Wet wipes have come a long way since their invention. What began life as a humble woven fabric soaked in water or cleanser solution is now a sophisticated consumer product. Wet wipes are now used to clean hands, homes, babies and more. They are also available in a wide range of sizes and weights, can come with fragrances or not, can be used for disinfecting or as antibacterial cleaning solutions, and are widely available in a variety of packaging types and sizes. Also importantly they can now be manufactured to be completely flushable and biodegradable.
How did we get here?
The first wet wipes were invented in the USA. Arthur Julius is credited with having invented them in 1957. Arthur worked in cosmetics and created the first wipes in his New York loft apartment when he made changes to a soap portioning machine. A year later in 1958 he trademarked his product, the Wet-Nap.
Coming from a cosmetics background Arthur originally intended for his wipes to be used in the cosmetics industry, and to improve skin hygiene.
However his invention was not presented to the public until the 1960 National Restaurant Show in Chicago, during which time Arthur had worked with a mechanic to perfect the machine which produced his wipes. Three years later he sold his wipes to Colonel Harland Sanders for his customers to use in his Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. It was a perfect fit even if it was not one that Arthur had anticipated when first developing what he intended to be a wipe for the cosmetics industry. In the past 25 years KFC has handed out to consumers almost a billion wet wipes.
Only in the 1970s however did the technology exist to mass produce disposable non-woven wipes. These developments in technology and manufacturing are what then allowed the industry to take off.
Where are we now?
In 2019 the global wet wipes market was estimated to be valued at around US$14 billion, reflecting how far its development and use has come since the 1960’s.
Wet wipes are popular for many reasons including –
-They improve hygiene and make it easier to maintain
-They perform well, they are generally of good quality, and provide almost the same level of hygiene as washing with soap and water
-They are easy to use, for all sectors of society, including the very young and very old, and they are safe for all ages
-They save time and are efficient
It is fair to say that wet wipes are currently an indispensable consumer product. They are used in homes, schools, childcare facilities, food and beverage outlets, industries, institutions, hospitals, clinics and more.
The future of wet wipes
The future of wet wipes looks set to center around environmentally sustainability issues. With so many wipes being used their disposability is increasingly called into question in a world more aware of sustainability and environmental protection issues.
This means wet wipes manufacturers must be at the forefront of efforts and developments to make the industry more sustainable. This means advancements in flushability and into developing truly flushable wipes. It means pioneering more biodegradable materials for wipes production and it means ensuring wet wipes manufacturers are aware of their products’ lifecycle. Leading wet wipes manufacturers understand their responsibility to ensure a better future for all of us.