Will I be called a hypocrite for teaching you how to make disposable baby wipes using bleached paper towel?
Last week a reader used the term because I freely admitted to using disposable diapers in the same post as I said, “It’s important to know what’s going on baby’s skin.”
The mission of Kitchen Stewardship is to help people take baby steps to stewarding their health, earth, time and money. Balancing all four is no easy task.
Neither is “doing it all.”
If anyone freely admits to being a baby step person herself, it’s me. I never want anyone to think I have it all together, because I certainly don’t. I’m still making one small change at a time.
It’s just that I’ve been at it for years now. See?
So while I may seem that I’m a poster child for real food, saving the earth, and keeping a tight budget without coupons, don’t delude yourself. I’m just an average mom, scraping by on a thread or two of sanity, doing one thing at a time and trying to make a difference for my family’s wellness.
Sometimes I make choices of balance that necessitate one of the pillars of Kitchen Stewardship to be prioritized over others.
In diapering, for example, so far I’ve prioritized finances and time over health and earth. That’s what those little icons on every Monday Mission are all about, by the way:
I’ve been making my own wipes since partway through diapering my first, which is probably why the priorities are what they are. Back then, as a new stay-at-home mom, life was really all about two things: saving money and parenting by the book. I wanted to do everything right for that baby.
My mom, in fact, often shakes her head remembering how my husband and I tried to follow all the suggestions in all the parenting books, so much so that we forgot to just let loose and play with our son. That’s why she got his first real chuckle.
I’ve altered my method a bit over the years, deleting the toxic soaps I used to use and adding an essential oil, so now homemade baby wipes serve two purposes: frugality and health. They’re still disposable, so the ol’ Earth gets the shaft on this practice, but I’m doing what I can in my stage of life right now.
Are you ready to learn how to save over 90% on baby wipes?
Recipe: Homemade Natural Baby Wipes
What you’ll need:
sturdy paper towel*
very sharp knife
glass measuring cup
tea tree oil (optional)
white vinegar (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Paper towel…I recommend only Viva brand. I’ve made wipes from other top brands before (Bounty), but nothing acts like a “real” wipe like the cloth-like Viva. Believe me, when you’re paying about $12-20 for the entire year’s worth of wipes, the premium price is worth it! (Here’s where you can upgrade to saving the Earth as you like: make reusable wipes using cut up receiving blanket, baby washcloths, or any kind of fabric you like. The instructions will be the same.)
Sharp knife…Do NOT use a serrated knife, no matter how tempting it seems. I didn’t bring the knife I usually use for cutting paper towel rolls to my in-laws’, and I thought I might try her serrated knife. It makes a huge mess of little paper towel nubbies and doesn’t work anyway. Take my word on it.
Containers…I prefer to use an old wipes box, which perfectly fits 1/3 roll of paper towel. A tall Cool Whip container (ask friends or family to save one for you in case you don’t buy Cool Whip), a round plastic storage container with a lid from a dollar store, or just a gallon plastic bag are other frugal options. I collected a few extra wipes boxes through Freecycle.
Water…For now, I just use tap water, but another healthy upgrade will happen when I get a Berkey and can start with non-chlorinated water. If your city water uses chlorine and not chloramine to disinfect, you can leave a cup of water on the counter for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate if that’s important to you.
Soap…I used to make the wipes with whatever baby soap I had on hand (1 Tbs.) plus baby oil. Then I realized that mineral oil (I think that’s what baby oil was?) is not so good to leave on baby’s bottom, and I started looking into a safer soap. I’ve made nice wipes with Shaklee’s Basic H and Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, both of which are concentrated, so just a squirt will do.
I noticed that Earth Mama Angel Baby has a “how to make wipes” on their site using the Non-scents hand-to-toe wash, so I’m thinking any natural baby soap you’ve got could just be repurposed in your wipes; no need to buy anything new.
Tea Tree oil…Sometimes homemade baby wipes can get moldy, so I’ve tried a few things to combat that. Adding a drop or two of tea tree oil, which has antibacterial properties and smells great, works for me.
White vinegar…a splash of vinegar serves the same purpose as the tea tree oil and I’ve read it can fight yeast infections for baby, too.
Olive oil…I cut the oil in my wipes and just skip it, but you could use 1/2-1 Tbs. EVOO for a little more glide if you like.
1. Cut a roll of paper towels into thirds (some do half, but I’ve found 1/3 is big enough and fits well in the wipes box). I score it first (above) to help me hit the mark. Use a very sharp knife, and sharpen the knife before and after.
Time saver: I usually cut 2-3 rolls up at once and store the thirds in a plastic bag in my laundry room. Only once has a guest accidentally used them as toilet paper…
2. Boil 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water. You’ll figure out as you go how wet you like the wipes. I used to use 1 1/2 cups, but now I hit more around 1 1/4. You can boil in a teapot on the stove, or if you use the microwave, nuke in a glass measuring cup for 4 minutes. This simply ensures you’re starting with sterilized water.
3. Add a small squirt of concentrated natural soap or 1 Tbs. of regular baby soap to the measuring cup.
If you’re using castile soap, the mixture will be cloudy. That’s normal.
4. Add a drop or two of tea tree oil and a splash of white vinegar at this time, if using. (If you put the vinegar and castile soap together before the water, weird things happen.) Your kitchen will smell heavenly and clean from the tea tree oil in the hot water.
5. Wiggle the cardboard roll out from the center of one of the thirds of paper towel. I usually remove the outer layer of paper towel, too, just because they’ve been banging around in a bag in my laundry room, and I want baby’s stuff to be all clean. Use that paper towel for a quick wipe up at your next mess.
6. Place the roll hole-side-up in your container of choice. Pour the solution over the center and around the top of the roll. Some instructions will tell you to flip the roll over after 10 minutes, but I’ve found that if you just close the lid and forget about it, everything seems to get evenly wet.
7. Once everything is cooled down, you can pull individual wipes out from the center of the roll. To fill a travel box of wipes, just tear them off individually and fold in half.
Keep in mind that these wipes won’t last forever, as they tend to mold/mildew after a few weeks, so you can’t really make them up in advance. I try to wipe down and air out the inside of my wipes box before each new batch. Last time I used the tea tree oil and water from the next batch before I added the soap – brilliant!
Yes, these wipes are strong enough for wiping hands while on the go, especially if you like having an alternative to hand sanitizers (I’ll be talking about those next week, by the way). You could also use them for quick wipe-ups, washing desks at school, or cleaning small spills off the floor.
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Or Just Save 50%…
If you’re just not ready for one. more. thing. I have a suggestion for those of you using store wipes: Cut the whole stack in half.
For most changes, you’ll only need half, and you can always use 2 or 3 when you need it. Think of it as a 50% off sale that takes about 1 minute with good kitchen scissors.
If you are buying at the store, don’t let your wallet get fooled by greenwashing. “Natural” wipes are often anything but:
Huggies “natural” baby wipes not only include parabens, but another toxic chemical, methylisothiazolinone, that is on Health Canada’s toxic watch list. You can watch this show on “lousy labels” for info on Seventh Generation’s diapers and Huggies “natural” wipes. (start 16 minutes in for just those two)
Here is Huggies response, which doesn’t help. I wouldn’t bother buying them.
Other Natural Baby Options