Deteriorating dispersibility of flushable wet wipes during storage: Role of fibre swelling and ionic shielding

Thomas Harter, Helena Anna Steiner, Matej Bračič, Rupert Kargl, Ulrich Hirn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Wet wipes are everyday products with the purpose to be flushed down the toilet after usage and dispersed into single fibres and small fragments thereby. During wet storage, these wipes can deteriorate their dispersibility over time, characterized by the slosh box disintegration test, recently named dispersibility ageing. This effect in flushable wet wipes, usually made of long man-made cellulose fibres and short wood pulp fibres, can be reduced by using unbleached softwood kraft pulp as the short fibre component. The aim of this work is to analyse mechanisms that could contribute to dispersibility ageing. Therefore, we will discuss three mechanisms that are able to explain this effect, that occurs in cellulosic fabrics when stored in water. Swelling (1) is demonstrated to be a long-term effect, but altering swelling with pH and salt addition has no effect on dispersibility ageing, making it unlikely that swelling contributes to it. With ionic shielding (2) a mechanism has been introduced that could impact dispersibility ageing by cations leaching from the wood pulp, which was demonstrated for an unbleached softwood kraft pulp by conductivity measurements over wet storage time. These cations neutralize the negatively charged pulp fibre fibrils and restrict their possibility to entangle with each other, which could contribute to decreasing dispersibility ageing. We will discuss the mechanism of interdiffusion (3) in dispersibility ageing, although we were not able to find a method that quantifies the contribution of cellulosic polymer diffusion to the time-dependent deterioration in dispersibility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Industrial Textiles
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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