I’m one of those people who loves to always have clean hands. Whether I’m eating out, using public transport, in a shopping centre (which is not often these days👍) or in the park on a picnic, I feel there’s something comforting and fresh about washing my hands. Since it’s not always possible to access a sink or tap for hand washing, wet wipes would seem to be the easiest and most convenient way of cleaning up on the go. Unfortunately, fast and convenient too often spells environmental degradation and profits for big business (nothing new there!).
In the past, I would always keep a packet of baby wipes in the car just in case and would use them only sparingly to justify their environmental impact (somehow?), but since I have been delving deeper into the zero-waste philosophy and discovering more and more about the horrific impact our waste is having on the Earth, I have vowed to stop purchasing them.
I can certainly see why so many people continue to buy into the wipes craze, though. There seems to be a wipe out there for just about everything – even the rear ends of those of us to whom nappies are a distant memory – and with clever marketers claiming we’ll be protecting our families against 99.9% of all bacteria (which is actually not good for us) and will be feeling oh so fresh and clean around the clock, I can see why some serious product is being moved by Kleenex et al. As we might have guessed, however, behind the glitzy marketing hype there is an uncomfortable reality. To begin with, the increasingly popular ‘flushable’ wipe is not what it appears to be. According to the Australian consumer magazine Choice, the claims made by manufacturers regarding the supposed biodegradability of their products are a pile of crap (heh!). These wipes are blocking our pipes big time and having to be removed at a huge cost so that they can be transferred to landfill, or else ending up in our precious waterways. Similarly, wet wipes that are intended for hand, face and surface wiping end up in the same place as their sewer-dwelling relatives – landfill, or our oceans when it comes to those who don’t care to use a bin (and based on the number of wipes Mr SLE and I find in street gutters during our cleanups, apparently the latter is a popular choice). Sigh.
The great news is that I have discovered a fantastic alternative to wet wipes using the humble household hankie and a bit of pre-planning before heading out. Here’s how I make my zero-waste wet wipes…
Simply grab the number of hankies you’re going to need, put them in a clean sink and add just enough water to cover them (you can use the water collected in a bucket while the water from your most recent shower was heating).
Then add 1 drop of essential oil (I use lemongrass, but anything would do!) and 1 to 2 drops of dishwashing liquid. Stir the water a bit with your hands to mix.
Remove the hankies one by one, squeezing off the excess water (but not too much so they still remain quite moist), then fold and roll each one up.
Now simply place the rolled-up wipes vertically in a jar, keeping one corner of each wipe between two fingers while lowering it in for easy grabbing later.
Put the jar in the fridge for at least 1 hour to cool down. For express cooling, pop them in the freezer for a little while instead (be wary of the fragility of the glass if you choose this option).
Either use the wipes directly from the fridge, or if you will be using them on the go, store them in an esky or cooler bag with an ice brick until ready to use.
I recommend using the wipes within a few hours if storing in an esky, and within about 12 hours if storing in the fridge.
We put them straight back in the jar after using them so we can simply dump the contents of the jar directly in the washing machine, ready to be washed when the next load of washing goes on.
If you haven’t tried making your own zero-waste wet wipes, I hope you might give it a go soon. It’s a win-win-win, in my opinion: zero waste, zero chemicals on your skin, and zero dollars spent. Wipe on, friends!