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Are Pampers Aqua Pure Wipes Safe?

Written by Irina Webb

As a parent, you always have your baby’s best interest at heart.  You want your baby to be safe and healthy.  So, you start paying attention to things that go on her body and her skin.  Baby wipes are some of those products, as your child comes in contact with them almost immediately after her birth.  Today, we will take a close look at the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes, which are in the top half of my rating list – yet, they did not make it to the top.  Let’s see together what it is that prevents Pampers baby wipes from becoming the best wet wipes for newborn babies.  

You do not want to have doubts about whether the baby wipes you are using are safe enough for your baby.  And rightfully so.  I understand you completely.  Several years ago, I started researching baby wipes because I had just had a baby and had the same concerns as you.  Since then, reading labels has turned into my lifestyle and full-time vocation.  All the baby wipes brands I’ve investigated are included in a rating list, which I update annually. 

are pampers aqua pure wipes safe. a photo of a toddler in a diaper sitting on the bank of a pure lake.

Baby wipes and skin penetration

When it comes to wet wipes, it is important to understand that the ingredients of the wipes don’t just stay on the skin and then evaporate.  Our skin can absorb things we put on it.

How do we know that products we put on our skin penetrate the skin and end up in our bloodstream?

For illustration, some prescription drugs are more effective when delivered via the skin.  A good example would be nicotine patches and birth control patches which are popular and very effective.  This should give us pause when we consider what to put on our skin.

If you read the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review reports, you’ll see that they talk about skin penetration.  So do the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) reports.  Different chemicals penetrate the skin at different rates.  There are some that barely penetrate the skin because they have big molecules.  Others penetrate very well, especially when a product contains skin absorption enhancing ingredients in it.

Therefore, what we want for baby wipes is to have as few concerning ingredients as possible or better yet – none whatsoever.  Let’s look at the ingredients of Pampers Aqua Pure wipes to see if they have any concerning chemicals.

The ingredients of Pampers baby wipes

Here is the latest ingredient list for Pampers Aqua Pure wipes.  Are they as pure as their name suggests?

Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Sorbitan Caprylate, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Benzoate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Organic Cotton, Regenerated Cellulose, Polyester.

Let me group the ingredients for better understanding.

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Pampers Aqua Pure wipes ingredients of low concern

Citric acid and sodium citrate

Small amounts of these ingredients are enough to regulate the pH of baby wipes.  So, I do not think there is a skin irritation concern here.  However, most citric acid/sodium citrate on the market is derived from GMO corn.  As for Pampers baby wipes, I don’t have any information as to their derivation method of the citric acid.

Sorbitan caprylate

It is a relatively new chemical and there is not much information on it yet.  According to the 2002 Cosmetic Ingredient Review report, chemicals that belong to the group of sorbitans are only mild irritants.  I would not worry about it when it comes to products, we use on ourselves.  The big picture is that anything can cause irritation.  However, when it comes to a baby, I would make a note of that.

By the way, if you use the Skin Deep database for your product research, make sure to pay attention to data availability.  Here are some helpful tips on how to use the Skin Deep database effectively.

Disodium EDTA and xanthan gum

While Disodium EDTA is safe, it increases skin absorption.  It means that if there are any contaminants, their absorption will increase.

Xanthan gum is a common thickener and is generally considered safe.  Although, it is often produced from genetically modified corn, and we don’t know its source in the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes.

Preservatives in Pampers baby wipes

Preservatives in baby wipes are one of the causes of skin irritation for babies.  Unfortunately, all baby wipes must contain preservatives due to the high content of water in them.  Without preservatives, water creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.  However, there is good news! 

When I first started reviewing wipes in search of the best wet wipes for newborn babies, I was startled.  Many wet wipes contained formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.  My heart ached to hear from parents about their babies’ painful skin rashes.

Luckily, many manufacturers have taken out formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.  Instead, they started using phenoxyethanol, which was a big improvement.  Nevertheless, even though phenoxyethanol is better than formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, it’s not perfect.  You can learn why this is so in the Phenoxyethanol in Skincare post.  This year, while doing my annual baby wipes review, I noticed that the trend is to replace phenoxyethanol with a safer preservative.  Yay!  It is so great to see consumer pressure at work!

Sodium benzoate in wet wipes

Pampers baby wipes use sodium benzoate, which is a huge upgrade.  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%.  I do not have information as to how much sodium benzoate Pampers baby wipes use.  So, if you see irritation on your baby’s skin, I recommend you discontinue the use of the wipes immediately.

Pampers Aqua Pure wipes ingredients with contamination concerns

The ingredient of highest concern to me in these wipes is PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil because it is an ethoxylated ingredient.  Let’s talk about what that means.

Ethoxylated ingredients in baby wipes

Regrettably, to make their wet wipes, many manufacturers use harsh petrochemicals as raw materials.  To reduce their skin-irritating properties, manufacturers use the process of ethoxylation.  During this process, they add ethylene oxide.  The concern is that traces of unreacted ethylene oxide may remain in the final product.  However, they will not show up as a listed ingredient.  I expand on this subject in the Hidden Ingredients in the Best Baby Wipes post. 

Additionally, ethoxylation generates a byproduct called 1,4-dioxane, which is nasty.  Again, you won’t find 1,4-dioxane listed among the ingredients.  The law considers it a contaminant and not an ingredient that manufacturers need to disclose.  They can use a vacuum-stripping method to eliminate 1,4-dioxane, but if they don’t, the harmful chemical can remain in the baby wipes.

Both ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane are classified as carcinogens.  The Environmental Working Group has given the latter the rating of 5-8 depending on the use.  And it rates ethylene oxide at 8-10.  Besides, both ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane can cause skin rash. 

PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil in the Pampers baby wipes

The word “PEG” with a number linked to it is an indication that the ingredient may be contaminated with the carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.  The ingredient may not be harmful in and of itself.  However, if the ingredient manufacturer does not use the vacuum-cleaning process, it can become contaminated.  Therefore, it is best to avoid ethoxylated ingredients if possible.  It is because the only way to be certain they are not contaminated is to send the wipes to a testing laboratory.   

Some other ethoxylated ingredients to avoid are

  • Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone
  • Potassium Laureth Phosphate
  • Polysorbate 20
  • PEG-75 Lanolin
  • Ceteareth-20

As I mentioned above, there is no way of knowing for sure whether these ingredients are present in a wet wipe.  Therefore, out of caution, I penalized baby wipes brands that use ethoxylated ingredients in my Baby Wipes Rating List.

Pampers Aqua Pure wipes fabric

The fabric is made of organic cotton, regenerated cellulose, and polyester.

Organic cotton

It is great that the Pampers baby wipes use organic cotton instead of conventional cotton.  The fact of the matter is that agriculturally conventional cotton needs a lot of pesticides and fungicides.  In accordance with Pesticide Action Network UK, globally, this crop covers just 2.4% of the world’s cultivated land but uses 6% of the world’s pesticides (and 16% of insecticides).  It is more than any other single major crop.  And the US is the main user of these pesticides. 

Therefore, organic cotton is always better than conventional cotton.  However, it is not clear whether the cotton in the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes has GOTS certification.

Regenerated cellulose

Regenerated cellulose is also called rayon, which is made from wood pulp.  EWG’s Skin Deep database rates rayon at 1 (with 10 being the most toxic) with limited data.  Unfortunately, the process of conversion of the material from wood to fabric may involve solvents that may be potentially toxic to the environment. 


Frankly speaking, I’m not very happy about polyester being a part of the Pampers baby wipes.  I always wonder about chemicals to which this material may expose my baby.  To produce polyester, a polymer gets synthesized from crude oil.  Then, the polymer is turned into a fabric.  The manufacturing process involves multiple chemicals at its various stages.  They act as lubricants, sizing agents, anti-static agents, bleaches, and wetting agents. 

Manufacturers say they get rid of these chemicals before the fabric reaches consumers.  However, there are many other chemical agents they frequently add during the later stages of fabric manufacture.  They stay there to impart a variety of features on polyesters.  Some of these features are shrinkage, as well as wrinkle-, stain-, bacteria-, and static-resistance, softness, color, and flame retardant qualities (source). 

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Pampers Aqua Pure wipes and other Pampers baby wipes

I included three kinds of Pampers wet wipes into my Baby Wipes Rating List.  They are Pampers® Sensitive™ Wipes, Pampers® Baby Fresh™ Wipes, and Pampers® Aqua Pure Baby Wipes.  This does not mean that I recommend them all.  I only recommend some brands in my rating lists.

Comparison of Pampers baby wipes

In general, the ingredients in Pampers sensitive wipes and baby fresh wipes are basically the same as the ingredients in the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes, except for a few additions.  However, these additions turn out to be crucial in the baby wipe rating process.

To begin with, both sensitive wipes and baby fresh wipes contain ethoxylated ingredients.  Not only do they have PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, but they also have Bis-PEG/PPG-16/16 PEG/PPG-16/16 Dimethicone.  And we’ve discussed ethoxylated ingredients earlier in the article.

Then, unlike Pampers Aqua Pure wipes and sensitive wipes, Pampers baby fresh wipes contain fragrance.  I have so much to say about natural fragrance that it can turn into a whole new post (which I already have, by the way).  In short, fragrance is a combination of numerous ingredients that manufacturers have a right not to disclose.  These multiple ingredients – read ‘chemicals’ – may cause all sorts of allergies.  Therefore, in my Baby Wipes Rating List, I rate fragrance at 8 (with 10 being the most toxic).

Lastly, the fabric is different in Pampers baby wipes.  As you know, Pampers Aqua Pure wipes utilize organic cotton, regenerated cellulose, and polyester.  Both the sensitive wipes and the fresh baby wipes use polypropylene and regenerated cellulose.  Polypropylene means plastic with recycle code 5.  While it is one of the safest types of plastic, I am still not a big fan of it.  First, it is not biodegradable.  Second, recent studies have shown that almost all plastic may contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals, also known as hormone disruptors.

What are the best baby wipes for sensitive skin?

So, what are the best wet wipes out of the three kinds of Pampers baby wipes? 

Well, the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes hold the highest position among the three.  Yet, they are not the best out there.  It is important to understand that even the best wipes may have side effects.  Because babies’ skin is very sensitive and must undergo a lot of wiping, even the best disposable wipes can cause a reaction.  While some people prefer homemade baby wipes, others use water washing over the sink. 

But here is something important I want to tell you: in our dynamic world it’s ok to use wet wipes.  Don’t blame yourself for it.  Just stop using them if you see signs of irritation.  The important thing is now you know that baby wipes can be a culprit of skin irritation and you will know to watch out for that.  Not many parents know that, so you are ahead of the curve.  And you should feel good about it.

Conclusion about Pampers Aqua Pure wipes

So, are the Pampers Aqua Pure wipes really pure?  I can say for sure that they have an improved formula and I applaud Pampers for that.  However, they are not at the top of my baby wipes list mainly because they contain an ethoxylated ingredient.  In other words, there is room for improvement, Pampers.  If you want to know which baby wipes I consider the best, check out my Baby Wipes Rating List.

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31 thoughts on “Are Pampers Aqua Pure Wipes Safe?”

  1. Never thought about the wipes well not true we buy BJ’s brand of natural ones for messes and the occasion when we use sposies but we cloth diaper our kids. So I make my own wipes solution with water, squirt or Dr. Bronner’s soap and olive oil or organic canola (not the best but it’s cheaper) on my cloth wipes. Or I just use plain water.

  2. Thanks for looking into these wipes more specifically, Irina! Onwards with Honest wipes it is. I like the idea of going cloth/water, but that’s not practical for our limited set-up… Cloth diapering is enough of an adventure for me to handle at the moment. 🙂

    1. Which cloth diapers are you using? I am curious because I think I found cloth diapers that are very easy to use (still finalizing my research).

      1. I use gDiapers. I know they aren’t the cheapest system, or necessarily the most simple, but I like the option to go with cloth or compostable/biodegradable inserts. I also like being able to break down the pieces to clean them separately. I’m curious to hear what you have found, although it also feels like we’ve already made the commitment with gDiapers, so it might be hard to switch, unless your sales pitch is incredible… 😉

        1. I definitely see the convenience of gDiapers. I chose the other diapers – they are also hybrid – because the inserts are organic. I also heard gDiapers start leaking when the baby gets older. How old is your baby?

          1. My bigger guy who currently uses them is 19 months. My little guy who hopefully will take them through round two is almost a day old. 🙂 we occasionally have minor leaking issues, but that’s if we have left him with a cloth insert way too long (like all morning…oops!) or if he has a major blowout. But those types of leakages occur occasionally with disposables, too; I chalk them up more to user error than gDiapers failure.

    1. Hi Gracie, when at home I washed my baby in the sink under running water with castile soap – no questionable chemicals, clean, and cheap. And when we went out, I used Honest baby wipes. Thank you for asking. ~Irina

  3. my baby Ashton used pampers wipes and it gave him the worst rash. I literally watched the wet wipe cut up his skin as I cleaned around his butt. Little dots of blood would appear on top of his rash and it eventually caused to form a blister. My poor baby! I don’t trust manufactured baby wipes after that. I also rinse my baby boy in the sink with warm water. I use a cotton burp cloth with ho t water as a wet wipe. Water is a healer. So is air. Ever since I did this his rash decreases exponentially every single day. Be careful what you trust!

  4. What about Bambo wet wipes? Ingredients: Aqua, Glycerin, Sodium Laureth-11 Carboxylate, Laureth-10, Sodium Benzoate, Lactic Acid, Glycereth-17 Cocoate, Potassium Sorbate, Allantoin

    1. Hi Ines, I do not see the ingredients listed on the company’s website. So I emailed the company to confirm the ingredients. I will let you know when I hear from them. Where did you find the ingredients?

  5. Sodium Benzoate in the presence of citric acid can release benzene which is a potent carcinogen, so while citric acid and sodium benzoate are fairly harmless individually, they are much more dangerous in combination combination with each other. Just google the two names together and read the literature about their byproduct benzene.

    1. Hi Leith: the carcinogen benzene may be formed when sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid react, not citric acid. Thanks! ~Irina

  6. Has the ingredient list changed since this post? I’m trying to explain to my cousin that Pampers isn’t better than Huggies and vice versa. I thought they were equal products (not good but just as bad as one another) but these Pampers wipes are more worrisome but I also read elsewhere that in 2013-2014 most companies started to change their formulas to exclude some chemicals (one was methylisothiazolinone, Googling that is how I found the news from various countries). I assumed Pampers would also have changed their ways since I noticed the update on your Huggies wipes label read.

    1. Hi, Karine: thank you for asking! Yes, you are absolutely right. You might have read this on my blog. 🙂 I noticed that in 2013-2014 a lot of baby wipe companies improved their product formulations. (Coincidently, this started happening after I had published my Baby Wipes Rating List.) Because I run the Baby Wipes Rating List, I review baby wipes ingredients every year and this post reflects the current list of ingredients (or at least it was current at the beginning of this year). I will be reviewing ingredients for changes in January of next year. ~Irina

  7. My daughter is two and she just started breaking out today all over from these wipes. I am afraid to use wipes now. What is the best option to clear this up besides using different wipes?

  8. I am a 72 year old woman with a little bit of a butt condition lately. I recently purchased and just used Pampers Sensitive Baby Wipes for this problem. On first swipe I almost fell off the seat from the unbearable stinging sensation. My first thought was… what in the world is in these things? And then…how would a baby be able to bear with this? … I would never use these things on a baby and will not be using them any more for myself!

    1. I’m in my mid 60s and I’ve tried different kinds of butt wipes and they all gave me a rash. I talked my husband into installing a bidet. If you have that option, it’s a great way to go. He even loves it. We also moved to a home with a septic tank and you cannot use wipes in them. So the bidet is great

  9. have you tried WaterWipes??? they only have 2 ingredients! water and 0.1 percent of fruit extract!! (: we just switched bc my son got a blister that looks like a chemical burn while using pampers “sensitive” wipes!!!!

  10. Citric Acid hurts chaffed skin. If you don’t believe me, try a little lemon juice on your lips the next time they are chapped. Wash clothes warm water and a little simple soap and then rinse will always win over wipes.

    1. Of course, it will. Lemon can also irritate healthy skin. It is a matter of the amounts though. I applaud you for not using baby wipes. No baby wipes are better than the safest baby wipes. I washed my baby under the running water instead. However, I can’t expect others to do the same, especially when traveling. Thank you, Marcia, for your input. ~Irina

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