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Are Universal Wipes Safe?

Are Universal Wipes Safe?

Most universal wipes ingredients include a detergent and a disinfectant like alcohol or quaternary ammonium, which can kill a broad spectrum of potentially infectious agents.


Because of their name, people often ask whether universal wipes are safe for use on skin, delicate surfaces, or high-risk areas. This article will look at how safe universal wipes are and where they are safe to use. If you want to know more about the basics of universal wipes, check our blog.

Where is it safe to use universal wipes?

Universal wipes have an extensive range of applications, designed to be used in virtually any setting and on all non-porous surfaces and non-invasive medical devices. Because of their ease of use and efficiency, universal wipes can be added to almost all cleaning protocols. They are often found in care homes, residential homes, hospitals, GP surgeries, dental clinics, vet clinics, beauty salons, tattoo shops, schools, hospitality venues, kitchens, and more. 

Because of their general use, people wonder if universal wipes can be used on the skin for spot cleaning and disinfecting. While universal wipes won’t harm your skin if you make physical contact with them, we don’t recommend using them to clean the skin.

This is because the formula used on the wipes is a solution made specifically for cleaning surfaces and equipment, not skin. Formulas made for skin are much gentler, and a good one should also contain moisturising ingredients to keep skin hydrated with repeated use. 

PDI Universal Wipes won’t damage skin, but the manufacturer does advise that “prolonged contact may cause redness, irritation”. Hence, if you regularly use wipes to clean, it’s good to use disposable gloves.

PDI also warns against the formula entering the eye, saying eye contact may be “irritating and may cause redness and pain and may lead to some irritation experienced if the liquid is in contact to the eye”. If contact is made with the eye, it advises to “immediately flush with plenty of water for up to 15 minutes. Remove any contact lenses and open eyelids widely. If irritation persists: Seek medical attention and bring along these instructions.”

Download the PDI Universal Wipes Safety Data Sheet

If you need disposable infection control wipes to clean skin, look for a product made for that specific purpose. PDI has a few different options:

PDI Hygea Hands and Face Personal Washcloths: gentle, hypoallergenic formula for helping patients stay clean.

Are universal wipes alcohol-free?

Some universal wipes are alcohol-free, but not all. Alcohol is a very efficient disinfectant, but it also has some drawbacks, such as its dehydrating quality, its vapours, and discomfort on some sensitive skin, especially if there are any lacerations.

Quaternary ammonium is a good substitute where alcohol cannot be used as a disinfectant. Quats can kill just as many microorganisms as alcohol but are safer to use around people who are sensitive to alcohol.

PDI Sani-Cloth® AF Universal Wipes are made with a quaternary ammonium compound called Didecyldimethylammonium chloride 0.450%w/w.

Are universal wipes food safe?

Antibacterial universal wipes have a high kill count and can kill a broad spectrum of infectious microorganisms, including Staphylococcus aureus, norovirus, and Covid-19. They can also kill a broad range of other bacteria, enveloped and non-enveloped viruses, yeasts, and TB.

Because of this, universal wipes are popular for use in commercial kitchens, care home kitchens, school kitchens and cafeterias, and hospital catering facilities. 


How do you use universal wipes correctly? There is a method. Find out in our blog.

Are universal wipes flammable?

Alcohol-based universal wipes are flammable because of their disinfectant formula, making them a fire hazard. To avoid this, you can use alcohol-free universal wipes like PDI Sani-Cloth® AF Universal Wipes that use quaternary ammonium to kill infectious agents with just as much efficiency.

Are universal wipes biodegradable?

The formulation in PDI universal wipes is biodegradable.

How to Safely Dispose of Universal Wipes

PDI advises that “the amount of mixture obtained from wipes would be negligible to cause any hazards unless it is disposed of in large quantities into rivers, waters and environment.” However, the liquid is still potentially harmful to aquatic life.

We recommend soaking up any residual liquid in empty containers using paper towels and disposing of these in your general waste. The empty canisters and buckets can be recycled via regular recycling streams. 

In terms of disposal instructions, PDI states the following:

“The generation of waste should be avoided or minimised wherever possible. Empty packs or liners may retain some product residues. This material and its pack must be disposed of in a safe way.

Dispose of surplus and non-recyclable products via a licensed waste disposal contractor. Disposal of this product, solutions and any by-products should at all times comply with the requirements of environmental protection and waste disposal legislation and any regional local authority requirements.”

The manufacturer also says the “classification of the product may meet the criteria for non-hazardous waste.” However, once wipes are contaminated, they are often classed as hazardous waste, particularly if used to clean up body fluids. Do not macerate universal wipes.

Check our guide on the colour coding of biohazard bags to find out what to do with different types of waste.

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