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Tip of the Month: Watch Out for Disinfectant Wipes!

lysol disinfectant wipes

Tip of the Month: Watch Out for Disinfectant Wipes!

Alex head shot

Alex Scranton
Director of Science
& Research

This blog was originally published around back-to-school time, but ALL YEAR is a good time to watch out for disinfectant wipes!

It’s back to school time – and lots of parents will notice “Canister of Disinfecting Wipes” on their child’s school supply list. And it’s no surprise. Many teachers and parents alike appreciate the convenience and ease of disinfecting with a wipe. Killing germs was never so easy – and it feels like we are doing a better job of protecting our children from illness … except we probably aren’t.

Contrary to popular belief (and loads of marketing!), the data just isn’t there. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admits that there is no evidence that cleaning with disinfectants is any better at preventing illness than cleaning with regular soap and water.i (In fact, the most effective proven method for reducing illness in schools is implementing a regular old handwashing regimen.)

And, many popular disinfectant wipes contain some pretty harsh chemicals that can cause other acute side effects like skin and eye irritation. There’s a reason that the fine print on the package frequently recommends that you wash your hands immediately after use! (Kind of lessens the convenience of a wipe when you still have to go to the sink, huh?)
lysol disinfectant wipes
Disinfectant chemicals called quaternary ammonium compounds “quats”, commonly found in wipes are especially problematic. These chemicals are skin irritants, can irritate your lungs, and have been linked to asthma and reproductive harm. The overuse of quats can also lead to the promotion of antibacterial-resistant bacteria (“superbugs”), which is bad news for everyone.

Wipe Out Tips:

  • Avoid disinfectant wipes including quaternary ammonium compounds “quats” — found on the label with names like:
    • n-Alkyl (C14 50%, C12 40%, C16 10%) dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
    • Alkyl C12-18 Dimethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride
    • Alkyl C12-14 Dimethylethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride
  • Go old school and wipe surfaces with a wet microfiber cloth or paper towel, using a simple cleaner if necessary
  • If you really need the convenience of a wipe, (or are required to purchase wipes for your child’s school) try simpler wipes that do not contain disinfectants (like baby wipes) or look for disinfectant wipes using safer alternative chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, citric acid or thymol*

*Reminder: All pre-moistened wipes must include some form of chemical preservative to prevent bacteria growth in the package. Many preservatives used in wipes include parabens, formaldehyde releasers and MI/MCI which have also been associated with adverse health effects.

For more safer back-to-school tips, click here.


6 Responses

  1. It’s so easy to use essential oils for disinfectant. Safe if you get quality essential oils. I train and ediucate people how to reduce the toxic load in their homes full time. It’s in your soaps, toothpaste, cleaners, shampoos, laundry detergent. So harmful and they disrupt hormones, cause skin and allergy issues. I help others worldwide and am happy to help anyone. Thanks for posting this article. Visit to learn more

  2. Savannah

    I just used Clorox Disinfectant Wipes (green and white container) to clean my yoga mat (I’ve been using the same mat for years) and then I did a workout on the mat. Everywhere that my skin touched the mat, I broke out in CRAZY hives all over just where the skin touched, even through my sweat pants. Apparently I’m allergic to Clorox Disinfectant Wipes. I wish the ingredient list listed more than 1% such and such and 99% “other additives”. I have no idea what I’m allergic to 🙁

  3. Shelby

    All I did was wipe the tip of a small paintbrush with a Lysol disinfectant wipe and my entire body broke out in hives. I’m waiting for the swelling to go down before I can concentrate on my art, again.

  4. Tish

    I can’t believe they allow this near children. This causes all types of sensory toxicity neurological poisoning. A much safer alternative, soap and water.

  5. Diane

    I agree. At work, they frequently order the Clorox Disilinfecting Wipes. I cannot stand the fumes that they Emit, which I feel are corrosive and highly toxic. After using then I often get sick headaches, which is a bad side effect from fumes.

    Several people who work around me and I also refuse to use these wipes, Again, because they too feel they are way too strong in any scent made and have bad after effects.

    I have asked the office support person to please purchase something healthier and more organic. I know Seventh Generation makes a disinfecting wile.

    I think anything but Clorox Wipes is a grave improvement.

    Just my experience.

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