Household Wipes Report

A push for more sustainable products is driving innovation

During the Covid-19 pandemic, household wipes growth skyrocketed as consumers sought effective and convenient ways to sanitize their homes. Now, as the world moves beyond the crisis, the household wipes market continues to transform, reflecting shifts in consumer behavior, sustainability concerns and technological advancements.

Data in a recently published market report from Smithers – The Future of Global Wipes to 2029 – show that in 2024 total sales value of household wipes globally will be $7.9 billion and consume 240,100 tons of nonwoven materials. This makes it a significant segment of the global nonwoven wipes market, which Smithers projects will reach $23.1 billion in 2024, consuming 1.7 million tons of nonwovens.

Post-pandemic, demand for household wipes is still elevated, but not to the extent it was in 2020-21 when demand may have been as much as 200% of historical norms, according to Phil Mango, nonwovens consultant, Smithers. In 2023, Smithers estimated that North American demand was still about 10% higher than it would have been without Covid.

“Covid introduced many new consumers to cleaning and disinfecting wipes,” Mango says. “Many of them have continued to buy the product, perhaps not in the magnitude as during Covid. Now, this is a known solution for many.”

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Julie McKinney, global director of Microbiology & Virology, Reckitt, maker of Lysol Disinfection Wipes, says there has been growth in germ consciousness and increasing awareness on the importance of cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. “Consumers continue to maintain their habits of cleaning and disinfecting consistently to protect their families from the spread of germs in the home, which keeps Lysol Disinfecting Wipes top-of-mind,” she says.

Dean Tansman, director of operations, Dutch Harbor Brands, a division of the wet towelette manufacturer Unico ITC, dba A World of Wipes, says wipes are less elastic in demand than they used to be, meaning that they’ve become similar to paper towels. “They are a good that people have at home whether times are good, or times are bad,” he says. “There is an increased perception of wipes as an essential good, especially during the pandemic, it was solidified in that reputation.”

Wet wipes manufacturer Kleen Test Products (KTP) expects consumers to continue using wipes as a convenient and efficacious format to keep their homes clean and safe.

KTP produces wipes in the home cleaning and personal care categories for some of the world’s best-known brands and largest CPG companies, and these categories are currently experiencing significant change precipitated by the Covid pandemic, economic stress, increased focus on sustainability, increased regulatory requirements and changing consumer preferences. “The benefit of these external influences on the production of wipes is that it is driving innovation in the wipes industry,” says Ann Halstead, director of marketing, KTP.

Today, there is a push to develop more sustainable products including more eco-friendly solutions, natural substrates and more recyclable and/or high post-consumer recycled (PCR) content packages, she adds. “And while consumers want to have products that are better for the environment, most are unwilling to compromise on efficacy, forcing manufacturers to continually innovate and improve their products.”

On the formulation side, cleaning solutions are changing to address sustainability concerns. “More and more solutions are using either citric acid or hydrogen peroxide to deliver germ-killing cleaning with less or no chemical residue and no harsh fumes,” she explains. “KTP is currently working to develop new products using more sustainable ingredients to address specific consumer unmet needs.”

Within the household category, Wipex, a brand of Dutch Harbor Brands, aims to provide products that are as sustainable, useful and unique as possible. Wipex’s plant-based substrates are made using 100% viscose fibers.

Tansman says Wipex offers less commodified goods and more unique cleaning products. “We’re big producers of the bulk bucket concept,” he says. “We find that we can provide a lot of value to our customers that way, with a very convenient dispensing mechanism at the same time.”

Wipex uses 100% viscose fibers in its wipes for the home.

Wipex’s product range includes scented and unscented counter and surface wipes that are free of bleach and any harmful ingredients and utilize natural cleaning solutions to get the job done in a much safer way, Tansman says. Wipex also provides full label transparency. “Consumers are becoming much more concerned with transparency and trust, and they are becoming very aware of what they’re being sold,” he adds.

Less Plastic, More Plants

As governments around the globe seek to curb or ban the use of certain fossil-fuel-based single-use plastic products, reducing or eliminating synthetic fibers and increasing plant-based fibers have become priorities for wipes manufacturers.

In April, the U.K. Government announced legislation to ban wet wipes containing plastic in a multi-step effort beginning before summer. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) plans to institute the legislation for England ahead of summer recess, with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales following by the autumn as part of an aligned approach to bring the ban into force.

Legislators feel that banning plastic-containing wipes will reduce plastic and microplastic pollution and reduce the volume of microplastics entering wastewater treatment sites when wrongly flushed—meaning beaches and waterways will benefit from the ban.

Responses to the public consultation showed overwhelming support for the proposed ban – which will be introduced via secondary legislation under the country’s Environmental Protection Act 1990—with 95% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposals.

“Wet wipes containing plastic are polluting our waterways and causing microplastics to enter the environment. Defra will introduce legislation before the summer recess to crack down on this unnecessary source of pollution, following our successful single-use carrier bag charge and ban on microbeads in personal care products,” says Steve Barclay, environment secretary. “I have been clear that a step change is needed to protect our waterways from pollution. The ban builds on a raft of actions already taken to protect our waterways and hold water companies accountable—including accelerating investment, putting water company fines back into the environment and quadrupling the number of inspections of water company sites.”

EDANA, a global trade association for the nonwovens industry and a representative of many major wet wipes manufacturers in the U.K., supports the legislation. 

“Reducing plastic in the environment is an extremely important goal and this needs to be done whilst also ensuring that parents, carers, businesses, and the NHS can continue to make use of the valuable functions that wet wipes provide regarding hygiene, anti-viral qualities post-Covid-19, helping with care, parenting, and industrial processes,” the association said in a statement. “Reducing plastic also needs to be done in a way that achieves its environmental objective while avoiding unnecessary U.K. manufacturing job losses in communities across the U.K., which in turn could lead to loss of investment, competitiveness, and innovation.

“In recent years, the U.K. wet wipes industry has made considerable progress in reducing plastic in consumer wipes, and over half of consumer wet wipes on the market in the U.K. today are already plastic-free. The four Governments in the U.K. have taken a considered approach and the proposals set out will build on these efforts. We look forward to working with the four Governments on the implementation and next steps for plastic-free consumer wet wipes in the U.K. In the meantime, we welcome the fact that the proposals enable the continued use of the vital functions that wet wipes provide and will allow the industry to continue to innovate and operate without unnecessary job losses and investment in the U.K. market. 

“Building on the major steps that have already been taken towards this, EDANA member companies operating in the U.K. will move forward to deliver plastic-free consumer wet wipes in compliance with any new Government regulations and in line with the timelines proposed.”

An 18-month transition period will start from when legislation is passed to allow businesses time to prepare. Following consultation with industry, the ban will not include the manufacture of these products, in line with other recent single-use plastic bans. However, the government will continue to encourage manufacturers to move to a position where all their wet wipes are plastic-free.

The government response also sets out exemptions to ensure that wet wipes containing plastic remain available where there is no viable alternative—such as for medical disinfectant purposes. The Government will review the need for these exemptions regularly.

What’s in a Wipe?

While convenience remains a key driver of demand for household wipes, consumers have been increasingly prioritizing sustainability in their purchasing decisions. Recognizing the environmental impact of disposable wipes, nonwovens manufacturers are responding with eco-friendly alternatives.

According to Mango of Smithers, the nonwovens used for cleaning and disinfecting wipes are spunbond/pulp (SP) spunlace for mainly branded products and standard card/card (CC) spunlace for mainly private label products. “But even in North America there is a drive to reduce/remove plastics from consumer wipes, and both of these nonwovens contain plastics—SP has a layer or two of spunbond polypropylene and CC used here is usually viscose/polyester fiber base,” he explains. “Other, plastics-free products are being evaluated: carded/pulp/carded (CPC) or carded/airlaid/carded (CAC)—both can produce plastics-free nonwovens, as can the hydroentangled wetlaid and airlaid products and the carded/wetlaid pulp spunlace variants. The next generation of cleaning and disinfecting wipes will likely be plastics-free in North America.”

The same is true for the other household wipes segments, like glass and furniture cleaners and floor wipes. “In the floor wipes segment, Glatfelter already has a potentially useful plastics-free airlaid; some optimizing may be necessary,” he adds.

Sustainability continues to rank highly among consumers when it comes to choosing wipes. Based on a recently completed Attitudes and Usage study wipes manufacturer Nice-Pak fielded with wipes consumers, shoppers listed several sustainability-related motivators that influence their buying habits. “At Nice-Pak, we are continuously looking for ways to offer our retail partners sustainable options in every wipe category,” says Alec Frisch, EVP and chief commercial officer, Nice-Pak.

Frisch says that convenience will always be a growth driver as consumers look for a fast and effective way to clean and sanitize. “They don’t want a separate roll of paper towels and a bottle of disinfecting solution at every cleaning opportunity. Naturally-derived formulas and plant-based materials are also important, two areas where we continue our innovation focus.”

Halstead of KTP says nonwovens suppliers continue to develop substrates using more natural ingredients including pulp and other plant-based fibers to meet sustainability standards. “These natural wipe substrates are getting stronger and more cloth-like driving more consumer acceptance,” she adds.

On the nonwovens side, Suominen recently introduced Biolace with a Nubtex micro-dot pattern designed for applications looking for more intense cleaning.

The unique Nubtex micro-dot pattern combined with sustainable fibers for fluid management provide an exceptional material design for difficult cleaning tasks. The product is a 100% biodegradable and compostable nonwoven best suited for personal care, household and workplace use.

“Compared to a standard dot pattern, the Nubtex pattern creates a more abrading surface area that aids in loosening dirt and debris for improved pick-up and removal from surfaces and skin,” explains Andrew Charleston, manager, Category Management, Americas.

Meanwhile, Turkish nonwovens manufacturer Teknomelt recently started up a complete neXline wetlace line from Andritz that produces nonwoven roll goods for biodegradable, plastic-free wet wipes. The line is in Teknomelt’s Kahramanmaras, Turkey, site.

The CCP (carded-carded-pulp) line combines the benefits of two technologies: spunlace and wetlaid. This enables the use of bio-based fibers, like viscose and wood pulp, to create a high-performance and sustainable wipe with the same technical product characteristics and performances as a conventional wipe made of synthetic fibers while protecting the environment. Teknomelt will also benefit from the line’s configuration flexibility, as it can be used to manufacture pure spunlace, Wetlace CP or Wetlace CCP production, thus, a wide range of different wipes can be produced.

Source: Nonwovens Industry – Breaking News

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