It is a dirty secret (or maybe a clean one) that this generation of grown-ups, seeking a postmillennial, futuristic level of hygiene, has decided that toilet paper is Not Enough. Anecdotally, the baby-wipes-for-adults trend appears to have begun with young moms who got the idea at the changing table, but it’s prevalent enough to have made its way to the population as a whole. In 2007, the actor Terrence Howard vehemently suggested that women without a box of wipes in the bathroom were “just unclean.” Will.i.am offered a similar opinion a couple of years later: “Get some chocolate, wipe it on a wooden floor, and then try to get it up with some dry towels. You’re going to get chocolate in the cracks. That’s why you gotta get them baby wipes.”
This lavatory preference is a clandestine one, an activity that people don’t like to admit to. That much was proven in the early aughts, when Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble each introduced a premoistened-toilet-paper-on-a-roll product. (The product that P&G introduced had initially borne the unfortunate name Moist Mates.) They both tanked, most likely because they were highly visible: The plastic-enclosed roll fit into your bathroom’s toilet-paper dispenser, making your hygiene practices explicit to every visitor, and perhaps making them wonder whether you had some unlucky medical condition.