Baby Wipes vs. Adult Wipes vs. Wet Wipes: What’s the Difference?

Kiera Powell, R.N.
Verified by Kiera Powell, R.N. and written by Chad Birt on Thu Jun 17 2021.
Medically Verified
Baby Wipes vs. Adult Wipes vs. Wet Wipes: What’s the Difference?

When caring for someone with incontinence, always have a bag ready with adult diapers, adult wipes, and clean clothing. If your loved one experiences a urine or bowel void, the sooner you can clean it up, the less likely they are to experience diaper rash, irritated skin, or lesions. Learn the difference between Baby Wipes vs. Adult Wipes vs. Wet Wipes

With so many different wipes out there, it can be difficult to know which type to choose. Are adult wipes the same as baby wipes? And if not, what makes them different? To help make the decision a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions.

What’s the difference between adult wipes, baby wipes, and wet wipes?

Adult wipes, baby wipes, and wet wipes are all similar, but they have distinct differences. Here’s a breakdown:

Baby wipes.

Baby wipes are specifically formulated for infant skin, which is sensitive and prone to irritation. As a result, most baby wipes are alcohol and soap-free. Baby wipes are great for diaper changes and provide a convenient alternative to bathing. They come prepackaged and feature a snap-top or resealable lid for easy access. 

Adult wipes.

Adult wipes, or personal cleansing wipes, are formulated for adult skin. Often, they contain added scents and moisturizers. Adult wipes are used for bathing or to minimize odors and skin irritation following diaper changes. Like baby wipes, adult wipes come prepackaged and feature a snap-top or resealable lid for easy access. 

Wet wipes.

Wet wipes are infused with a mild disinfectant like isopropyl alcohol, and are used for cleaning. In a pinch, they’re safe on the skin, but as a general rule, wet wipes are better at mopping up dirt or liquid. Most wet wipes come individually wrapped for easy transport and convenience. 

It’s worth noting that some wipes also contain CHG (chlorhexidine gluconate), which is used to reduce the spread of infections in hospital settings, but can also be beneficial for at-home use, especially in patients who have other invasive lines/drains.

Since adult wipes and wet wipes are so similar, here’s an easy way to remember the difference –– not all wet wipes are right for use on the body. 

Are baby wipes antibacterial?

Baby wipes can be used for bathing or diaper changes, but they aren’t antibacterial. The cleaning chemicals used in antibacterial wipes are harsh, increasing the risk of rashes and irritation as well as bacterial, and fungal infections. 

When caring for adults, it’s best to avoid baby wipes altogether. Though they’re fine on occasion, the ingredients in baby wipes can affect the health and condition of your loved one’s skin.

When should I use adult wipes vs. baby wipes vs. wet wipes?

There are so many wipes out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many new caregivers start out using baby wipes but quickly realize there are better options available. That’s because baby wipes are small, specifically formulated for infant skin, and tear easily. 

Adult wipes are larger, stronger, and formulated to prevent irritation. They’re soft, cleansing, and ideal for diaper changes. Plus, they contain moisturizing ingredients like aloe or lotion to protect your loved one’s skin. 

Wet wipes are similar in size to adult wipes, but they rarely contain moisturizing ingredients. If you or your loved one need to wash your hands, wet wipes are an acceptable alternative to soap and water. Avoid using wet wipes on sensitive areas of the body like the anus or perineum, as they can irritate the skin. Wipes that are intended for the perineum will always be marketed as such.

What’s the difference between flushable and non-flushable wipes?

Many pre-packaged wipes are advertised as “flushable,” but only because there are no rules against doing so. Adult wipes, baby wipes, and wet wipes are all made from woven, synthetic fibers like plastic or polyester. They don’t break down like toilet paper and can quickly clog your plumbing or septic system

To prevent any potential headaches, always dispose of used wipes in the trash. If you’re worried about pets or little ones getting into them, toss the used wipes into something with a lid, like an old yogurt or butter container.  

Where can I buy adult wipes, wet wipes, and baby wipes?

We carry a variety of adult wipes, wet wipes, and baby wipes here on the Carewell website. To narrow down the selection process, we’ve highlighted a few of our top sellers below.

Prevail® adult wipes with lotion

These adult wipes from Prevail are infused with aloe and Vitamin E. They’re great for bathing, changing a loved one’s diaper, or soothing dry skin. The durable, tightly woven fabric prevents tearing, making post-void cleanup easy. 

Key benefits and features:

  • 48 wipes per pack

  • Single-hand dispensing for convenience

  • Double the size of baby wipes for extra protection

  • Free of latex and rubber

PROCare wipes with aloe and vitamin E

PROCare wipes feature a soft, cloth-like material made of spun-lace fabric. They’re infused with aloe and Vitamin E and are clinically proven to be mild on the skin. Each wipe is 8” x 12”.

Key benefits and features:

  • Alcohol-free

  • Strong fabric that’s less likely to tear

  • 50 wipes per pack

  • Single-hand dispensing for convenience

Sage® comfort bath premium heavyweight bath wipes

If you care for someone who’s unable to bathe in the bathtub or shower, consider these comfort bath wipes from Sage.  Each package contains eight disposable, washcloth-like towelettes. Each wipe is 8” x 8” and infused with aloe and Vitamin E. 

Key benefits and features:

  • Ideal for bathing

  • Safe for use on sensitive areas, like the genitals, anus, or perineum

  • Can be warmed in the microwave for comfort

  • Ultra-soft material 

Tranquility® wipes

These soft, multipurpose wipes from Tranquility are safe for use on any part of the body. They’re infused with aloe, Vitamin E, and chamomile, and are specially designed for wheelchair-bound or bedridden individuals. These wipes are ideal for sensitive skin, as they’re hypoallergenic, alcohol, and paraben-free. 

Key benefits and features:

  • 56 wipes per pack

  • Peach mat construction

  • Each wipe is 9” X 13”

  • Latex-free

  • Resealable lid to keep wipes moist

McKesson sanitizing skin wipes

These sanitizing skin wipes from McKesson are formulated for general antiseptic cleaning. The active ingredient is benzalkonium chloride (BKZ), a disinfectant. Use these wipes to wash your hands, clean wounds, or mop up spills. Do not use them for bathing or diaper changes.

Key benefits and features:

  • Sterile and latex-free

  • Each wipe is 5” X 7”

  • 100 wipes per box

  • Single-use, individually packaged

To learn more about the differences between wipes, visit our page on hygienic wipes. If you still have questions, contact our friendly and knowledgeable care team. Call (855) 855-1666 or send an email to support@carewell.com

Finding the right wipe for your loved one may take some trial and error, but once you do, it’s sure to make your job as a caregiver much easier.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.