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Cleaning wipes are a convenient way to keep your house in tip-top shape. However, not all wipes are created equal. While some wipes are equipped to disinfect surfaces, others are only meant for cleaning. Keep in mind that doing the latter is more important than the former, because disinfecting surfaces should always be the last step in any cleaning routine, and it isn’t always necessary.
To help you find the best cleaning wipes for your needs, here are the best options available.
Best Overall: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
You can't go wrong with Clorox's Disinfecting Wipes. Each wipe is triple-layered and well-soaked to cover a substantial surface area. They feel damper than others on this list, but they dry quickly and fully disinfect surfaces in four minutes, which is quicker than other options on the market.
The scents are pretty inoffensive considering how strong the formula is, and the wipes will leave your granite, wood, or stainless steel smelling fresh and newly cleaned. Although Clorox wipes are available in canisters, we prefer these pouches: They're much more portable and, according to the manufacturer, use 70 percent less plastic.
Best Value: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
Another favorite, Lysol Disinfectant Wipes are effective enough to kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria when left to sit on the surface for two minutes. That being said, Lysol recommends allowing the solution to sit on the surface for ten minutes in order to kill off any remaining germs or pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli.
These wipes have a micro-pocket pattern that helps to scrub away and trap stubborn dirt. The Lemon & Lime Blossom scent is strong but pleasant. Finally, you can use these wipes on most hard, nonporous surfaces—even electronics!
Pay attention to the way you dispose of cleaning wipes. Even those that claim to be flushable can cause clogs in toilets and lead to other environmental hazards. The best way to dispose of a used cleaning wipe is simply to throw it in the trash. That way, you avoid clogging up toilets and the sewerage systems attached to them.
Best for Electronics: Weiman Electronic Wipes
Cleaning electronics is a daunting task but a very necessary one, as dust, streaks, and grime make it hard to see screens. Plus, touching them is unavoidable. Because you have to be very careful to not get moisture in any of the device’s openings, it’s all the more important to find a product that is specifically created for cleaning electronics.
Weiman Electronic Wipes are designed to remove dust, dirt, and fingerprints without leaving behind lint or streaks. The formula creates a protective film on your devices that prevents scratches and repels the static that attracts dust and dirt.
Although the solution on these wipes air-dries quickly, Weiman recommends using a soft, lint-free cloth (the little microfiber cloths that come with glasses are perfect for this task) to buff away any remaining residue. Doing so will make your devices look extra shiny. Keep in mind that these wipes don’t sanitize or disinfect; they’re only meant to be used as a cleaner. If you want to disinfect, Apple says that Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are safe to use on devices. That being said, those wipes are quite wet, so be sure to squeeze them of excess liquid before using them on your devices.
Best Natural: Lemi-Shine Disinfecting Wipes
Luckily, you don’t have to resort to chemicals in order to rid your home of harmful germs—Lemi-Shine Disinfecting Wipes use citric acids to kill bacteria. And don't worry—it's EPA-approved, so you know it's effective. (To search for Lemi-Shine within the EPA's List N Tool, search for its EPA registration number: 34810-37.)
With just a hint of lemon, these wipes likely won’t irritate those with sensitive noses. The wipes are sturdy and perfectly moistened so as to not totally drench your surfaces. Be sure to allow the solution to dwell on the surface until it’s dry before touching it.
Best for Toys: Babyganics Fragrance-Free All-Purpose Wipes
Kids aren’t the most hygiene-conscious. More often than not, they’re putting their mouths on everything they touch, especially when it comes to toys. Babyganics Fragrance-Free All-Purpose Wipes are perfect for giving those toys a quick wipe-down in between playtime.
Every ingredient in this product’s cleaning solution is plant-derived except for sodium benzoate, which is a safe-to-use preservative that has a B rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). These wipes also safe for food-contact surfaces such as kitchen countertops or even inside ovens.
Best for Kitchen: Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes
Seventh Generation’s Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes use thymol, a component of thyme oil that's EPA-approved, to kill germs. These wipes are a great choice for the kitchen because they can both clean and disinfect. Plus, the solution doesn’t need to be rinsed off, even when it is used on food-contact surfaces. Scented with lemongrass, these wipes have a strong fragrance that might not appeal to everyone.
Best for Cars: Tub O' Towels Heavy Duty Cleaning Wipes
Tub O’ Towels Heavy-Duty Cleaning Wipes are equipped to clean your car inside and out. No matter which fabric covers your seats, these wipes are safe to use on them. Because the wipes are made of a durable fiber weave and treated with an industrial-strength formula, they’re equipped to handle tough messes such as oil, grease, and even bird poop.
In addition to the work they can do on your car, these towels are also great for cleaning surfaces that no other wipes are designed to touch, such as outdoor furniture, walls, and even carpet. Keep in mind, though, that these won’t sanitize or disinfect—they’re only meant for cleaning.
Best for Furniture: Weiman Wood Furniture Wipes
Weiman’s Furniture Wipes not only clean dust and dirt off your wood surfaces, but they also polish them. With four natural oils and UVX-sunscreen, they restore finished wood’s natural shine and protect it from future water and sun damage. The wipes also use a micro-filling technology to remove scratches and protect the surface from future scratches.
Because the solution only contains plant-based ingredients, these wipes are safe to use with kids or pets in the house, but it’s best to keep the kids away from the furniture until it’s dry. For best results, wipe in the direction of the natural wood grain, then buff with a soft cloth. You’ll be amazed by how shiny and vibrant these wipes will get your previously dull and dingy furniture.
What to Look for in Cleaning Wipes
Cleaning wipes typically fall under one of three categories: cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting. It’s important to keep in mind that neither sanitizing nor disinfecting are synonymous with cleaning, so you must remove dirt or residue first before using a wipe. Although you probably aren’t at risk of using disinfectants so often that they create superbugs, it’s a good idea to limit your usage to high-traffic areas such as door handles, trash can lids, and toilets. Products that sanitize reduce the number of germs on a surface rather than killing them all off, so they’re a good choice for food-contact surfaces such as kitchen counters or sinks.
"Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both bacteria and viruses identified on the label of the product you are using. Sanitizing helps to reduce the bacteria identified on the product label to a safe level," says Christine McNerney, Senior Director of Merchandising, Non-Food at Thrive Market. "You likely will only want to disinfect an item or area that you are comfortable coming into contact with stronger chemicals and/or areas where there is more concern for harmful bacteria such as a countertop that was handling raw meat. Otherwise, a sanitizer is good for your day to day cleaning."
In general, avoid cleaning products that contain carcinogens like formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane and asthmagens like bleach, ammonia, and quaternary ammonium compounds ("quats"). Other ingredients to avoid include artificial fragrances, which are made of unknown chemicals and can cause allergic reactions, and borax and boric acid, which can cause reproductive problems. McNerney says to also watch out for chlorine and hydrochloric acid, as they can irritate the skin.
There are many, many ingredients that are deemed both safe and effective to use in household cleaners, including both natural and synthetic ingredients. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a comprehensive Safer Choice program that helps consumers find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a complete Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Both of these resources are a great place to find safe and effective cleaning products. Another great resource is the American Cleaning Institute, which has a fantastic overview of cleaning product ingredients.
As stated above, artificial fragrances are typically "trade secrets" and are made of unknown chemicals, so they're best to avoid. Even if the fragrances are plant-based, those with allergies or skin sensitivity might still be better off using a fragrance-free wipe. For fragrance-free cleaning products, use the EPA's Safer Choice-certified product tool and check the Fragrance-Free Products box.
How do you use cleaning wipes?
Since most cleaning wipes come in a roll or packet, pull one wipe from the container. Check the moisture level of the wipe to make sure it has enough cleaning or disinfecting product to be effective. Wipe down the surface you wish to clean and properly dispose of the wipe (most are not flushable). When using a disinfecting wipe, the surface should remain wet for at least four to ten minutes.
What do cleaning wipes do?
Cleaning wipes remove grease and grime from hard surfaces in your home. While cleaning wipes do not disinfect surfaces, they do sanitize surfaces by diluting the number of bacteria on a surface. Disinfecting wipes both clean and kill microbes on hard surfaces.
How often should you use cleaning wipes?
Cleaning wipes are so convenient, so they are perfect for quick clean-ups of spills, fingerprints, or splatters in the kitchen and bathroom. Disinfecting wipes should be used on shared surfaces frequently touched by hands, especially if someone in the home is ill, and after the preparation of raw foods,
Why Trust The Spruce?
Emily Shwake is a freelance journalist who has written hundreds of cleaning posts, many of which investigated the safety hazards of certain products as well as how to reduce exposure to germs. Additional research for this article was provided by nationally recognized cleaning authority Mary Marlowe Leverette.
For additional background on cleaning wipes, we spoke to Christine McNerney, Senior Director of Merchandising, Non-Food at Thrive Market who spoke about ingredients to look for and best uses for cleaning wipes.