As a cloth diapering mom I choose to use cloth wipes the majority of the time. But, there was a time when I was changing and wiping two bums and I can?t help but fall for the convenience of disposable wipes.
Since I was switching between cloth and disposable wipes, my biggest concern was ?when does baby wipes expire??
That?s when I started to look at the expiration date on the disposable wipes. Since I was only using natural baby wipes that contained very little to no preservatives, the expiration date of the wipes was an important concern for me.
Whether you just found out a pack of wipes hiding in your diaper bag or stock piled a bundle of wipes and wondering if they have a shelf life,this post is for you.
I have answers most of your questions and if there is anything more you need to know about expired wipes let me know and I will find it out for you.
First off, do baby wipes expire?
Let’s start with the most asked question,does baby wipes really expire? The answer is ?It depends on the brand of wipes you use.? Some mainstream brands use chemical preservatives that makes their wipes last longer without the risk of bacterial growth.
If you are using wipes that use natural preservatives (like Grape Seed Extract) they often come with ?best by? date past which there is a risk of bacterial or fungal growth.
First, we need to understand what makes wipes last long. To make wipes last longer manufacturers add preservatives. There are two kinds of preservatives chemical and natural ingredients.
Chemical ingredients you can find in baby wipes like Methylisothiazolinone (MIT),Phenoxyethanol,Parabens, etc., are commonly used in baby wipes as preservatives to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth.
The problem with chemical ingredients is that they can be harmful to your baby’s skin. Some of the chemical ingredients listed above are nasty to your baby?s health as they are rated by EWG as endocrine disruptors.
That’s why you see major brands like Pampers,Huggies,etc., never really expire and many brands don?t have an expiry date printed on the package.
Brands that do not have an expiry date generally suggest that customers should use up their wipes within 30 months of opening it. This might vary with the brand but 2 – 3 years after opening the packet seems to be the norm.
Here is an example of a wipe (Baby Boo Bamboo wipes) that has expiry date printed on the back of their packet.
Here is another example (Honest Wipes) where the expiry date is printed under the flap of the packet.
On the other hand, when you look at natural wipes that use plant derived preservatives does come with a shelf life.
For Example, one of my favorite non toxic wipes are Water Wipes.
If you take a look at their ingredients list, you will find only two ingredients – Water and Grape Seed Extract. Water wipes uses GSE as a preservative. GSE is naturally antimicrobial but is not as powerful as chemical ingredients.
For this very reason, Water Wipes recommends consumers to use the wipes within 4 weeks after opening the package (past which there is a risk of bacterial growth)
So, if they don?t really expire, what else can happen?
As we talked before, baby wipes generally come with a ?use by? or ?best by? date rather than an expiration date. Generally speaking baby wipes can last as long as two to three years.
So if they don?t expire, can baby wipes go bad? Or become unusable?
Yes! They can!
Here are a few things that can happen to your wipes over time.
They can dry out:
Ever opened a bag of wipes only to see them dry as a bone?
If you think about it, baby wipes mainly contain water and we know that water can easily evaporate and escape out of the package making the wipes too dry to be used on your baby. Here are some tips to keep your wipes from drying out.
In order to keep your baby wipes from drying out:
- Make sure not to expose them to light or sun.
- Do not leave them open and
- Reseal them tightly after each use.
Sometimes, even unopened packages can dry out and there is nothing much you can do about it. That?s why you should be careful while buying wipes in bulk.
Products that does not have a specific expiry date like baby wipes can be left unchecked for a long time. I recommend to purchase recently manufactured wipes especially if you are planning to stock up.
If wipes do dry out, instead of throwing them in the trash, you can re-hydrate dried out wipes by adding distilled water to it.
But you have to keep in mind that there is an increased chance of exposing the wipes to external bacteria by adding water to the wipes.
It is better to use up these wipes as soon as you can and keep an eye on unusual smell or any discoloration.
If you are using tap water instead of distilled water, then my recommendation is to wet wipes as and when you use them.
They start to become less effective:
Other ingredients that you commonly find in baby wipes are cleansing (soap) and moisturizing (oils) ingredients. All of these can also break down or lose their potency if the wipes have past their shelf life.
To test whether wipes have lost their cleaning power, you can simply wipe them on your hands and see if you feel a soapy texture.
Just like how you can add water to dried wipes to refresh them, you can add baby shampoo to the wipes to give them a boost.
To add baby shampoo, you would have to mix it with water, pour it over wipes and give them a good shake. Again,since you are adding water, make sure to use them up sooner.
They might grow bacteria or mold:
This issue usually pops up when using natural wipes (that contain less preservatives) than mainstream wipe brands (as they use stronger preservatives).
You would think there is no chance for mold to grow on wipes. But, there are reports on mold occurrence on popular brands like Babyganics and Honest.
Mold are fungal organisms that grow by releasing toxic micro-spores into the air. You can identify mold in your wipes if you see black or grayish colored spots on your wipes.
If you do spot mold formation, stop using them and contact the manufacturer. Companies will usually offer you a refund, or send you replacement pack and/or issue a recall.
Whether you see a mold or suspect bacterial growth in your wipes, there is nothing you can do other than tossing the wipes in the garbage. Using infected wipes can make your baby make prone to allergies, skin sensitivities or other infections.
Is It Safe to use Expired Wipes?
Since most brands do not come with an expiration date, it is safe to assume that there is not much health concern with using expired baby wipes. Worst case, your wipes would have become completely dry and we have discussed above how you can moisten them by adding water.
But, as I already mentioned, if you notice that your baby wipes are smelling odd or look discolored, then take no chances, throw them away. Using contaminated wipes to clean your baby’s bum can cause skin allergies or even urinary infections.
Have you come across expired baby wipes? What did you do? let me know in the comments below.