Parents putting together their baby registry inevitably find themselves wondering if certain baby items are worth buying. Today, we’re going to talk about whether or not you need a wipe warmer for your new baby.
Wipe warmers could help keep your baby more comfortable during diaper changes and cleanups, but it is likely an item that you can do without. Potential safety issues, dry wipes, and other issues can make wipe warmers more of a hassle than helpful.
Even if wipe warmers aren’t totally necessary there are still reasons why you might want to buy one or at least keep the one you received as a gift. Let’s explore more about what makes these products helpful and convenient, as well as why you might want to avoid them and save your money.
Are wipe warmers necessary?
I’ve diapered three babies of my own at this point and we’ve never owned a wipe warmer, but we’ve used one many times over the years.
Overall, based on my experience, I would say that wipe warmers aren’t necessary in most cases. If you received one as a gift for your baby, then you can try it yourself to see if you like it. If you don’t have one yet and you are thinking of buying one, then I would suggest saving your money for something else.
Like most new parents, we were overwhelmed when it came time to buying things or even registering for our twins because we had no idea what we actually needed. I remember at the time thinking that wipe warmers were an item that many people considered essential. It was on all of the lists and I began to think that putting a cold wipe on my baby’s bottom was a little cruel. Fast forward to the present day and I can tell you that a room temperature baby wipe is most certainly not cruel and, frankly, parents don’t have time to mess around with a wipe warmer when there is a mess to take care of urgently.
My personal experience with wipe warmers comes mostly through my sister. She had a wipe warmer in her nursery for her sons and we would use it sometimes while we visited because our girls were still in diapers at the time. It was a neat idea, and I’ll admit that I felt a little bit like royalty when I pulled a fresh, warm wipe out of the dispenser.
That feeling went away once I started scraping poop off of my daughter’s butt, of course, but it was fun while it lasted. Also, as soon as a breeze hits your baby’s now-moistened bottom, it’s going to get cold anyway immediately!
Now that you know my story, let’s look at the top four biggest questions or concerns that parents seem to have about wipe warmers.
Do wipe warmers dry out wipes?
If you read enough parent experiences with wipe warmers, you’ll see that this is one of the biggest issues that folks have with them.
Since wipe warmers are on all of the time, the constant heat source will cause the water in the wipe solution to evaporate more quickly than it would in their original sealed package. Over time, this evaporation will definitely dry the wipes out and cause problems.
Most wipe warmers will include a solution to help keep the wipes moist, but it will require some occasional maintenance. If you look inside the dispenser, there is probably a sponge or small reservoir at the bottom where you are supposed to add water. By keeping extra water here, there will be a natural re-moistening process as the water evaporates off of the top layer. Of course, there are still a couple of issues with this:
- You will have to remember to refill or re-wet the reservoir or sponge
- The top few wipes could be dryer than the bottom, defeating the purpose (you’ll have to flip the stack upside down)
- If you don’t use the wipes quickly, constantly adding water could dilute the original wipe solution and make it less effective and fragrant
Are wipe warmers safe?
The second biggest issue that you’ll find when looking at everyday parent experiences with wipe warmers is their potential safety risk.
On the surface, it makes perfect sense to worry a little about having an electric warmer, that uses water, and it is left on all of the time. Something could crack, water could find its way down into the electrical components, and it could cause a fire or electrical shock. As new parents, do we really need ONE MORE THING to worry about when we are trying to get some sweet, elusive sleep?
All of these things are possible, but it is unlikely that your wipe warmer will cause a fire or electrical shock.
Still, my wife and I personally try to avoid leaving any electric heating elements on in the house so we would not want a wipe warmer. This is especially true while we are asleep or out of the house. While the risk of any individual unit having a problem is extremely tiny, I don’t personally feel as though the reward outweighs the risk.
If you search for wipe warmer recalls, you will indeed find that there seemed to be a bunch of them right in the late 1990s and early 2000s involving well-known brands like Safety 1st and Prince Lionheart that included hundreds of thousands of units. More recently, I haven’t been able to find any reports about major recalls involving wipe warmers – even on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Of course, there are also anecdotal reports of parents that had a wipe warmer catch fire inside their home. These issues seem to be isolated incidents and, frankly, any electronic device inside your house has the potential to catch fire. If you think about it, there are far more stories about smartphones catching fire or exploding than you ever hear about wipe warmers. That doesn’t stop people from keeping smartphones inside their homes and pockets.
Can wipe warmers grow bacteria or mold?
Yes, they can.
So can everything else in your house that is exposed to warm moisture.
I’ll admit that the potential for mold or bacterial growth is a big issue for my wife and me and it gets mentioned every time we talk about wipe warmers. Many parents considering a wipe warmer have probably heard that these things are breeding grounds for all kinds of harmful germs and might think this is a reason to skip getting one.
In reality, a wipe warmer needs to get cleaned up once and a while just like anything else in your home. If you never wipe it down with a little soap and water, then there is bound to be a little bit of bacterial growth or mold over time.
The bigger issue, in my opinion, is that a wipe warmer is just one more thing that you will have to make sure is kept clean on a daily or weekly basis. For parents, that list gets long very quickly and both time and energy are usually in short supply. It’s simply much easier to grab a pack of wipes, use them when needed, and then dispose or recycle the packaging when you get done. Even the cleanest babies in the world are still going to go through a pack of wipes before there is an opportunity for mold to grow inside the package.
Can wipe warmers cause diaper rash?
I hadn’t really thought about this particular issue until I started digging into parent experiences. As it turns out, some people have complained that their wipe warmer caused diaper rashes on their baby.
Diaper rashes occur when the skin of your baby becomes irritated or overly dry. When this happens, small cracks open in the surface of the skin and bacteria are more easily able to slide in and cause problems. Once bacteria have taken hold, you have a diaper rash on your hands. Thus, the root cause of a diaper rash is usually whatever is causing the irritation. Reasons could include chemicals, dryness, excess moisture, urine or poop left on the skin, or something else.
I can’t really think of how a wipe warmer could cause irritation in an of itself, but I could imagine a scenario in which bacteria had managed to grow inside the wipe warmer and then using the wipes helps spread it around your baby’s skin.
In any case, you should probably take a closer look at the type of wipes, lotions, soaps, and other products you are using with your baby to diagnose diaper rash before you worry about the wipe warmer.
Wipe warmer pros and cons
So I’ve covered a lot of information about wipe warmers and looked at what I believe are the top four biggest questions or concerns that parents have about wipe warmers, in general. Let’s boil all of those things down into a big list of pros and cons that might be able to better help you make a decision about whether or not to buy a wipe warmer or keep the one you already received as a gift.
The items on this list come from my personal experience as well as from other parents that have chimed in with their thoughts about these products and whether or not they are useful.
- Provides a nice, warm wipe for your precious baby’s bottom
- Could help prevent boys from peeing on you during a diaper change. I have a whole post about that topic right here.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Compatible with any wipe brand
- Some models have anti-microbial plastic
- Some have a nightlight
- Potential fire or electrical hazard
- One more thing to clean
- Require water to be refilled
- Won’t always be nearby when changing a diaper in the house
- Can’t take the wipe warmer with you in the car
- Your baby could get too used to warm wipes and hate cold ones
- Wipes could dry out
- Wipe solution could get diluted
- If wipes fall into the dispenser it can be challenging to get them out quickly when you need them
How to warm up baby wipes without a warmer
If you aren’t sold on getting a wipe warmer, but you still want to try out what a warm wipe feels like then there are actually a few tricks you can use to try and recreate the experience.
Please, do NOT let the wipe get TOO hot if you are using any of the methods below. They could burn your baby! Remember that your skin is less sensitive to your baby’s so even if it feels okay to you it might still be too hot for her. Use the back of your hand or wrist to check the temperature, not your fingers.
Here are a few ideas:
- Warm the wipe between your hands for a while
- Turn the hairdryer on it for a few seconds
- Microwave the wipe for a few seconds
- Leave the package of wipes sitting near the heater