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Are Wipes or Rags Better?

Let’s face it, wipes and rags are pretty similar. From soaking up spills to wiping down surfaces, they basically perform the same task. Many businesses tend to use one over the other, and the reason? Because it’s always been that way! At Stratex we offer both rags and wipes, and in this article we’re objectively comparing the two across a range of criteria. We’ll compare wiping, absorbency, storage footprint, value and environmental impact to definitively answer once and for all, which is better – rags or wipes?

Round 1: Wiping

Wiping is defined as the act of cleaning or drying a surface. You might wipe something to remove chemicals, grease, water or food.

Rags are made up of different types of fabric, cotton, polyester, nylon, rayon or various blends. All of these materials vary in their thickness, absorbency and wiping performance. Rags are derived from clothing and bedding, which means that wiping is a secondary utility. Because of this, rags can have a tendency to smear. Rags wiping score: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐

Wipes (more specifically, DefendaWipes) are usually made from spunlace nonwoven composite, which is derived from renewable wood pulp fibres. Spunlace construction also reduces lint, the fine and short fibres which remain on a surface after wiping. Unlike rags, wipes are designed specifically to wipe. Because of this you can expect consistent workflow and efficiency performance from wipes. Wipes wiping score: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best for wiping: Wipes

The primary use of wipes is to wipe – They perform this task efficiently and effectively with minimal lint or residue.

Round 2: Absorbency

This round is similar to wiping, here absorbency relates to the rag or wipes ability to soak up spilled liquid.

Rags are made from various materials, limited their ability to effectively absorb spills. As such, more rags may be required than wipes to soak up an equivalent spill. Some fabrics such as polyester and polyester/cotton blends are less absorbent than 100% cotton. Rags absorbency score: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐

Many Wipes utilise embossing which can aid to lift liquid upwards, away from hard surfaces. Simply placing an absorbent wipe over a liquid spill can without leaving Stratex offers DefendaWipes in two thicknesses, 60gsm and 120gsm. By weight, both are equally absorbent. Wipes absorbency score: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best for absorbency: Wipes

Most wipes are designed for superior wiping and absorbency performance. Generally wipes will absorb more liquid, and faster when compared with rags.

DefendaWipe Pull Test for Strength

Round 3: Strength

In this round we’re going to compare the wet and dry strength of wipes and rags.

Made from fabric, rags are resistant to tears and abrasions. Rag strength is not compromised, even when soaked with fluid. Rags strength score: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wipes – we can’t speak for all wipes but most are offer high strength. To demonstrate our DefendaWipe strength we often ask our clients to grab each end of a DefendaWipe and pull – it’s difficult to tear. Replicating this test using a wet wipe produces a similar outcome – a true testament to their strength. Wipes strength score: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best for strength: Rags and Wipes (DRAW)

Advancements in technology mean that materials and construction have come a long way. The strength between rags and wipes is comparable.

Round 4: Storage footprint

Storage limitations can also be a deciding factor for many businesses. Buying in bulk is economical, but could be unviable at the cost of space.

Rags – how many can you fit into a bag? Bags of rags are tightly packed, and once opened rags often spill out onto the floor, risking contamination. Rags storage footprint score: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Wipes are manufactured and packaged more efficiently than rags. For example our DefendaWipes will take up less space than a similar size and quantity of rags. Wipes are commonly available in boxes or rolls, and can be stored in dispensers to minimise the risk of contamination and wastage. Wipes storage footprint score: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best for storage footprint: Wipes

Wipes are manufactured and packaged more efficiently than rags. On average, a box of wipes will take up less space than a similar size and quantity of rags.

Round 5: Value

We’re splitting this round into the cost to purchase, and for disposal. No full marks because if you have a spill and have neither wipes or rags, you’ll probably be able to find something that’ll work for clean up in a pinch.

Rags offer excellent value and disrupt the waste cycle, avoiding landfill by giving old clothing a second life. However used rags result in heavier contaminated waste, increasing disposal costs. Rags value score: 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wipes offer great value compared with rags. They also weigh less than rags and have superior absorption efficiency, resulting in lower contaminated waste disposal costs. Wipes value score: 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Best for value: Wipes and Rags (DRAW)

Whilst rags have a cheaper initial purchase price, there is a caveat. For two identical liquid spills, less wipes are required compared with rags. Disposal costs will also be higher, as rags weigh more and contaminated disposal costs are calculated by weight and volume.

Round 6: Environmental

Which is more sustainable, rags or wipes? In determining which is better for the environment we need to consider the complete lifecycle of each, from beginning to end.

Rags come from fabrics which would otherwise be destined to landfill. It’s important to note that depending on how rags are used, they may still end up as landfill. The silver lining is that at least they’ve served a secondary purpose. Rags environmental score: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Wipes are manufactured from virgin materials, which may end up in landfill or contaminated waste. Because wipes offer greater cleaning efficiency by volume, they will have a lower storage footprint once used. However it’s hard to ignore the amount of energy and water required to manufacture wipes. Wipes environmental score: 2/5 stars ⭐⭐

Most sustainable: Rags

Wipes and rags (as clothing) may have had similar manufacturing initally. However it’s important to consider rags as produced from used clothing rather than from their virgin materials. In our view, the process of converting clothes into rags requires less energy than manufacturing wipes from virgin materials. Therefore rags are arguably more environmentally friendly than wipes.

Bonus Round: Surprises

We won’t do a star rating for this round, but it’s an important one. When you’re dealing with a product where no two items are the same, Rag quality will be dependent on the source fabrics – we’ve already mentioned how different fabrics can affect absorbency. Errant zippers and buttons that make their way into rags could damage surfaces or cause injury. Another factor is cleanliness; packaged rags come washed, but there is always a risk of contaminants. With wipes, you know what you’re getting with consistent production quality, performance and absorbency.


Wipes offer good value and are superior to rags for wiping and absorbency and storage footprint. However they are less sustainable than rags.
Wiping: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Absorbency: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Strength: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Storage Footprint: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Value: 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Environmental: 2/5 stars ⭐⭐


Rags offer great value and are the more environmentally friendly option. However this is the cost of added weight, reduced absorbency and wiping efficiency which affects disposal costs.
Wiping: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Absorbency: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Strength: 5/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Storage Footprint: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Value: 4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Environmental: 3/5 stars ⭐⭐

For more information on the right solution for your needs, contact Stratex on 1300 991 180 or email [email protected].

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