How Anti-Bacterial Wipes Became the Season’s Latest Must-Have Accessory

Sanitary is the new chic

We’ve been working up to the anti-bacterial wipes moment — a time in which a disinfecting cloth is just as coveted an accessory as, say, the Louis Vuitton bag it’s being carried in — for years. And, like all puzzling trends worth obsessing over, it started with a real housewife.

Back in 2016, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ cast member Lisa Rinna struck reality TV gold while in Pennsylvania for her QVC segment. Viewers watched as she whipped out a pack of anti-bacterial cloths to disinfect her Sheraton Inn room from top to bottom. No phone cord, door handle, or windowsill was spared. “You betcha OCD baby,” she told fans in a blog after the episode aired — this was before the Twitter-war days the housewives all eagerly embrace now, “but if that keeps the bodily fluids/germs off of me, then it’s so well worth it folks!” The scene was as iconic as it was ridiculous. But at that moment, I knew that the Bath & Body Works Pocketbac Holders, secured on women’s bags across the nation, would soon be a sanitation status symbol of the past.

tripe wipes
Trip Wipes, $17 for a 30-pack; Three percent of net sales benefit the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Call it obsessive, elitist, wasteful, or even smart — a still highly-referenced 2012 study claims toilets, bathroom sinks, and TV remotes can contain “high levels of bacterial contamination.” But Rinna was ahead of her time in the way only a reality star who embraced both over-the-top lip injections and head-to-toe cheetah print before they were cool could be. While it took a moment for the sex appeal of anti-bacterial wipes to catch on, she’s finally gained good company among supermodel Naomi Campbell, who made headlines in July, when she posted a five-minute video, now viewed over 1.4 million times, of her using Dettol wipes to aggressively de-germ her first-class airplane seat. Campbell even shared a photo from her flight where she posed with her wipe pack while sporting a pair of gloves and a face mask (perhaps alluding to the next big trends in hygiene?).   

I first noticed the movement hit home in late June, when my boyfriend, Nick, and I snapped a photo in front of Trip Wipes’ bright orange backdrop at Hour Detroit’s annual Best of Detroit party. The photo opp made its rounds on social media a few months earlier, when the Detroit anti-bacterial towelette company held its launch party. During that event, guests stood in front of the same setup and posed with a single-use Trip Wipe packet in hand. The company shared the images on their Instagram, where social media users, like me, came across them and yearned a chance to showcase their newfound devotion to disinfecting.   

A week after Best of Detroit, Nick and I joined the ranks when our own Trip Wipes photo was shared on the company’s Instagram. Today, it’s one of many images on the page that features people gleefully, sensually, and seriously holding up wipe packets. Each post features the caption “(@username) for the win.” Fittingly, from reality television stars to supermodels and metro Detroit partygoers, at this moment, “winning” is leaning into the anti-bacterial wipes trend.