Mealtimes get messy with weaning babies and toddlers. The temptation is to just take over as a parent, to spoon feed everything and make as little mess as possible. But this is usually ineffective, and long-term it’s bad for your kids and their eating habits.
We’ve always praised baby-led weaning, in particular focusing on giving our kids the skills early on to engage with and enjoy food in a very hands-on way. That means picking up a lot of food with their hands when they’re little and getting them using culturally from a young age to build the gross and fine motor skills as quickly as possible.
Doing it this way is a win-win for you as a parent, and for your kids. You get a little more time to spend eating your own food while your little ones enjoy eating, or playing with their food. They get to explore textures and taste and develop better hand-eye coordination and you can relax a little guilt-free.
But the big enemy of doing things this way is often the mess that comes with it. Faces, hands, high chairs, tables and floors. It can be a lot when it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in-between. It can make you want to ditch the whole thing.
What made things easier for us is our Mushi cloths. Designed to make meal time clean up easy, they clean up mucky cheeks and hands without any fuss. They’re not only better for the environment - they don’t fill landfills and incinerators with mountains of wipes – but they work better than standard wipes.
How do traditional wet wipes work?
Traditional wet wipes – or what was originally termed the moist towelette - were invented in 1958 by an American Arthur Julius. Working in the cosmetics industry, he coined the term Wet-Nap and popularised the wet wipe with the packaged wipe sold with KFC meals.
Today in the UK we use 11 billion wipes each year now for a range of purposes – cleaning, removing makeup, wiping up baby’s. As we’ve become more health and hygiene conscious , wipes have grown in popularity because they’re so convenient. But why do they work so well?
Typically disposable wipes are bonded together from a variety of fibres (more on this below) and are made into sheets by dissolving them in water and other chemicals before cutting them into sheets and packaging them into plastic wrappers that keep the wipes from drying out, while allowing easy dispensary.
Wipes work because the fibres are highly absorbent and effectively act as a disposable carrier for small amounts of soaps, detergents or moisturisers – depending on what they’re designed to be used for. The specific formulation of the liquid might contain small amounts of soap as a cleaning agent that breaks down muck, dirt or baby poo while you’re wiping. The exact formulation of the liquid in the wipe is regulated like other cosmetics or cleaning agents, but often don’t pay much attention to them like we do for other bath soaps. That’s why brands like Water Wipes focused on making wipes exclusive of a range of ingredients that might be harmful to more fragile baby skin.
What are traditional wet wipes made from?
Traditional disposable wet wipes or towelettes are often made from Polyester. In fact, estimates suggest that 90% of wipes available are made from plastic. While some brands have innovated to create bamboo wipes or wipes made from other natural fibres, this is a vast amount of disposable plastic we get rid of each year.
What ingredients are usually found in baby wet wipes?
The repeated use of wipes on nappy areas and on hand and faces can weaken the upper most barrier of skin – the stratum corneum. With it being super fragile already, this constant wiping can lead to irritation and discomfort. The balance of ingredients needed to create a surfactant (cleaning agent) that will help remove muck and dirt while not causing irritation is a delicate balance. The surfactant in wipes must be much lower than in bath time products (shower gel, shampoo etc) because of how frequently wipes are used in contact with the skin. Some common nappy brands use ingredients like PEG‐40 hydrogenated castor oil to help breakdown oils in dirt and muck for easier cleaning.
Why microfibre is a great alternative to cleaning skin?
While most cleaning of baby skin involves using some sort of chemical formulation in the form of a liquid to remove dirt and muck, overuse of these ingredients might cause skin irritation given the more fragile lipid barrier. It’s a delicate science to use a formulation that will effectively remove the oils of food, poo or wee from the skin without eroding that lipid barrier that also works to protect the skin naturally.
That’s not to say these formulations are necessarily bad. They are after all what we would use to wash kids in the bath. The key difference is how often kids’ skin is in contact with these sorts of ingredients. If there are ways to avoid to reduce exposure, this is a good thing. So when it comes to meal times, an alternative to surfactant cleaning agents might just do that.
Microfibre cloths are not like traditional wipes. As we’ve seen, wipes traditionally use fibres whose main property is their absorbency. There’s nothing special about the fibres at all, they just carry the liquid which effectively does the real cleaning. In contrast microfibres are designed to actually do the heavy lifting. Rather than relying on a cleaning agent, microfibre cloths like Mushi use millions of fibres to naturally attract muck and dirt to the cloth (something called van der Waals forces) that absorb muck rather than break it down with chemicals.
The fibres in the cloth will lift and trap particles until you wash the cloth in hot water to dislodge the dirt, which is why you can restore the cloth to it’s original state by machine washing it.
So microfibre cleansing cloths like Mushi provide a great – no chemical – alternative to cleaning up your kids compared to wipes. While you still might want to use wipes to clean nappy areas, switching to microfibre cloths for some cleaning of your kids skin will help protect their skin in the long run.