Wet-Naps, also known as a wet wipe, wet towel or a moist towelette, disposable wipe, disinfecting wipe, or a baby wipe (in specific circumstances) a small to medium-sized moistened piece of plastic or cloth that either comes folded or individually wrapped for convenience or, in the case of dispensers, as a large roll with individual wipes that can be torn off.
They are used for cleaning hands (we always kept some handy at our rocket launches to clean our hands for eating or driving home), cleaning countertops, wiping bums, cleaning up after babies and toddlers, picnics, and camping (where access to soap and water is not available), and cleaning up your hands and face after a messy meal.
In 1957, Arthur Julius came up with the idea for Wet-naps that he patented a year later. His idea came from the boudoir. He worked in the cosmetics industry and came across a pre-moistened wipe. This gave him the idea to make and individually package these for restaurant purposes.
Julius spent $5,000 to acquire and adapt a machine that had been designed as a soup portioner, putting it in a loft in Manhattan. He spent the next few years perfecting and unveiling them at the 1960 National Restaurant Show in Chicago.
When his son Robert Julius joined the business in 1963, he and his father had a plan to jump-start sales of their Wet-Nap. “We talked about, why don’t we go and call on Colonel Sanders.” Since 1956, Kentucky Fried Chicken had a famous tagline: “It’s finger lickin’ good.”
They knew this was a perfect match and met with the Colonel himself in Shelbyville, Kentucky. That same year, the Wet-Nap was introduced into KFC stores. I remember using them after every KFC meal but didn’t realize this was their beginning.
You’ve got this stuff on your fingers, you lick a lot of it off, but eventually you want your hands clean. What your tongue doesn’t get, the Wet-Nap will.Kevin Hochman – KFC’s chief marketing officer in the 1960s
KFC gives out over 30 million Wet-Naps a year, that’s a billion in 25 years. In the mid-1970s, the Pennsylvania-based Royal Paper started selling their own moist towelettes as a distributor, branding it as a portable, packaged item called the “Royal Fingerbowl.” Royal Paper is somewhere in the 35 to45 percent range for food-service distribution for moist towelettes in the U.S.
I just think the key is having the right materials for the applicator. It’s soft, it carries the right amount of liquid. The liquid is special too, a proprietary blend that cleans well, smells good, and [has] no harsh chemicals.Robert Julius – Nice-Pak
The Wet-Nap can be found in restaurants across the country and has also spurred the Nice-Pak company, which now produces an array of wipes besides the classic Wet-Nap. They produce over 150 billion wipes every year.
Ninety percent of wet wipes are made from nonwoven fabrics made of polyester or polypropylene. The material is moistened with liquids like isopropyl alcohol. It may be treated with softeners, lotions, or perfume to adjust the tactile and olfactory properties. Preservatives such as methylisothiazolinone are used to prevent bacterial or fungal growth in the package.
Rockline Industries of Sheboygan, Wisconsin went on to be the first to innovate the first baby wipe refill pack and pop-up packs which have become common in the marketplace.
The first wet-wipe products specifically marketed as baby wipes, such as Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies wipes and Procter & Gamble’s Pampers wipes, appeared on the market in 1990. By the 1990s, most super stores like Kmart and Wal-Mart had their own private label brand of wipes made by other manufacturers.
Many brands of wet wipes advertise them as flushable. Consumer Reports reported that efforts to make the wipes “flushable” down the toilet had not entirely succeeded, according to their test. Water management companies ask people not to flush wet wipes down toilets, as their failure to break apart or dissolve in water can cause sewer blockages known as fatbergs.
Some brands of wipes contain alcohol, which can kill the bacteria and enzymes responsible for breaking down solid waste in septic tanks. In 2014, a class action suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against Target Corporation, and Nice-Pak Products Inc. on behalf of consumers in Ohio who purchased Target-brand flushable wipes.
They settled the case in 2018. In 2015, the city of Wyoming, Minnesota, launched a class action suit against six companies, including Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, and Nice-Pak, alleging they were fraudulently promoting their products as “flushable”. The lawsuit was dropped in 2018.
The withdrawal by the City of Wyoming and last year’s settlement terms of the Perry litigation corroborate what years of testing and field collection studies have shown: flushable wipes are not causing municipal clogs or increased maintenance. To date, despite sensational headlines, no wastewater operator has offered any public evidence that its maintenance issues are impacted by wipes marketed as ‘flushable’ and passing the industry assessment tests.David Rouse, president of INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (August 2018)
In 2019, the industry body Water UK announced a new standard for flushable wet wipes. Wipes will need to pass rigorous testing in order to gain a new and approved “Fine to Flush” logo. As of January 2019, only one product had been confirmed to meet the standard, although there were about seven others in the process of being tested.
Wet wipes are often included as part of a standard sealed cutlery package offered in restaurants or along with airline meals. They are dispensed in toilets, service stations, doctor’s offices, music festivals, and other public places. BBQ restaurants almost always have these available for their customers.
There are pain relief pads sopping with alcohol and benzocaine. These pads are good for treating minor scrapes, burns, and insect bites. They disinfect the injury and also ease pain and itching.
Today one can find wet wipes for pet care, for example, eye, ear, or dental cleansing pads (with boric acid, potassium chloride, zinc sulfate, sodium borate) for dogs, cats, horses, and birds.
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Medical wet wipes are available for various applications. These include alcohol-wet wipes, chlorhexidine wipes (for disinfection of surfaces and noninvasive medical devices), and sporicidal wipes. Medical wipes can be used to prevent the spread of pathogens such as norovirus and Clostridium difficile.
- Methylisothiazolinone (MIT) is the organic compound with the formula S(CH)2C(O)NCH3. It is a white solid. Isothiazolinones, a class of heterocycles, are used as biocides in numerous personal care products and other industrial applications. MIT and related compounds have attracted much attention for their allergenic properties, e.g. contact dermatitis. [Back]
- A fatberg is a rock-like mass of waste matter in a sewer system formed by the combination of flushed non-biodegradable solids, such as wet wipes, and fat, oil, and grease (FOG) deposits. The handling of FOG waste and the buildup of its deposits are a long-standing problem in waste management, with “fatberg” a more recent neologism. Fatbergs have formed in sewers worldwide, with the rise in usage of disposable (so-called “flushable”) cloths. Several prominent examples were discovered in the 2010s in Great Britain, their formation accelerated by aging Victorian sewers. Fatbergs are costly to remove and have given rise to public awareness campaigns about flushable waste. [Back]
- Clostridioides difficile is a bacterium that is well known for causing serious diarrheal infections, and may also cause colon cancer. Also known as C. difficile, or C. diff (/siː dɪf/), is Gram-positive species of spore-forming bacteria. Clostridioides spp. are anaerobic, motile bacteria, ubiquitous in nature, and especially prevalent in soil. Its vegetative cells are rod-shaped, pleomorphic, and occur in pairs or short chains. Under the microscope, they appear as long, irregular (often drumstick- or spindle-shaped) cells with a bulge at their terminal ends (which forms subterminal spores). Under Gram staining, C. difficile cells are Gram-positive and show optimum growth on blood agar at human body temperatures in the absence of oxygen. C. difficile is catalase- and superoxide dismutase-negative, and produces up to three types of toxins: enterotoxin A, cytotoxin B, and Cytolethal distending toxin. Under stress conditions, the bacteria produce spores that are able to tolerate extreme conditions that the active bacteria cannot tolerate. [Back]