Investigating ingredients found in popular brands of baby wipes and which are best for the planet

ByHeather Grubola and Nydia Han WPVI logo
Monday, June 17, 2024
Investigating ingredients found in popular brands of baby wipes
Consumer Reports investigates ingredients found in popular brands of baby wipes; explains which are best for the environment

As parents, grandparents, and caregivers know, baby wipes are essential if changing diapers is part of your daily routine. But how much do you really know about what's in those wipes touching your or your baby's sensitive skin?

Consumer Reports takes a close look at the ingredients and reveals the popular brands that may pose a risk to your baby and the planet.

If you have small children, there's a good chance you have baby wipes stashed just about everywhere. Whether you're using wipes for diaper changes, removing makeup, or cleaning sticky fingers, you want them to be safe for people and the planet.

Consumer Reports teamed up with the independent organization Made Safe to investigate the long list of ingredients.

Of the 15 brands of baby wipes they looked at, seven had concerning or unclear ingredients. The wipes contain potentially harmful chemicals, including some that may be linked to cancer risks.

Many are made of plastics that don't break down in the environment. In addition, some brands have a low pH balance, which may irritate the skin.

CR reached out to the companies.

Coterie and Costco said they use very small amounts of certain chemicals in their wipes as preservatives or skin conditioning agents. And Pampers said their ingredients and products undergo rigorous safety testing.

Consumer Reports says some better, biodegradable choices that aren't too expensive include Healthybaby, The Honest Company, Caboo, and WaterWipes wipes.

Some tips when shopping for wipes: avoid potentially harmful chemicals, opt for plant-based biodegradable wipes, and go fragrance-free.

When storing wipes, heating them in a wipe warmer may seem like a good idea, but it can be a breeding ground for bacteria. The FDA says temperature extremes, like those in hot cars, can change the ingredients in wipes, breaking down the preservatives that protect against bacteria and mold and allowing bacteria to grow faster in warm conditions.

And even if labeled as flushable, Consumer Reports advises against flushing them. That's the safest way to prevent clogs.


"Thanks for your message and for giving us the opportunity to present our rationale for the formulation choices we made for Coterie's baby wipes. You indicate a concern with Laureth-9. I assume this is because it comes from reacting ethylene oxide and could be contaminated with carcinogenic ingredients.

Please know that we select each of our ingredients based on understanding the benefits they may bring to the usage experience, while also being mindful of any concerns they could pose. What we choose to put in our products is always sourced from suppliers of the highest quality to minimize any risk of contamination with hazardous by-products. To further validate the safety of our raw materials and finished products, we submit them to independent 3rd party laboratories that evaluate the presence of any of those potentially harmful ingredients you are concerned about, and hundreds of others we don't want in our products either.

We only use less than 0.1% of Laureth-9 in our product formula, and our wipes have been tested by a third party lab to ensure that between the high quality of our raw material and the total concentration, there are no contaminants present in the finished product. As you can see in the results below, our baby wipes are free from (below detectable levels) from 1,4-Dioxane as well as many ethoxylated compounds. These are only a few of the many chemicals we test for, and we would be happy to share any additional data regarding any other compounds of concern.

You also share a concern about two other ingredients, and our rationale for using them is below: Hydroxyacetophenone is a skin conditioning agent that is broadly utilized as a preservative booster, which allows other preservatives to be efficacious even at very low concentrations. The cleaning solution in our baby wipes contains 99% water, and we have a higher loading rate (amount of water per pack) than most other wipes in the market to provide a better cleaning experience. High amounts of water could be prone to microbial contamination, particularly when the pack is opened and the parent may reach out for a fresh wipe with a soiled hand. Securing the efficacy of our preservative system is paramount to us, and from the different preservatives we evaluated, the combination of sodium benzoate and hydroxyacetophenone was most effective. Hydroxyacetophenone is rated as a 1 / Green rating by the EWG, and it is present in our formulation at a quantity that is below 0.2%, minimizing any potential concern that may exist at higher quantities of use.

Silicone quaternium-17 is a skin conditioning agent that helps improve the feel on skin after the use of the wipe. It is also rated as 1 / Green by the EWG, and it is included in our wipe at a concentration below 0.1%.

The safety of our consumers is one of the basic pillars of our product development philosophy, which I believe we as parents all share. That's why, in addition to the selection of quality raw materials and the independent analytical testing, our products also undergo clinical testing (HRIPTs) among individuals with normal and sensitive or eczema prone skin, under dermatologist and pediatrician supervision. Our wipes also went through the vetting process to obtain the certifications by the EWG, the National Eczema Association and other relevant organizations."


"Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes contain less than 1% phenoxyethanol, a commonly used preservative in cosmetic and personal care products. Preservatives are needed to maintain product integrity, quality, and safety by minimizing the risk of consumer exposure to microorganisms. Phenoxyethanol has been extensively tested and thoroughly evaluated within the industry and deemed safe and effective at current usage levels. Kirkland Signature Baby Wipes are independently tested and no concerns with the use of phenoxyethanol have been identified."


"At Pampers, the safety and comfort of babies is our top priority. It is important to us that our consumers know about the ingredients we use in Pampers products. We include this information on our website and we provide links to SmartLabel on each product page.

Regarding the two specific ingredients you asked about:

Disodium EDTA helps prevent deterioration of ingredients and is part of the preservative system in Pampers Wipes to help maintain freshness and prevent microbial contamination.

PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil aids in the removal of soil from baby's bottom and is used as a gentle emulsifying agent and conditioner in the wipes formulation.

Additionally, all Pampers ingredients, materials and finished products undergo rigorous safety and performance testing, to ensure they are safe, effective, and gentle for babies' delicate skin, even before they come in contact with it. Then we work with leading pediatricians, pediatric dermatologists and safety experts to evaluate every material for potential risks. We continually invest in clinical safety studies and monitor our products through quality safety checks on the production line and through in-home testing with parents.

All of our baby diaper and wipes materials and ingredients undergo a comprehensive risk assessment process including hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment and risk characterization. The materials and ingredients we use in our baby diapers and wipes strictly comply with safety requirements from the EU Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concerning the safe use of substances, as well as those of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and World Health Organization (WHO). If an ingredient doesn't meet these safety standards, we don't use it.

In addition to extensive testing on adult skin, a number of published clinical studies have also confirmed the safety, tolerability, and effectiveness of our diapers and wipes on babies' skin in the diapered area under consumer usage conditions. These studies assessed critical endpoints such as skin dryness, skin pH, skin enzymes, absence of mechanical irritation, and absence of erythema/redness."