The 5 best disinfectant wipes for travel

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ByMasha Vapnitchnaia

To quickly handle germs on your hands or any surfaces you might touch, the best disinfectant wipes for travel are formulated with ingredients such as alcohol and ammonium with proven antibacterial properties. And when it comes to travel wipes in particular, they come packaged in lightweight containers that you can throw in your bag, and some are even individually wrapped to keep them fresh for longer. Plus, they’re available in a range of scents and even fragrance-free formulas to suit your preferences.

What to look for when shopping for disinfectant wipes for travel

Disinfectant wipes use different active ingredients, and some products are designed for use on the skin while others contain stronger concentrations to wipe down surfaces. If you’re shopping for hand wipes, keep in mind that each active disinfectant ingredient can cause skin irritation and dryness depending on your specific sensitivities, so you may want to use them sparingly.

Many wipes contain ethyl alcohol, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is effective against the flu and other viruses at a concentration of 60 to 80%. Other disinfectant wipes contain ammonium compounds such as benzalkonium chloride 0.1%, which is effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, the CDC notes that benzalkonium chloride can be potentially irritating to those with asthma. Also consider whether you prefer scented or fragrance-free wipes, the latter of which may be less irritating to sensitive skin.

Finally, all of the best disinfectant wipes for travel come in resealable or individually wrapped packages that are easy to take on the road — scroll on to find the easiest option for you.

1. The fan-favorite hand wipes

These individually wrapped disinfectant wipes have a near-perfect 4.8-star overall rating on Amazon and more than 10,000 reviews. The wipes use benzalkonium chloride to eliminate 99.99% of germs, according to the brand, and they can be used to wipe down surfaces as well as clean hands. They’re available in two scents, and there’s also an unscented version which is great for sensitive skin.

One reviewer wrote: “These are great to have in your purse, car, etc. They're compact so it's easy to carry around. Some wipes have a really pungent alcohol smell, but these actually smell really nice. For anyone needing hand wipes and want something easy to travel with, these are for you.”

Active ingredient: Benzalkonium Chloride (0.13%) | Scent: Tropical, Fresh, Unscented

2. The writer-approved wipes

I am a huge fan of these Turkish kolonya wipes. In addition to meeting the CDC’s recommended alcohol concentration, these wipes are made with essential oils, including lemon harvested from the Aegean coastal area of Turkey. They smell divine and do not dry out my hands. And months after purchase, the individually wrapped wipes are just as fresh and moist. Though they’re meant for your hands, I’ve used them to clean tabletops and counters, too.

One reviewer wrote: “Fresh, clean lemon scent and they don't sting or irritate my sensitive skin at all. Plus they feel cool and are so refreshing.”

Active ingredient: Alcohol (65%) | Scent: Cesme Lemon

3. The wipes for disinfecting surfaces

These bleach-free wipes are safe to use on different types of surfaces, including finished wood, sealed granite, and stainless steel, though they’re not recommended for use on the skin. They come in a resealable pouch, and according to the brand, can eliminate 99.9% of bacteria and viruses and remove common allergens. A popular option on Amazon, they’ve earned a 4.8-star overall rating after more than 1,700 reviews. In addition to lemon, they’re also available in a fresh scent.

One reviewer wrote: “These are great for air travel, road trips, and cruise travel. They don’t dry out when pack is opened for a VERY long time.”

Active ingredient: N-alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride (0.184%), Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride (0.184%) | Scent: Lemon, Fresh

4. The fragrance-free hand wipes with alcohol

If you prefer unscented hand wipes or ethyl alcohol as your active ingredient, these Purell fragrance-free wipes are backed by a 4.8-star overall rating on Amazon. According to the brand, the hand wipes can eliminate 99.99% of germs, and the individually wrapped packets keep the wipes fresh and moist while you’re on the go. Best of all, you’ll get 300 wipes for less than $20.

One reviewer wrote: “These are the best hands wipes you can buy. There is no weird sticky residue or scent. It is alcohol based so hands [dry] up very fast. Sometime there are some duds (dried up packets), but mostly they are great.”

Active ingredient: Ethyl Alcohol (62%) | Scent: Fragrance-Free

5. The ones designed for sensitive skin

Since they’re designed for babies, these disinfectant wipes have a gentle formula that’s free from many common allergens and substances that can cause sensitivity. They’re free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and dyes. The wipes are also made with aloe and glycerin to moisturize hands, and they come in a resealable pouch. Though they’re meant to be gentle on sensitive skin, they still eliminate 99.9% of common bacteria. The hand wipes have also earned more than 15,000 reviews and a 4.8-star overall rating.

One reviewer wrote: “Got these for travel to clean hands and face as well as airplane seat. Worked well for this purpose. Subtle smell and no residue.”

Active Ingredient: Benzalkonium Chloride (0.13%) | Scent: Mandarin

Studies referenced:

Merchel Piovesan Pereira, B., & Tagkopoulos, I. (2019). Benzalkonium Chlorides: Uses, Regulatory Status, and Microbial Resistance. Applied and environmental microbiology, 85(13), e00377-19.