What’s in This?: Clorox Wipes

Now that you panic-purchased 108 tubs from Costco, will they actually help protect you from the coronavirus?

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on, or near) themselves.

This edition: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, which are made from nine separate ingredients that we’ve broken down in the exact order they appear online. Clorox wipes, as you probably know by now, have become hot commodities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — so much so that opportunists are hoarding them from retail stores, then reselling them online for higher prices, and Clorox had, at one point recently, actually run out of them altogether.

Now, Clorox wipes can help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus, if you use them to clean your surroundings regularly. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency includes these specific Clorox wipes (and numerous other Clorox products) on their lengthy list of disinfectants that can be used against the coronavirus, and the Clorox website claims that their wipes kill the virus. As for how they actually accomplish that, let’s look to the ingredients to find out.

The Ingredients

1) Water: Water serves as a base for many cleaning products.

2) Hexoxyethanol: A solvent, hexoxyethanol can be found in many cleaning products and primarily acts as a grease remover. It works by surrounding grime particles to loosen them from a surface so that they can be rinsed away. Hexoxyethanol can, however, cause skin irritation — as can many of the subsequent ingredients in these wipes — so avoid cleaning yourself with Clorox wipes, no matter how panicked you are about the coronavirus.

3) Isopropanol: Also known as isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, isopropanol has antimicrobial properties that make it especially good at disinfecting, which makes these wipes particularly effective at reducing the spread of the coronavirus (or more specifically, the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus) — at least as far as the current science is concerned.

4) C12 – 14 Alcohols Ethoxylated Propoxylated: This is an alcohol-based surfactant, meaning it cuts through grease and helps remove grime, similar to hexoxyethanol, and provides more antimicrobial action. 

5) Alkyl C12 – 14 Dimethylethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride: This ingredient and the next one are ammonium-based compounds with surfactant properties and antimicrobial properties that help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, like the coronavirus. 

6) Alkyl C12 – 18 Dimethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride: See above.

7) Sodium Bicarbonate: More commonly known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate improves the efficiency of cleaning products by acting as a water softener, removing calcium, magnesium and other minerals found in tap water that can hinder the cleaning process and result in grimy buildup.

8) Citric Acid: Citric acid, which is found naturally in citrus fruits, is in many household cleaners, since it kills bacteria, mildew and mold. Similar to sodium bicarbonate, it can be especially effective at cleaning mineral deposits on sinks, toilets and showers.

9) Fragrance: Unlike many companies, which refuse to release the ingredients in their fragrances, Clorox notes that these wipes contain limonene, a terpene (odorous compound) obtained from the rinds of citrus fruits that smells like, well, citrus and can help dissolve soils and stains, too. Limonene has, however, been identified as a possible allergen, so again, avoid too much contact with these wipes if you have a sensitivity to cleaning supplies and fragrances — and never use them to clean yourself.

The Takeaway

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have emphasized, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces is a great way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus — and Clorox wipes provide a quick-and-easy means of doing that. While there are certainly more environmentally friendly ways of cleaning your home, hey, the world is crazy right now, and if Clorox wipes are what you need to get some cleaning done, by all means, use them.