Disposable vs Reusable Wipes in Healthcare Environments

Special wipes are increasingly being used to decontaminate low-risk equipment and surfaces in healthcare environments. 

Strong scientific evidence suggests that contaminated equipment and surfaces contribute to the transmission of pathogens, which can spread rapidly to often vulnerable patients.

Environmental decontamination has a key role to play in the prevention of infection in places like hospitals, care homes, residential homes, nurseries and other clinical settings.

How best to fight this type of infection has, understandably, been a source of much academic debate and more practical discussions amongst hospital procurement teams, nurses, managers and health and social care workers.

One question that has concerned researchers and practitioners is whether it is better to use single-use disposable wipes or reusable cloths that are regularly laundered.

In this blog post, we compare the use of disposable and reusable wipes on a number of key indices, starting with the most important.

disposable wipes limit spread of infection
Used correctly, disposable wipes help limit the spread of infection

Infection control

Healthcare cleaning practices are critical to preventing infection transmission. Reusable cloths soaked with disinfectants were – and in some places still are – commonly used to clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment.

But recent studies have shown that these cloths can be ineffective and dangerous. One study showed that rather than wiping away germs, these reusable cloths could actually be spreading them. Other studies have concluded that healthcare laundering practices are insufficient to get rid of contaminants and that cotton towels should not be used in healthcare environments because they reduce the effectiveness of disinfectant cleaning products.

If they are used correctly, disposable wipes are better for infection control because they limit the spread of infection. Once a wipe has been used to decontaminate a surface and is correctly disposed of, any possible infection has no chance to spread to new areas and other patients.

Using disposable cleaning products is particularly important in areas where there is a high risk of infection, such as in surgical rooms.

Hizorb Patient Wipes
Hizorb Patient Wipes can be more economical than reusable alternatives.

Cost

Although cost should not be a more immediate priority than effective infection control, healthcare procurement teams may be concerned about the cost of constantly procuring new wipes.

If you are looking solely at the cost of the wipes or cloth, then disposable wipes are more expensive than reusable cloths. But this simplistic view ignores the cost of laundering reusable cloths which, in many circumstances, will equal or exceed the cost of reusable wipes.

Using cost-effective dry wipes like Hizorb Patient Wipes is more economical. But healthcare procurers need to make sure the wipes are strong and absorbent enough to use in clinical environments.

Environmental impact

A consumer trend away from single-use products like plastic water bottles and domestic wet wipes is driven by growing environmental consciousness and viral news stories about ‘fatbergs’ blocking up sewers.

If wipes are simply thrown away after use, then it stands to reason that disposable wipes will generate more non-recyclable waste than reusable cloths. In the interest of environmental-friendliness and hygiene, however, some wiping products like Hizorb Airlaid Wipes are suitable for disposal in a macerator. This means that these products will never go to landfill and reduces the risk of cross-infection even further. 

Hizorb Airlaid Wipes
Hizorb Airlaid Wipes

IPS Converters provide a range of disposable healthcare wipes and sterile supply disposables for use in healthcare environments. We have supply contracts with dozens of healthcare providers in the UK, including with NHS trusts, and internationally.

For more information, please speak to a member of the team. Call: +44 (0)161 626 1844