are not perfect preservatives, wouldn’t it be better to avoid baby wipes with preservatives altogether? The short answer is no. As I mentioned above, products containing water, especially baby wipes, must have preservatives to prevent bacteria and mold contamination. We can see mold with our own eyes, but we can’t see bacteria. It’s one thing to avoid toxins in products. But it is another thing to do it in a way that doesn’t increase your odds of getting sick from bacteria or mold.
To give you an example, here are some of the studies I’ve read.
The American Journal of Infection Control reported an outbreak of an infection in a neonatal intensive care unit and its possible connection to a contaminated hand lotion. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology described cases of a fungal infection caused by a compromised skin lotion in patients. The Journal of Hospital Infection reported numerous infections among 14 babies including urinary tract infection, meningitis, septicaemia, and purulent conjunctivitis. All infections were traced to a contaminated baby shampoo.
Want to know how these baby wipes compare with others?
That’s why I refuse to promote many products on my blog that don’t have any preservatives. One of such products would be WaterWipes baby wipes that claim to be the purest in the world. When I first came across them in 2014, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon of singing their praises. Instead, I wrote a critical review, and a few years later my suspicions appeared to be right. At present, the brand has revealed that it uses a preservative called benzalkonium chloride. I describe the full story about WaterWipes baby wipes and benzalkonium chloride in my post about these wipes.
Moist Flushable Costco baby wipes
In addition to Kirkland Signature baby wipes, Costco carries Moist Flushable baby wipes. Reformulated in 2015, they do not contain a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. But they do have an ingredient that raises concerns – fragrance.
The list of ingredients of Moist Flushable baby wipes
Costco Moist Flushable baby wipes consist of:
Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance, Citric Acid, Disodium Phosphate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate (Source).
Note that 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, a formaldehyde-releasing preservative, was replaced (Yay!!!) with phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate. You can see the discussion of these two preservatives above when we talked about Kirkland baby wipes. But let’s talk about fragrance.
Fragrance: A big no-no
For starters, the US has no regulation requiring that companies disclose the ingredients of the fragrance mixes they use. (Companies don’t disclose them, either, as being trade secrets.) Independent researchers have concluded that fragrance mixes, among other toxic chemicals, can contain diethyl phthalate. It is a chemical that may disrupt the normal function of the hormone system. Again, tiny amounts here and there do add up. Babies are vulnerable because of their not fully developed detox systems.
Moreover, fragrance mixes may cause allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential harms to the reproductive system.
So please, Costco, if you’re reading this, don’t use fragrance in Costco baby wipes (or in anything else).
Conclusion about Kirkland Signature baby wipes
In conclusion, Kirkland baby wipes ingredients have improved. However, they still contain ingredients that can irritate a baby’s gentle skin. If your baby experiences discomfort, stop using these baby wipes. And consider switching to a different brand. Keep in mind that organic cloth and plain soap are the safest choices for a baby. You might want to check out my Baby Wipes Rating List to find out which baby wipes, in my opinion, use better ingredients.
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