With hundreds of choices and grades, selecting the most cost-effective wipe can be tricky. The most obvious criteria is the absorbency of the wipe. But, it is not well understood that absorbency varies by the contamination. Some wipes will not absorb water; others are better with solvents and lacquers.The general rule is that “like absorbs like.” For example, polyester is petroleum-based, so polyester wipes easily absorb gasoline, fuel oils, and alcohols but are far less effective on water-based contamination. Natural fibers, such as cellulose, are water-based and so are best for water-based contamination. In short, the contamination defines which type of wipe will be best.
The second criteria is cleanliness; that is, contamination caused by the wipe itself. Cleanliness usually is inversely related to absorbency, and balancing the conflicting requirements can be a challenge. The cleanest wipes often are less porous and will not absorb as much contamination, while more absorbent materials may be more fragile and leave fibers or residues.
Engineers also must consider any special requirements of their application. Medical applications may require sterile wipes. Schools, hospitals, and the wood-working industry use wipes impregnated with a“tackafier” that attracts and retains dust. Wipes that will be used with solvents need to be tested to ensure that the solvents will not degrade any glues or binders in the wipe, which would leave residues. So, understanding the application is essential to a successful selection process.