The name may be fooling you.
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Disinfecting wipes were a gift, a revelation even, when they first started popping up in cleaning product aisles. The idea of keeping a stash of ready-to-go wipes under kitchen or bathroom cabinets meant you could tackle dirty counters and grimy handles quickly, without digging through a cabinet full of bottles to find the right cleaner and the right rag.

But just as these wipes have become ubiquitous in kitchens, bathrooms, and playrooms, there remains a bit of confusion about just exactly what's in them. And you can probably blame that on the product name — Clorox Wipes.

Clorox Wipes
Photo: Clorox

By no fault of their own, these wipes, regardless of brand name, are often just called Clorox Wipes, and Clorox is typically associated with bleach. Therefore, Clorox Wipes equate to bleach wipes in the minds of many shoppers. But actually, there's no bleach in these wipes.

On their website, Clorox writes, "Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are made with a bleach-free formula that's available in different scents so they leave a light, clean smell every time you wipe down a surface."

Bleach may be considered the gold standard for disinfecting, but Clorox Wipes — and other disinfecting wipes like them — are made with anti-bacterial formulas that are designed to kill "99.9% of bacteria," including Salmonella and E. coli, Clorox says. That's primarily the target of kitchen cleaners anyway, as those are the microbes most likely to be left behind from raw meats and even some produce.

How to Use Disinfecting Wipes Properly

But there's one thing to remember about disinfecting wipes: if you don't use them properly, they could make your kitchen dirtier.

The instructions on disinfectant wipes often tell you to keep the surface wet for four minutes. Most people pass a wipe across a counter and move on, not bothering to perform the necessary steps for proper disinfecting.

What's more, if you use the wipes for too long — or in a space that's too big — you'll stop smashing germs and start spreading them. Most wipes should be used only on one surface and then trashed. If you take one wipe and hit the counter, fridge handle, pantry handle, and microwave buttons, you may not be doing any real germ killing.

Instead, use one wipe for a small area of counter. Then get another one. If you swap to cleaning your fridge, that calls for a new wipe. Cleaning door handles? A new wipe. When in doubt, get a new wipe.

Should You Ever Use Bleach Wipes?

Bleach is highly effective at killing bacteria. Diluted bleach kills bacteria in as little as 10 minutes. That's why it's the primary disinfectant used in health care settings.

But occasionally, bleach is called for in homes, such as after a stomach bug has passed through or the flu has hit a family member. While the disinfecting wipes might handle those bacteria, you probably want to be sure with a good bleach bath.

Bottled products like Clorox Clean-Up With Bleach can come in handy on these occasions. These pre-mixed bleach solutions have the advantage of being combined with other chemicals that can serve as a cleaner, too, if that's necessary.

You can also mix up a bleach solution of about 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon water. Load that into a spray bottle, and use paper towels or clean fabric rags to spray, and then wipe, surfaces. Go back behind the bleach after an hour with a moistened towel (just water is fine) to remove any bleach residue if it's on a surface young kids might touch.

If you like the convenience factor of wipes, bleach wipes actually are available. (They may not be in your grocery store, however.) Check that the label says bleach before buying. One clue is that the label may indicate the wipes are for use in health care settings. Two such options are Sani-Cloth Bleach Germicidal Disposable Wipes and Clorox Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Wipes.