What started as a joke has now grown to a collection of over 1,000 wet wipes from every continent except Antarctica. John French operates the Moist Towelette Museum from his office at the Abrams Planetarium located on the Michigan State campus.
French says in the early days of the internet he and his friends were amazed at how many quirky and unique collections they stumbled upon. I'm sure we've all seen collections like antique clocks, PEZ dispensers, matchbooks, and old telephones, just to name a few. However, French noticed a serious lack of moist towelette collections and decided to take it upon himself to fill that void.
Most experts agree that a need for moist towelettes, or "wet wipes" as they're commonly referred to, came about during the 1950s when Americans began to travel more and needed a quick clean on the go. Arthur Julius is credited with having invented the first "Wet-Nap" in 1958 and it soon came standard in every Kentucky Fried Chicken meal- you can see why it gained popularity so fast!
These days wet wipes are used to clean everything from kitchen counters to children's toys, and even our own bodies! And let us not forget the great wet wipe shortage of 2020. Remember when the Covid pandemic first started and there were no wipes (or toilet paper) to be found on store shelves?! Those were scary times.
Visit the Museum
The Moist Towelette Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday but if you can't make it to the East Lansing planetarium at 755 Science Rd., no worries! John has uploaded some of his favorite towelettes to the museum's website, which he also curates. Among John's collection, you'll find the "Wash Up!" wipe from 1963, one of the oldest in his museum. You can also find the "holy grail" wet wipe that has eluded John all these years but he hopes to someday add to his collection. There's even a DIY recipe so you can make your own wet wipes at home!