There’s no doubt that wet wipes are easy and convenient to use. From baby wipes to makeup removers and home cleaning wipes, wet wipes serve a multitude of uses. As convenient as these products are, wet wipes also have a significant environmental impact. Many of the traditional wet wipes out there contain plastic materials like polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene1. As a result, they contribute to the world's pollution. Every time we flush wet wipes that contain plastics they slowly release microplastics and toxins into the waterways and land. Furthermore, there’s also a major challenge of wipes blocking sewage systems. Due to this growing concern, there’s a need to consider plastic-free alternatives to wet wipes.
We use wipes for various reasons. These include cleaning makeup, wiping a baby’s bottom for personal hygiene, and even cleaning surfaces in the house. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the damage these items cause.
Regular single-use conventional wet wipes have several negative impacts on the environment and natural life. Information from studies has revealed that flushed wipes block sewer systems and contribute to fatbergs. These system blockages can also cause serious plumbing issues in the home and contribute to flooding our sewers.
In the UK alone, Water UK discovered that wipes make up the majority of sewage blockage materials - about 93%2. Apart from the fact that people shouldn’t flush these single-use plastics, those containing plastics don’t completely break down. Many of these materials end up flushing into waterways, thereby affecting marine life. Also, the chemicals in these items are toxic to both land and sea creatures. When on land, such as on beaches, wet wipes can take years to biodegrade.
Eco-friendly alternatives to wet wipes are the way to go. Whether you’re choosing biodegradable wipes or switching to kitchen towels, you have your part to play. There are loads of choices of plastic-free alternatives available to you. So by switching, you’re not only making an eco-friendly choice but also ensuring safe ingredients for your body and surfaces.
It is worth noting that even without plastic, there’s no substitute for avoiding single-use products in the first place. The best eco-friendly baby wipes or toilet wipes or for general use about the home or to take to a picnic are, no doubt, the reusable wipes or reusable cloths you can wash and use again.
Etsy is our go-to place for supporting smaller businesses championing an eco-friendly zero waste lifestyle. We love these eco-friendly bamboo fabric reusable cloths, which mean you’ll never again be tempted to flush wet wipes away. You can use these clothes for pretty much anything, including face and makeup routines, on the go or in the bathroom.
Another excellent all-around alternative to flushable wet wipes is this set of either 20 or 50 family wipes. As the name suggests, these eco-friendly cloth wipes are suitable for most applications the family may require, everything from dishwashing to wiping away all manner of nasties. Of course, being fabric, they come naturally fragrance-free, chlorine-free, and chemical-free. Even better, a wash later and these clothes are ready for another bathtime.
Something you might not have thought of as an alternative to wet wipes is just adding the wet so to speak, to eco-friendly toilet paper.
This pristine toilet paper spray is one of the highest-rated sprays on the market. You might have even seen it featured on shark tank! Blending organic coconut oil, apricot oil, witch hazel, and other natural ingredients, all you need to do is spray your sheets, ensuring, of course, they are eco-friendly and they’ll flush without the plastic. The spray is designed specifically to reduce waste, with their larger bottles preventing up to 1600 wet wipes from clogging up pipes or ending up in the landfill.
Below you’ll find our rundown of some eco-friendly wet wipe brands. Today, you can also find wipes that are better for the planet, you, your baby, and your home. Below we’ve listed some of the best biodegradable and compostable alternatives.
Camboo makes these bamboo baby wipes from renewable harvested bamboo-based viscose. This tree-free and plastic-free alternative to wet wipes contain 99.3% natural components. It is free from harsh chemicals that can make their way onto a baby’s body. Earth-friendly, free of harsh materials, fragrance-free, and made safe, these wipes are gentle on your baby’s skin.
This is another alternative to unsustainable baby wipes. These plant-based wipes are compostable and biodegradable. So, not only do they break down without causing damage to the environment, but you can also include these wet wipes in your compost. The manufacturers make these from plant extracts and natural vegetables. They also include aloe vera to soothe the baby's skin. These hypoallergenic and dermatologically approved products are safe to use for babies with sensitive skin and conditions like eczema.
These fragrance-free, 100% biodegradable, and hypoallergenic wet wipes are gentle on a baby’s body and the environment. They contain 99% pure water and are completely free of parabens, alcohol, or plastics. Not only are these wipes ideal for babies, but also for adults with sensitive skin. And you can be assured no harmful chemicals will harm you or your little ones. These items are not only thick but also come in a large size that’ll last you some time. Each box contains six packs of a stack of 72 wipes each, making a total of 432.
Related: For more ideas for caring for babies with less waste check out our guide to the best zero waste baby products and gifts.
The manufacturers formulated these organic cotton wipes to be suitable for daily use. They contain natural fibers and are GMO-free. They are biodegradable, compostable, and free of alcohol. Infused with organic essential oils, each product is ideal for cleansing and refreshing intimate areas.
These environmentally friendly alternatives are plant-based, making them sustainable and natural. They are free of synthetic or harsh ingredients such as alcohol, paraben, and fragrances. Gentle enough for everyday use, they are versatile and suitable for sensitive skin. The addition of aloe vera extract aids moisturizing. More good news? They are dermatologist tested, biodegradable and cruelty-free.
If you’re looking for versatility in a box, Eco Beginnings provides just that. These 100% pure bamboo dry wipes are suitable for various uses. They get the job done, whether for personal care, removing your zero waste makeup, or cleaning a baby’s mess. You can even use them as part of your pet care routine. The best thing is that you can use them either in their dry state or spray them with water. Also, the manufacturing process uses a mechanical method rather than chemical processing.
If you’re looking to clean and cleanse your furry friends in between baths, Booyah created the formula for that. This product is made from renewable bamboo and contains no harsh chemicals. The manufacturer infuses each wipe with vitamin e and aloe vera to keep your pet’s fur conditioned. These wipes are BPA-free, alcohol-free, paraben-free, and chlorine-free. Also, they come in a container that aids easy dispensing.
Earth Rated created these deodorizing and sustainable wipes to contribute to your sustainable pet care routine. These plant-based wipes are USDA-Certified 99% biobased. You can decide to compost the wipes once you’re done with them. This helps to reduce the environmental impact and also curbs your pet’s carbon pawprint. The wipes are versatile, chemical-free, travel-friendly, and gentle.
These serve as an eco-friendly alternative to regular makeup wipes. If you’re on the road, for instance, and can’t easily access wash clothes, these are a convenient choice to remove makeup. Made from 100% certified organic cotton, these wipes don’t contain toxic materials such as plastic and dyes. At the end of the lifecycle, they will decompose naturally in the environment. As a result, you create less waste and less harm. You can use these wipes for removing your zero waste makeup or for quick facial cleansing.
Formulated with a solution that’s 99% naturally derived, these Bambootiful wipes are both safe for you and the planet. The manufacturers make them from sustainably sourced bamboo, making each product biodegradable. Free from harsh components, these makeup remover wipes are suitable for you if you easily experience irritations. The packaging is ideal for keeping within the house or taking along during travels. Apart from being earth-friendly, this product is also cruelty-free.
If you’re looking for a sustainable alternative to wet wipes, there’s something on the list for you. Apart from the eco-friendly perspective, many of them are stronger than toilet paper. Therefore, this ensures durability. Unlike dry toilet paper, they aid in cleaning and cleansing while providing moisturizing properties. The selections from the list come from sustainable sources and have an earth-friendly lifecycle. Whether it’s for you, your baby, your pet, or your home, you’re certain you’re making the right choice by selecting plastic-free alternatives.
Briain, O. Ó., Mendes, A. R. M., McCarron, S., Healy, M. G., & Morrison, L. (2020). The role of wet wipes and sanitary towels as a source of white microplastic fibres in the marine environment. Water Research, 182, 116021
Water UK. (2017, December 12). Wipes in Sewer Blockage Study. [PDF]
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.