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WaterWipes Baby Wipes: You Need to Know This!

Written by Irina Webb

You may have been in a situation when you wanted to do something fast but ended up spending hours and sometimes even without any result.  I still remember the time when I did not know that I needed to read baby wipes ingredients.  The main criterion I based the purchase of my first baby wipes was the absence of alcohol in them.  Later, we got a box of Costco Kirkland baby wipes.  But it took me such a long while to decipher their ingredients.  So, I can imagine your excitement and relief seeing water wipes for babies with just two ingredients!  Yay!  Definitely, these two-ingredient WaterWipes baby wipes should be your final choice!  Or should they?

I am about to share with you the nearly six-year history of my contacts with the company that makes WaterWipes.   You can make your own decision whether these baby wipes are for you.  And I will begin with a little background.

WaterWipes Baby Wipes: Consider This! A photo of a baby's hand with a green flower in it.

My first encounter with WaterWipes baby wipes in 2014

Back in 2014, when I was putting together the first edition of the Baby Wipes Rating List, I looked into the safety claims of WaterWipes baby wipes.  The ingredient list consisted of 99.9% water, a drop of grapefruit seed extract, and nothing else. 

I had a problem with that.  Why?  Two reasons.  First, grapefruit seed extract may contain harmful contaminants that act as preservatives.  Second, any product that contains water should have a broad-spectrum preservation system to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in order to keep babies safe from infection.

Let’s talk about why I had my reservations about the safety of the grapefruit seed extract to begin with.  When I do my product research, I do not rely on manufacturers’ claims of safety.  I read medical and scientific studies to arrive at my own conclusions.

Grapefruit seed extract in these water wipes for babies

Some skincare and personal care product manufacturers who use grapefruit seed extract (GSE) claim that natural GSE has antimicrobial properties.  Conversely, there are studies showing that natural GSE does not have antimicrobial properties whatsoever.  Natural GSE is good for skin conditioning, but I am not aware of any studies that conclusively demonstrate GSE as an effective preservative.  The US National Library of Medicine has compiled studies showing that GSE’s antimicrobial properties come from the additional ingredients in it.

Research into grapefruit seed extract as a preservative

In this study researchers examined the antimicrobial efficacy and the content of preservative agents of six commercially available grapefruit seed extracts.  They concluded that the antibacterial properties of the examined GSEs were due to synthetic preservative agents present in them.

While this study identified benzethonium chloride in commercial grapefruit seed extracts, this one found benzalkonium chloride in GSE.

This survey states that synthetic disinfectants such as benzethonium or benzalkonium salts were detected in most commercial GSE products.

Finally, this study describes a method that allowed for simultaneous identification and quantification of the following ingredients. The study found benzethonium chloride, methylparaben, and triclosan in commercial products labeled as grapefruit seed extract.

By the way, now the manufacturer of WaterWipes baby wipes discloses on their website that there is benzalkonium chloride in their water wipes for babies.

Now let’s talk about why I wanted to make sure that these wet wipes do have a sufficient preservation system.

The danger of bacteria in baby care and skincare products

Let’s talk about the subject of the dangers of bacteria in products we use on the skin.  Here is a short overview of the studies on the subject.  True, none of the research below is specifically about water wipes for babies.  But I can’t afford to test the baby wipes on my son to bring the results to the public’s attention.  It is enough for me to know that bacteria are dangerous, and I will do what I can to avoid it.

Bacteria research in baby care

The American Journal of Infection Control reports on 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 describes cases of a fungal infection caused by a compromised skin lotion in patients.  The patients’ immune system was suppressed by chemotherapy. Two patients died and one patient had lesions in the eye and kidney resulting from the infection.

The Journal of Hospital Infection reports numerous infections among 14 babies. The infections included urinary tract infection, meningitis, septicaemia, and purulent conjunctivitis.  13 of 14 babies recovered fully but one died from meningitis and septicaemia.  All infections were traced to a contaminated baby shampoo.

By the way, WaterWipes baby wipes do not contain any cleansing agents.  Using water and a wipe might work sufficiently if the baby peed only.  But I think with poop, using soap or some other cleanser helps a lot.  The poop residue can irritate the baby’s skin too, not to mention the presence of bacteria.

Bacteria research in skincare

How can we prevent contamination in cosmetic products?  This article will give you an answer to this question as well as describe the most common cosmetic preservatives (read my post Phenoxyethanol in Skin Care: Consider This! about one of them). 

Here you will find a scientific comparison of the type and level of microbial contaminants in two kinds of products – commercial cosmetics and a laboratory prepared aqueous cream.  Their preservative capacities while in use were the focal point of the study.

This microbiological study presents an analysis of health risks and the efficacy of preservative systems in skincare items during their use. 

This research assessed the microbial properties and the antibiotic sensitivity patterns of 15 random cosmetic products.  It discovered that most of the creams and lotions in question did not meet the official requirements.  Hence, they are a potential health hazard to unwary consumers.

Head here for an in-depth review of legislation, usage, infections, and contact allergy linked to contamination and preservation of cosmetics.

Of course, the concerns over the contaminants in GSE and sufficiency of the preservation system made me contact the manufacturer of these water wipes for babies.  I had to wait a long while: the manufacturer contacted me after I had already published a post about WaterWipes baby wipes.  But I was thankful for their willingness to walk me through the creation process of their wipes in detail.  This is what I learned in 2014.

The manufacturing process of the WaterWipes baby wipes

Irish Breeze was the name of the wipes’ manufacturing company.  The CEO and the person responsible for online media took the time to answer all my questions, which I highly appreciated. 

They explained to me that the Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) in their water wipes for babies contained only three components.  Those components were dried grapefruit seed/pulp, vegetable glycerin, and ascorbic acid.  The step-by-step instructions on the GSE production process they described made sense to me. 

On the one hand, I was glad that there were no harmful ingredients such as parabens, triclosan, or quaternary ammonium compounds.  On the other hand, this also meant that there were no preservatives at all in the baby wipes, which was equally concerning to me.  I am not a big fan of preservatives as most of them have some controversy around them.  However, all baby wipes must have preservatives because they are moist, and water is a potential breeding ground for bacteria and mold.  So, I voiced my concerns to the company representatives.

The preservation system of these water wipes for babies

Irish Breeze’ claimed that WaterWipes baby wipes were preserved with a patented preservation system that resulted in a sterile product before the wipe pack was open.  In addition, they said that there was no food in the wipes for germs to grow, even after the opening of the pack.

I was not confident that the sterility remained when the product was being used.  My conclusion got confirmed in a private consultation with a person experienced in microbiology.  Just picture yourself handling your baby’s soiled diaper.  Can you be 100% sure that none of the waste gets on your hands, and they remain sterile?  Then, when you touch the top wipe with your hands, the dangerous bacteria, such as E.Coli, may transfer there and possibly even give your baby a urinary tract infection.

So, technically, there was a possibility that these water wipes for babies could remain free of bacteria and mold.  But only if you handled them extremely carefully.

WaterWipes baby wipes in 2020

As of January 2020, the official website of these water wipes for babies presents their ingredients as follows:

WaterWipes Baby Wipes_Benzalkonium. A screenshot of ingredients of WaterWipes Baby Wipes.

Did you notice an asterisk?  Now we know that there is benzalkonium chloride.  On the one hand, I applaud the manufacturer for disclosing a full list of ingredients.  But on the other hand, this additional ingredient raises concerns.  Let’s look at this ingredient in the WaterWipes baby wipes in detail.

Benzalkonium chloride in the water wipes for babies

The chemical name of benzalkonium chloride is alkyldimethylbenzylammonium chloride (ADBAC).  It is a disinfectant and can serve as an antimicrobial preservative in products.  There is some evidence that this well-known irritant may cause contact allergy even at concentrations as low as 0.1% (source).  Benzalkonium chloride decreased fertility in both sexes of mice, even when it was just used to clean their cages (source).

Do we know the concentration of this substance in the WaterWipes baby wipes?  Well, not any longer.  I do have a screenshot of the brand’s Q&A section that revealed this information some time ago.  But if you open the Q&A section today, you will not see this information there anymore.  It makes me wonder: has the concentration changed?

The picture below shows that Irish Breeze claimed that there was only 0.002% of benzalkonium chloride in their WaterWipes baby wipes.  Know that this is 50 times smaller than the limit set by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, cosmetic industry organization, for people with healthy (not diseased) skin.  So, your baby might be okay.  But I personally would not feel comfortable using these water wipes for babies on my child.  And then the question arises about whether such a small amount of benzalkonium chloride is enough to protect these wet wipes from growing bacteria and mold.

A screenshot of the Questions and answers section.

The screenshot below was taken on January 7, 2020, but we can’t see the amount of benzalkonium chloride anymore.

A screenshot of the Questions and answers section in January 2020.

Conclusion about WaterWipes baby wipes

The front page of these water wipes for babies’ website states that they are “the world’s purest baby wipes.”  However, based on my research I politely disagree.  And we have not talked about the cloth ingredients of the wipes.  If you are using them now and would like to replace them with a safer brand, there are options for you.  My calling is to educate you so you can make your own informed and practical decisions.  I have researched every single ingredient (including the cloths) of 50 baby wipes and published my findings in the Baby Wipes Rating List, so you can decide on the go which baby wipes are right for your baby.

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54 thoughts on “WaterWipes Baby Wipes: You Need to Know This!”

  1. I’ve just recently started to follow your blog. Would you be willing to make a list of say your top 10 or 20 brands you recommend. And include some more popular or easier to find ones as well? And rate them 1-10 or in an ordered list or better to worst? For diapers and wipes? I would just like to know what I should reach for next if my top pick isn’t available when I need it. Thanks.

      1. Jamie Schrichten

        Hi my granddaughter had major surgery to hr bottom. She has extremely sensitive skin. She is rash prone and has gotten infection. I’m desperate to find a wipe that is ever so gentle but that will clean her bottom without having to wipe hard or irritate her in anyway. I feel there is no wipe lie this . Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you!

  2. Rachel Rich-Shea

    Great to know, thanks! While I don’t use these wipes, I do remember coming across them and considering them in my search for good disposable wipes (we use Jackson Reece unscented)!

  3. I have been using Water Wipes since my baby was born 9 months ago. We have never experienced any problems with them and I love that they are pure and simple. My sister has also used them for 3 years and loves them. We use them as the package directions indicate which has not been a problem for us.

      1. We pretty much do use them within the 4 week time frame since we still do a lot of diaper changes and we use Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm afterwards, this has worked well for us along with using Bambo (for night use) and Earth’s Best (for day use) diapers.

    1. Kristal Delbecchi

      I use these wipes to remove makeup, but have noticed that the ingredients list has changed and they now dry and irritate my skin.
      They now contain grapefruit seed extract and soapberry extract.

  4. Hello,
    Thanks for your useful website.
    We have been using the WaterWipes since our son was born almost 2 years ago. At the time there seemed to be endocrine disruptor in every other brand! No problem with mould nor bacterial infections on his bottom, though I was always conscious of the lack of preservatives in these wipes so now that we’re using less of them we only have one pack opened at once and finish it well within 4 weeks. Nursery uses the Huggies wipes but we can ask for cotton wool and water instead, which is what I chose for our son. I really don’t think that any detergent is necessary considering he has a bath in the evening which clears it all out! For me it’s a no-brainer: WaterWipes are cotton+water without the fuss…

  5. Are these wipes safe? have you heard anything else- been using for a few days now- but want to make sure they do not contain anything like parabens , synthetics or triclosan still!

    1. I was convinced by the company that their GSE (the only ingredient besides water) has no additives such as triclosan. However, that fact gave me pause because the wipes might be prone to bacteria growth while they are used.

  6. Hi, I came across your post whilst wondering something about the safety of WaterWipes myself. However, I’m querying the water – if they are made with Irish public system water do they have fluoride in them??? This is a real issue for my as 98% of Irish tap water is flouridated and this is potentially a hazard for our children. Have you or anyone else queried this at all? Thanks. Otherwise love WaterWipes! Generally use cotton wool and water at home but the wipes are great for out and about!

    1. Generally, in baby wipes purified or filtered water is used. I will contact WaterWipes about their water. Thank you for the question!

  7. I do not trust this company , I emailed them directly because my baby broke out from wipes, they would not show me evidence of test results- something seems shady

  8. Hi, ive just read your blog to see if anyone had experienced mould in the wipes like i have in the last packet i brought. The mould was there before i opened it and does not expire unitl 2016. Very concerning, i used a wipe on his face before realising Currently waiting on a response from them.

  9. Hi I just came across your blog as I just opened a fresh pack of water wipes to find they are all mouldy! The pack is in date and there was no damage to the pack. I have sent pics and a message to the company via Facebook. It will be interesting to see what they come back with… free wipes for life?!:)

    1. Hi Laura: this is awful. Thank you for sharing! This just proves my theory that their preservation system is not sufficient to be safe. And that just mold that we can detect with our eyes. The environment that is beneficial for mold to grow is also good for bad bacteria to grow, which we can’t see. Please keep us updated. If you are looking for different wipes to use, you might want to check my analysis and rating list of all major disposable baby wipes. Thank you again for stopping by.

  10. We just discovered that my baby has a citrus allergy – I had just identified it after scrutinizing my diet (I nurse), and that night my husband unknowingly used the first water wipe in a package we just bought to clean my baby’s neck and he got hives. So – just a caution to spot test these first if your infant has not yet been exposed to citrus.

  11. I found your post after googling water wipes reactions; I used them for the first time tonight and my face is burning and covered in a rash; needless to say I will stop using these on my toddler x

  12. Hi, I’m amazed they can say the wipes are 99 percent water as the tissues themselves aren’t woven from water and they are the main constituent surely? These really worry me as by the time you can see mould it’s already infested everything.
    I’m interested to see if any microbial tests over time after opening have been carried out? Surely those should be done before they are for sale but, like you I’m worried about harmful bacteria and fungi growing on them.
    Very worried.

  13. Thanks for your information. We have been using these wipes for almost 2 years with our son, and they have been great for us. I prefer a cotton cloth, but sometimes I need a disposable wipe. My daughters had diaper infections at least a couple, but I am happy to say my son has never had one. I liked the ingredients of these, and that they lacked the usual preservatives. I have been really happy so far, and haven’t had any issues.

  14. Diaper rash necessity

    I swear by these when baby has a diaper rash. She doesn’t scream like other wipes with a rash, and I noticed doesn’t get as red. Packaging feels different so I believe packaging helps preserve them I never put them in my dispenser for this reason. My doctor said was a great move to use these while she still has a rash. I understand what writer means about bacteria but realistically grabbing a napkin and wetting it woukd produce just

  15. When my baby was 3 weeks old and she had a really really bad diaper rash i had no idea what happened because we kept up on every diaper change and made sure i put cream right when i saw a red spot. Anyways i was looking up each and every way to cure it ASAP because i didnt want to see my babygirl in pain. First time mommy so i was freaking out and internet doesnt really help. So i asked my sister and she said use max strength desitin and change your wipes and diapers. I chose the waterwipes because i figured they were the most pure and simple. And i have sensitive skin myself so i knew that the waterwipes would most likely be best. I chose the 60 pack so that i wouldnt waste any money. Once i started using them it made a big big biiigg difference. And your right you really have to be careful to keep them clean especially with a fussy baby thats pooped or peed. But if i touch one under the first that i grabbed i grab it and use it immediately just to be sure shes getting the cleanest wipe next. Anyway been using them ever since and they have really been a godsend make sure you use them as directed and you’ll be fine.

  16. I have used WaterWipes on my baby since he was born, that was 16 months ago. I found them to be amazing, I would never use another product. You must respect the instructions on the packet and you will have no problem, even on sensitive skin. They easily clean poo off the skin without effort and I’m impressed that they don’t come fragaranced. What a truly wonderful product, I strongly recommend to all mothers, pleas try them!

  17. We have been using water wipes for about a year now and we have not had any problems or infections as a result of using them on our children. It is also true that our wipes never last more than a week so we haven’t noticed mold or change in the wipes because we use them quickly.
    So thus far we continue to use them.

  18. I came across these Water wipes a few weeks ago when my 2 year old had a severe diaper rash that we could not get cleared up. If we even mentioned the word diaper he would run screaming at the top of his lungs. He would fight us so much when it was time to change his diaper, even if it was just wet, because his bottom hurt so bad. He would scream and cry and hold on to us as tight as he could. I was desperate for something to give him some relief and I found these. They were like MAGIC! The first time I used them on him, he didn’t cry at all! We used them for several weeks while we waited for his fungal infection to clear up. I have even taken them to daycare for them to use on him. I absolutely LOVE these wipes!!!

  19. I’ve been using WaterWipes since shortly after we brought my little guy home from the hospital. We were in the NICU for 3.5 months and there they use dry wipes wet with tap water. We never had a single problem with diaper rash until I brought him home and started using store-bought wipes; even with the sensitive skin ones it was just awful. These wipes were the closest thing I could find to what they used in the hospital and I absolutely love them. We haven’t had a single problem since we started using them. They are wonderful and I personally wouldn’t be concerned about any of the potential issues mentioned here. And they do clean up poopy bums just fine. I figure, if the hospital uses only water on micro preemies, it must be the best thing. And who doesn’t use a pack of baby wipes up within 4 weeks? I think anyone who had moldy packs, they must have been shipped poorly in too high a temperature. I would very highly recommend these to anybody.

  20. My daughter started getting some mild red rash on her down there. We never noticed mould till I opened the underside lid of my nappy change bin and it was covered in black mould. It was full of nappies and waster wipes and I’m assuming they are too wet and also maybe in there longer than a week as it’s a big bin…. really scared me!

  21. I have been using water wipes for over 2 years with no problem. I didnt like how hard they were to get out of their package so I bought a Huggies wipe box and threw out their wipes and put the water wipes in there. Neither of my kids had problems with diaper rash with these. No mold problems on the wipes. Keep in mind that in general, healthy people are used to their own bacteria including what is in their poop and don’t get sick from it, aside from it entering the urinary tract. The poop being rubbed around the urethra in the diaper or with a wipe is much more of a risk than a non preserved wipe.

  22. Just came back to your blog to see if there was any update about the wipes and I’m really happy (and relieved) to see that there is nothing bad in these wipes! I have been using them for more than 3 years now and really love them and don’t know which other one I would have used if they were proved to be nasty as well! Never had any mold or bacteria problem and no rash. It’s true though that it’s a bit of a hassle to get just one out…

  23. Angelina Bonfiglio

    Hi great article I like how it’s not entirely opinionated and pretty objective however I’m leaning towards the wipes being unhygienic… my 3 week old infant has developed a bad chapped( red, raw, inflamed looking) baby bum and I feel awful wiping her as she cries hysterically; it looks painful. I’ve been using the weleda diaper cream and it doesn’t seem to be working. I’m wondering if it’s the wipes?!

  24. Water Wipes are the ONLY ones that don’t cause a rash on my daughter. We even tried Viva paper towels and pure water and she got a rash. Washcloths and pure water give her a rash too. We use them for poopy diapers only as they’re expensive but we love them.

  25. This is good to know, i came across this as i was trying to do my own research on the waterwipes brand. I had gotten a free sample and tried to use them on my 8 week old daughter and she screamed in pain like it hurt her, she has no rash and has never cried while getting a diaper change. Makes me wonder why it irritated her so badly. I most definitely will not be using these again.

  26. Hi Irina,
    while researching Water Wipes, I found out not only about the Benzalkonium Chloride (which WW now acknowledge but still don’t put on the packaging) but also that the water they use is activated. Did you know about this? The result of electrolysing water with a saline solution is sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid. This is process is patented by WW and likely to be the preservative I should think. Wish they would be honest with the process – some kids react to even small amounts of chlorine.

    I’m leaning more and more to the water wipes that at least acknowledge their preservative such as phenoxyethanol as I feel they’re actually more honest than all these companies targeting the ‘natural’ market and only disclosing what sounds good to concerned parents. I also want to be sure that the wipes will remain safe after opening as, after all, bacteria which is unseen can be so dangerous. Really appreciate your thoughts on this and love your info.

  27. Hi Irina,
    Yes, I was forwarded the U.S. Patent application #20110203946 by someone who had worked in the industry. I can send to you privately if you like so you can read the whole patent if you can’t find it online?

    1. I have been using these WaterWipes for 18 months. I have seen every cash pay doctor, had 2 biopsies, ultrasounds, a pelvic MRI, and most recently had a Patch Testing on my back at Mayo Clinic. I found out all my burning pain may be related to the Benz Chloride that I am allergic to. I found this out by scanning WaterWipes in my SkinSafe app and reading the packaging. Unreal.

  28. I have been using these on myself post c-section and could figure out what was making my vagina feel like I just applied peppermint. I wasn’t aware of the GSE until I read the package a second time after using them. I can’t imagine choosing these for my infant and never knowing that it would have such a strong tingling sensation and possibly cause him irritation. I’m glad I endured it and not him, but these are going in the trash.

  29. Hi, I bought some packs of waterwipes and the first one I opened smelled very strong, like maybe bleach? I opened another packet and the same thing. I then emailed the company and they said because the wipes are made in a very clean room they sometimes take on the smell of the disinfectant (or something) and that the smell should subside. It hasn’t. Through your research have you find it common that they smell like chemicals ?

    1. Hi, Jaci! Thank you for the question! As it follows from our post, WaterWipes baby wipes contain benzalkonium chloride. The description of the properties of this chemical on INCHEM website (International Programme on Chemical Safety) says that it is “HYGROSCOPIC WHITE-TO-YELLOW POWDER WITH CHARACTERISTIC ODOUR” and “Decomposes on heating. This produces toxic and corrosive fumes including ammonia, chlorine and nitrogen oxides.” In other words, if a product contains chemicals, it is bound to smell like chemicals, unless there is fragrance masking the chemical odor. We hope this helps!

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