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(Updated November 2023)
Staying clean when you have a disability can be hard. If you spend any time in the online disability and/or chronic illness community you’ll see a common theme is people lamenting just how much energy is needed to take a shower. And that’s assuming you can even take a shower in the first place!
Whether you have a physical disability that makes it difficult to safely get to the bathroom or a mental illness which destroys all of your motivations regarding self-care, the end result is the same: days if not weeks can go by without soap and water coming anywhere near your body.
You don’t even need to ask me how I know.
Because of my own experiences in this area, an idea occurred to me when I was writing up the list of supplies to keep on hand in case of emergency. Namely, how useful could body wipes be to help stay clean if washing with soap and water was too difficult?
I set out to test that very thing.
What we have here, then, are the results of weeks of me trying out various products to see how they worked. The baseline comparison was against not taking a shower at all. Each brand of wipe was tested for the same amount of time between showers. My activity level stayed the same as well. In other words, it wasn’t as though one brand had the challenge of dealing with me after I ran a marathon while the others had weeks of me never leaving my couch. (They all got to deal with me pretty much never leaving my couch. In a somewhat fortuitous bit of timing I got extra sick for a month during this process which made a low effort way of staying clean that much more useful to me.)
When possible I tested the wipes as a full body clean, same as a shower, though while avoiding any parts that, for the sake of delicacy, let’s just say I’d want to be extra cautious about. Ahem. (Luckily I have a bidet.)
For each wipe I made note of what I felt would be key considerations for many of those dealing with chronic illness or disabilities: ease of use, how well it cleaned, how did it feel against the skin (for those with skin sensitivities), and how did it smell (for those like me who get migraines from certain smells).
Here are the results. As you’ll see, there are two which came out way ahead of the others but I’ll show you what I had for all the ones I tried so you can get the idea of what it was like and make your own judgements. And of course full caveat that this is only based on my personal experience, nothing here should be taken as medical advice, I’m just sharing what I went through on the odd chance it may be helpful.
Let’s get to it!
Rating Daily Body Wipes
In general, all of the wipes tested came out even in terms of feeling cleaner compared to the baseline of the same amount of time without a shower or sponge bath. Granted, I wouldn’t want to go meet royalty having done nothing but used the wipes for a week or more but at the same time I did feel clean enough that if I had to race to the store for an emergency I wouldn’t be offending everyone around me. (Bearing in mind this also assumes clean clothes, use of deodorant, and so on.) There was a clear benefit in how I felt in body and also spirit for having used the wipes so just as a concept I recommend trying them if you find regular washing to be difficult for you.
In terms of how the individual wipes worked, here’s what I found along with reader feedback.
Best Full Shower Replacement
Most popular with readers!
Goodwipes Really Big Body Wipes were hands down the best of the bunch when it came to feeling like you took a shower without taking a shower. The wipes were the size of a washcloth which meant you could use one wipe to clean your entire body (and my body is not small, believe me). The linked version is unscented but even the scent on their scented versions is mild. I tried the lavender scent and it did not make me worry about migraines even though floral scents are among the worst for my triggers. After use my skin felt clean and not like I needed to rinse or moisturize.
These have overwhelmingly been the most popular among readers of the site as well. People seem to love the size and ease of use. I've heard from more than one reader who made these a regular in their Subscribe & Save.
Best For Daily Use
Babo Botanicals 3-in-1 Cleansing Wipes emerged as my personal favorite for daily use. The wipes, though not wash cloth sized, were still big and sturdy enough that you could get a good scrub in. Most people would probably need two wipes to do a full body clean but one wipe is more than adequate for most of the body including the areas that truly need daily attention, like underarms and feet.
They do have a light scent which might be too much for some people. For myself I was okay with it for daily use but like any scent it felt too strong when I had a migraine. It is free of synthetic fragrances though which is handy for those of us who have that as a specific migraine trigger (looking at you, basically every vape in existence).
After using the wipes my skin felt clean and not in need of a rinse. Though I did notice a feeling of dryness in some places which could be due to the wipe or could have been due to winter weather making it so that skin feels dry in general. It didn’t cause any difficulties for me but I mention it for those who have issues with dry skin.
Another bonus is that the packaging was very good. In my tests I found that packages which had a solid plastic cover that could snap open and closed were the best option for regular use. The cover keeps a good seal so the wipes don’t dry out and there’s no issue with adhesive wearing out before you finish the package. Perfect if you’re going to be using these on a daily basis.
Readers have responded that they like this one as well. It is not as popular as the Goodwipes but it does come in second and has been added to many a Subscribe & Save rotation.
Second Best for Daily Use
Cetaphil Face and Body Wipes were not my personal favorite but I do think they have advantages to the Babo Botanicals which may make them worthwhile for people with needs different from mine. To begin with, their scent is much milder than any other wipe that I tested, to the point that even with a migraine I have to struggle to figure out what the scent is (mildly antiseptic is the best I can manage).
The wipes also don’t leave your skin with that slight dry feeling that I had with the Babo Botanicals, so if someone had problems with dry skin this might be the better option for them. Though the trade off is that your skin does take slightly longer to dry after you use the wipes on them. Not forever, certainly not more than a minute, but for me I felt like I needed a rinse after using the wipes instead of being able to use the wipe and move on with my life.
The package has the hard plastic cover which is good. The wipes themselves are sturdy but sized oddly. They’re narrow rectangles compared to the wider rectangles or squares of the other wipes. This isn’t a deal breaker but I found it made it harder to get a good scrub in because you had to make sure your hand didn’t slip off the wipe while you were using it.
So if you have extra dry skin or scent sensitivity and don’t mind an odd size these might be the best wipes for you.
Fair warning that over on Amazon there is a version of these which claims to be a three pack (as opposed to the two pack that is linked here). If you read the customer comments you'll see that many have tried ordering it - myself included - and gotten a single pack instead. Contacting customer service only gets another single pack. Best I can figure is that this is either a mislabeled product or a database error. But either way do NOT order the three pack. Stick to the doubles if you go this route.
Best Scent... and That’s It
Bliss Lemon & Sage Refreshing Body Wipes were the ones I was really rooting for. Their scent was the best for me as it was a mild citrus which didn’t trigger my migraines and actually was nice to smell. But unfortunately nothing else about these wipes made them worthwhile. The wipes were flimsy and didn’t stand up to any sort of cleaning. I mean I’ve had wet naps at restaurants that were more sturdy than these.
On top of it the packaging was awful. These are what taught me that the hard covers are the best because the supposedly resealable tab gave out fairly quickly. On top of that the wipes themselves didn’t dispense easily and often came out in clumps of multiple wipes that I then had to try to stuff back in for use later. I ultimately threw the package away after using maybe half of it because it was too hard to get the wipes out to use, never mind how the wipes themselves weren’t that great to begin with.
I suspect these are intended for people to throw into a bag and use if they want to quickly wipe their face to feel refreshed after a long plane ride or day at work, not for any real attempt at feeling clean.
Dove Go Fresh Deodorant Wipes were originally my top pick for daily use. They had all the benefits of the Babo Botanicals and didn’t leave my skin feeling dry or in need of a rinse. The only downside was that the scent was a bit strong even when I didn’t have a migraine. I was able to get used to it with time but still, it was something I had to get used to.
The kicker though is that I’ve heard that Dove has actually discontinued making these so I’m reluctant to recommend something which you may not be able to purchase in the near future. But at the same time I did test them and liked them so here’s the results of that for whatever it may be worth to you.
And that’s it! I hope this list proves useful to you. It was certainly interesting to spend my time playing scientific guinea pig with myself. On the whole I found this a worthwhile experiment and definitely recommend putting wipes into your daily rotation if washing in general is hard for you. Hopefully something on this list can help bring ease and a feeling of comfort to your day. Thanks for reading!