Reduced dispersibility of flushable wet wipes after wet storage

Thomas Harter, Ingo Bernt, Stefanie Winkler, Ulrich Hirn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Scientific publications and newsfeeds recently focused on flushable wet wipes and their role in sewage system blockages. It is stated that although products are marked as flushable, they do not disintegrate after being disposed of via the toilet. In this work it is shown that wetlaid hydroentangled wet wipes lose their initially good dispersive properties during their storage in wet condition. As a consequence, we are suggesting to add tests after defined times of wet storage when assessing the flushability of wet wipes. Loss of dispersibility is found for both, wet wipes from industrial production and wipes produced on pilot facilities. We found it quite surprising that the wet wipes’ dispersibility is deteriorating after storage in exactly the same liquid they are dispersed in, i.e. water. This is probably why the effect of wet storage has not been investigated earlier. It is demonstrated that the deteriorating dispersibility of these wipes is linked to the used type of short cellulosic fibres — only wipes containing unbleached softwood pulp as short fibre component were preserving good dispersibility during wet storage. Possible mechanisms that might be responsible are discussed, e.g. long term fiber swelling causing a tightening of the fiber network, or surface interdiffusion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7942
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems


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