The Best Personal Cleansing Wipes of 2020
The Cetaphil Gentle Skin wipes are on the traditional side of the cleansing wipe spectrum. They are straightforward and modestly designed, yet pack high cleansing power for the entire body. The packaging is easy to open, close, and transport, preventing the wipes from drying out. With a general-use intention, they are more versatile with the day-to-day messes, whether it be from sweat, dirt, or makeup. This product is also non-comedogenic (doesn't clog pores), pH balanced (which means it's similar to the natural pH level of the skin), and is fragrance-free — though, we've interpreted this to mean free of added perfumes because it has a subtle scent that makes us think of baby products. From our tests, we find these wipes to have the best combination of effective cleaning, ease of use, versatility, and durability.
The potential drawbacks are in the ingredients. Even though the package is labeled for "dry, sensitive skin," not everyone's skin reacts the same. The wipes contain sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens. Though, these Cetaphil wipes are widely recommended by dermatologists. For us, they are soft and practical in a way that we appreciate. Best used for general self-care, whether on-the-go or in the comfort of your home, they are also reasonably affordable.
The Nurture No Rinse Bathing Wipes are a solid option for those wanting a full-body clean when there just isn't enough time for a shower. Each package contains eight large, pre-moistened wipes, which yields a long but skinny and lightweight packet. The sticker closure cuts down on bulk and increases their portability. With chamomile extract, the fragrance is flowery but not too overwhelming to our reviewers. Vitamin E and aloe help moisturize without leaving a sensation of residue. The cloth fabric is flexible and leads the testing group in durability. Since the wipes are so big, we are able to wipe down pretty much everything. We recommend starting with your face and working your way down, either leaving feet and private areas for last or using a separate wipe torn in half. The cloths are soft, fragrant, and decently priced.
As far as effectiveness goes, removal of sweat and dirt is a definite highlight despite the moisture level not being as high as other wipes in the group. When it comes to makeup removal, however, these wipes displayed lackluster results. During our tests, scrubbing was required to remove the non-waterproof mascara and lipstick. Even though it eventually did the job, it took some effort and left our skin red. Another point of potential concern relates to the ingredients. The first ingredient listed is dimethicone, which is technically an occlusive polymer derived from silicone. Originally designed for senior citizens and caregivers, these cleansing wipes come in handy when a shower isn't possible. We feel they are best used for supplementing a full-body refresh and are easily carried in totes, gym bags, or backpacks.
Yes to Cucumbers Soothing Wipes provide a competitive natural-leaning option. The product is labeled as having 95% natural ingredients and is made with compostable, FSC-approved fabric. The Forest Stewardship Council "Mix" label means this product contains a blend of wood that is from FSC-certified forests or recycled material. These wipes are also Leaping Bunny Certified (cruelty-free) and use actual fruits or vegetables in their formulas. Yes to is more forthcoming than many companies about their ingredients and ingredient sources, a level of transparency we appreciate. Overall, the convenient lid closure is easy to use, and the package is fairly lightweight. Comparing value, this product provides more wipes per buck than most of our competitive line-up.
Durability is comparatively low with these wipes, but it is easier to overlook when we understand that natural, compostable products are going to fall apart eventually, as they should. On the aspect of cleaning, though, the main issue we found is in their ability to remove makeup. During our test, we had to scrub quite a bit to eliminate the non-waterproof mascara and lipstick. The fabric held up to the scrubbing thankfully. As for the fragrance, it's a combination of flower power and citrus but also very cucumber-like to our testers' noses. We can see how people either love it or hate it. Lastly, we did notice a seeming slippery residue on your hands after use, which subsided within a couple of minutes. We aren't sure as to what exactly is contributing to this, but if you're sensitive to such sensations, we can see how it might be annoying. Best used for the casual morning prep or the midday refresh, they offer high value at a good price. We applaud the mission and sustainability efforts of this product.
The Olay Daily Facial wipes are a unique hybrid between a traditional face washing routine and wet-wipe since the towelettes are dry and require water for activation. This alone makes them less convenient than the pre-moistened alternative, but if you're already spending time in the bathroom to remove makeup or clean your face, then all you're doing is adding one small step. We appreciate this approach because it feels all the more refreshing to lather up, and since the wipes are dry in the package, they weigh almost nothing. During our tests, dirt and makeup came off quickly without the need to scrub at all. Adding water saturated the cloths in a way that made them soft and easy to use. The formula foams, and it feels like you're soaping up in a shower. It is enough to use for the whole body, in our opinion, and the fragrance is soothing and not overpowering. Overall, makeup removal, effective cleansing, and durability are undeniably high with this product.
To nit-pick, these wipes come in a box, and the internal packaging doesn't have any fancy stickers or plastic lids. You tear open the plastic inside, and it just stays open after that. Since the wipes are already dry, there's no need to worry about resecuring a tight seal. Although, we wish the plastic didn't tear so easily. It's like opening a bag of chips, and suddenly the tear is going down the length of the package. And on the ease of use note, while it isn't a hassle to use water when standing at the bathroom sink, it's truly not as convenient to be out-and-about and in a sudden need to self-clean or remove makeup in the car. Even though the instructions seem to imply that no sink rinsing is required, the feeling of foam on the skin makes us want to rinse anyway (we did find that if you just wait, the foam slowly dissipates). We consider the best use to be in the home during your nightly self-care routine.
The Surviverware Biodegradable wipes are a neat solution to wet-wipe bathing in the outdoors. Since the 32 wipes are extra-large, the package we tested is hefty but suitable for car camping adventures. You can also find these wipes in smaller sizes with 15 wipes per package, which are more portable. We appreciate the unscented formula and short ingredient list. There is no excuse for inadequate cleansing with these humongous wipes. We can also tear them into smaller pieces if we don't feel like using a whole one, which we recommend to mitigate waste. Overall, they are simple and straightforward, which is all we want when we're camping. We like that the product is targeted for outdoor enthusiasts and appreciate their minimalism.
While they clean off dirt well, they fail when it comes to makeup, so keep that in mind if that's a priority. These wipes aren't very portable, either, and like many compostable wipes we've tested, they aren't incredibly durable. Important to also note is that while these wipes are biodegradable, they should be reserved for landfills or designated composts instead of leaving them behind in wilderness areas to be found by other animals or humans digging holes. Nonetheless, we applaud their biodegradable nature. This product is on the pricier end of the spectrum, but we find their best use to be for full-body bathing, particularly after sweaty, dirty outdoor recreation.
Simple Kind to Skin wipes are above-average in their effectiveness, durability, and even versatility. They performed consistently across the board in our tests. Unscented, we feel they are more likely to embrace a wider audience. We enjoy how fairly "straightforward" they are ingredient-wise and how compact the packaging is. They are more than sufficient for general needs, despite the sticker closure tearing for us (we think this design could be a little better). This product is dermatologist tested, non-comedogenic, and enriched with Vitamin B5 and E.
They do sting our eyes if we're not careful, so keep that in mind, and we find that they do require significant scrubbing when it comes to makeup removal. But, for how relatively cheap they are, they are a great buy. Best used for anything but makeup removal, in our opinion, they are a simple way to cool off and cleanse during the day.
Dickinson's Original Cleansing Cloths pack quite the pungent punch. If you're a fan of witch hazel, this if for you. Witch hazel is said to have anti-inflammatory effects and is touted as a treatment for acne. It is also an astringent, which means it causes the contraction of skin cells, making skin look tighter. In our tests, these wipes were consistent in their above-average performances with cleansing, ease of use, and durability. We applaud their simple ingredients but acknowledge that the witch hazel formula did have our skin tingling a bit after use.
Due to their strong scent, the versatility of these cleansing wipes is reduced, in our opinion. For us, the smell is almost honey-like at first, but then quickly smells of the alcohol the extract is blended with. On the expensive side of the spectrum, they are best for the face but are suitable for the rest of the body if one so desires (and for those who are fans of the witch hazel fragrance).
Neutrogena Day & Night wipes are a very specialized type of cleansing wipe. Catering to those who want a quick and fluid method for removing makeup, these wipes are it. General cleaning ability for dirt and sweat is notably above average, but simply not as good as some of the others. This product is dermatologist tested, and is relatively affordable.
Durability and versatility are where these wipes begin to fall to the bottom of the ranks. We found these wipes more likely to rip than others we tested. And regarding versatility, using them to cleanse the whole body is overwhelming due to the strong fragrance, and the fabric doesn't hold up as well. They are very fragrant, which might be offputting to some. It gave one tester a mild headache, particularly the night wipes. They also leave an oily residue after use. Best used for makeup removal, as per their design, we feel they are meant to supplement the at-home routine.
Bliss Lemon and Sage Refreshing Body Wipes are a unique cross between a deodorant and a standard wet-wipe. We enjoy the fragrance, despite our initial hesitations at the sound of the lemon and sage combination. The smell isn't too feminine, which is great for those not desiring the stereotypical flower perfume. It really does smell like traditional deodorant. The wipes are also sufficient for cleansing and makeup removal, although not quite the best.
Their main setback is how thin they are. Their durability is quite fragile. Our lead tester nearly tore a finger through the towelette just trying to pull one out of the package. The wipes also feel somewhat awkwardly shaped and not the most ideal for full-body wipe-downs. Best used for targeted cleaning after workouts, they carry well due to their thin and light packaging.
Burt's Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes are a fruity take on the natural wipe. We love that they are FSC-certified (the fiber is from responsible sources) and that they are cruelty-free. The grapefruit seed oil is fun but can be overpowering if you cover your body with.
They don't clean as well as the others in the group, but they are adequate for general use. The dirt seems to roll up instead of being absorbed and taken by the wipe. The same goes for makeup removal. Lots of scrubbing was required during our test. Their durability is also on the low end, due to their more natural nature. We do feel a tad sticky after using them. Ideal for the morning or a midday pick-me-up, they are best for brief and targeted cleansing, and folks looking for a fruity scent in their cleansing wipes.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester, Sara Aranda, spends a lot of time in sweat mode, whether running, biking, or merely navigating the grocery store with a face mask. Needless to say, wet wipes are a handy tool for the aftermath. Sara has been living out of her van for over two years now, which means cleansing wipe baths are a common self-care occurrence (wipes sometimes even fall into dirty dish service…). So when it comes to feeling fresh without quick access to a shower, we're confident in our ability to critique what works and what doesn't for the general user.
Building on the life experiences of Sara and our editorial team, as well as several hours of research into the best cleansing wipes on the market, we purchased 10 products at retail price that we expected to perform well and provide strong value. When it came time to test, we use a combination of real-life scenarios (like running, cycling, or just long days) and lab-like experiments. We rub dirt onto our arms to test general cleaning ability. To test makeup removal, we brush mascara and drew lipstick lines across our arms to compare each product side-by-side. We use each product on our faces and bodies. We pay attention to the package and re-sealing design, how our skin feels afterward, how much scrubbing is required, and check for any post-use residue. Everyone's skin is different, so our assessments aim to provide objective and descriptive information so you can identify the right product for your skincare needs. You know your skin the best, so use that lens in addition to the information we are providing.
Analysis and Test Results
With so many different types of cleansing wipes, we seek to prioritize convenience, effectiveness, and versatility. Below, we dive into the five metrics that are used to compare and contrast each product, why we believe these metrics matter, and highlight the products that excelled in each performance area.
Ease of Use
The novelty of cleansing wipes is that they are purposefully designed to be as convenient as possible, from the way they are packaged to the way they are then disposed of into a trash can, or composted in the case of natural wipes. From start to finish, pulling a wipe from its package should be hassle-free and the wipe itself should yield fluid cleaning. For this metric, we also considered the plastic lids versus the sticker closures, the weight and dimensions of the packaging, and the dimensions of the wipe itself.
The top scorers are Cetaphil Gentle Skin and Yes to Cucumbers wipes. Both have plastic lid closures that are designed well with the compact dimensions of the packaging. Beneath the lids are small stickers over the holes, which are easily peeled back and reattached for added moisture security. The holes themselves are on the small side (better for small hands) but are adequate for wipe retrieval. We don't think that plastic lids are a requirement. However, these lids are inherently easy to pop open and close. The sticker closures that we particularly like are the Neutrogena Day and Night, Nurture No Rinse Bathing, and the Bliss Lemon and Sage wipes. The stickers feel strong, sticky, easy to operate, and are likely to last as long as there are wipes in the packet.
Two products that score low on the spectrum of this metric are the Olay Daily Facials and the Simple Kind to Skin wipes. The former requires water-activation and, realistically, sink space to dedicate yourself to if things get too foamy. The box packaging is also a bit odd and could be more streamlined. The Simple wipes have a sticker closure but when we first peeled it back, it tore awkwardly and now doesn't commit a tight seal around the hole. None of the wipes rolled in an annoying way that prevented us from cleaning, though, and all of them are easy to tear to customize size and reduce waste if desired (just make sure you're tearing "with the grain").
When it comes to wiping down your entire body, large wipes are generally more useful. The Nurture No Rinse wipes come in slender, highly portable packaging, but the wipes measure 8" x 10" when removed. They are large and durable enough to support a full-body refresh. The Surviveware Biodegradable wipes are even larger at 8" x 12". These wipes walk the line of almost being too large but do provide plenty of real estate to handle a wipe-down shower substitute.
Our testing proved that not all cleansing wipes actually cleanse on the same level. Both effectiveness and ease of use carry the same amount of weight in our scoring since they are so influential. But the very purpose of cleansing wipes is what this metric analyzes head-on. For these tests, we wanted to see how well a single wipe cleaned off the dirt, sweat, and makeup from our bodies. While durability is also a facet to effectiveness, we score that separately.
The winner for this metric is actually the loser from the previous metric, the Olay Daily Facials. Despite all the extra steps that may be required, when it comes down to cleaning power and makeup removal, these wipes are superb. We find that wiping is soft and easy, no harsh scrubbing required. The moisture is immense once you add water, which lends to its cleaning ability. Other notable products include the Cetaphil Gentle Skin and the Nurture No Rinse Bathing wipes. We found the middle of the road performers to be the Dickinson's Original and Burt's Bees wipes. They were adequate for cleaning and decent at makeup removal but not nearly as good as the top performers.
One of the lowest scorers is the Surviverware wipes. In our tests, this product struggled mightily to remove makeup. It smeared and began to roll the mascara instead of absorbing it. Removing lipstick was better, but not by much. While makeup is not its design purpose, we also feel that general cleaning takes a little more effort than those with more synthetic formulas. Effort is relative, though, and a worthy trade-off for sustainable practices in our opinion.
The more you have to scrub the more you don't want the wipe to fall apart in your hands. This metric considers the fabric density and flexibility but doesn't hold as much weight as the overall effectiveness described above. The top scorers are the Olay, Nurture, Dickinson's, Cetaphil, and Simple wipes. All have a fabric that stretches but doesn't tear unintentionally.
Perhaps due to the biodegradable nature of Yes to Cucumbers and Surviverware, durability for these two products was on the lower end of the spectrum. Since they are meant to fall apart and decompose, it is easier for the fabric to slacken with heavy use. Though, the product that scored the lowest in this metric is the Bliss Lemon and Safe. These wipes are the thinnest of the group and we find it easy to poke fingers through. As long as you're gentle, cleaning with them is usually fine, but we prefer other models in this metric.
Even though the ingredients determine the effectiveness and are the epitome of every wipe, we feel that critiquing their chemical and organic makeup is incredibly difficult for the majority of us. Customers will readily prioritize feel and function over how something is actually made. Our overall scoring and how much weight each metric bears reflects this. But we still feel it is worth discussing, particularly as more and more customers do seek sustainable and organic-leaning efforts. We award points to the brands that use natural ingredients and mindful sourcing practices. Yes to Cucumbers leads the pack in this aspect, with Surviverware and Dickinson's Original not far behind due to their short and sweet ingredient lists. The brands that rely heavily on synthetic ingredients did not score well in this metric, like Olay, Cetaphil, and Neutrogena.
Our reviewers of cleansing wipes are not scientists or medical professionals. For concerns regarding allergic reactions, skin irritants, or other potential harms, it's best to have this discussion with your doctor. For background information, there are numerous articles across the web that explains concerns and controversy surrounding various ingredients in the skincare industry. Of course, surface-level research in this area often opens up rabbit hole after rabbit hole. So what's the takeaway? If you have sensitive skin or have severe skin and food allergies, you're likely already aware of certain ingredients to avoid, from surfactants to fragrances. It never hurts to Google that alien-sounding chemical compound.
Even if a wipe is excellent at removing dirt or makeup, the way it makes us feel afterward matters too. Many people don't like the sensation of residue, and we can't blame them. Many experience stinging or dryness. We pay attention to how our skin feels minutes to hours after using each wipe. A subjective measurement, but we felt that it is useful in our overall scoring. We also consider the versatility of each wipe for this metric. Unscented wipes are more likely to be used for other things beyond the face or body. Wipes that are highly specialized in makeup removal are not as versatile for full-body bathing. Vice versa, wipes that are specialized in body bathing are not as good at makeup removal.
This is one of the reasons why we chose Cetaphil Gentle Skin wipes as the overall winner. They are highly versatile because they are great at cleansing, great with makeup removal, and great for full-body bathing. We feel clean after using them and aren't burdened by any weird sensations or residues. We love that they don't have added perfume. Our least favorite wipe for this metric is the Neutrogena Day and Night. While the day wipe perfume isn't as strong as the night wipe, the fragrances are so potent that we have no desire to use them for anything but their specialized intention. They also leave a slick, oily sensation after using them, which we aren't particular fans of.
This is a difficult category to measure in a scientific way, especially when everyone's skin has differing levels of tolerance. However, we feel confident in our testing and ranking of the products to help you figure out what's best for your needs and desires. From the standardized beauty product to the minimalism of the outdoors, there's a wipe everyone.
— Sara Aranda