The History of Sanitizing Wipes - How Hand Sanitizer Dominated the Market
Question: were we always so terrified of germs? Answer: no.
This is why sanitizing wipes are such a fascinating cultural artifact- they physically represent our growing phobia of the supposedly threatening dangerous forces which surround us. Major producers of sanitizing wipes these days are Purell, Lysol, and Clorox, and these companies are doing a bang-up job of getting these handy cleaners into every possibly-infected space imaginable.
The Emergence and Evolution of Sanitizing Wipes
Before sanitizing wipes, one of the most popular forms of convenient protection from threatening invisible assailants came in the form of hand sanitizer, which, according to HandSanitizerStore.com, “was first available as the product ‘Gojo’ in 1946.”
Interestingly enough, sanitizing wipes have been largely obscure until only a couple of years ago. Even in the 1990s, disinfecting wipes were only seen as necessary in extreme situations, which is quite a contrast to today’s conception of the cultural artifact’s importance. Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups and Clorox Wipes both made their debut on January 4th, 2000, and subsequent product launches began to build up what would soon be a rapidly expanding and evolving market.
While I cannot be exactly sure of when sanitizing wipes entered mainstream society on a large scale, the Google Trends data charted below indicates that interest has peaked (particularly in news outlets) only recently, and has remained central to the North America.
Recent flu panics (swine flu, avian flu, SARS…) may have been significant factors in increasing demand for these products, which are now ubiquitous in offices, gyms, and countless other public and private spaces.
Hand sanitizing wipes, while initially offered as an in-home / office / classroom product for cleaning public surfaces, have since edged their way back into the hand sanitizer market by offering more portable solutions as brand extensions.
Sanitizing Wipes Today
Because non-portable sanitizing wipes are becoming a normal component of so many homes, offices, and schools, companies have started making an effort to improve the appearance of their packaging. Clorox provides a good example: Brand Engine recently “created ‘counter top’ worthy designs that leveraged the Clorox brand strategy, supporting the promise of happy, healthy family living.” This improved design is intended to encourage consumers to leave these products out on tabletops (so they may be depleted at a greater pace), as well as entice them in retail outlets.
In 2009, Clorox also sponsored the ‘Redesign Clean’ contest in which it encouraged fans to submit designs for new canisters, thus further engaging consumers in the joyful processes of the sanitizing industry.
In the future, we may expect to see even more fashionable design for sanitizing wipe packaging, as well as increasingly sophisticated sanitizing wipes, perhaps reinforced to protect us from new strains of flu or bacteria which threaten to invade our clean, disinfected bubble worlds. Let us hope these wipes evolve quickly enough to keep us safe from… them.
Sources and Further Reading
The History of Hand Sanitizer (HandSanitizerStore.com, Warren)
The History of Clorox Wipes (eHow.com)
Cancer pits boy versus environment (Herald & Review, Sarah Antonacci)
History of Disinfecting Wipes 1910-2010 (Google Timeline)
History of Sanitizing Wipes 1940-2010 (Google Timeline)
Fashionable and Functional: New Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes Come out of the Cabinet with Stylish, Easy-to-Use Packaging (The Clorox Company)
Clorox Introduces Décor Packaging for Wipes, Creates Design Contest (Packaging Digest)