Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

What to Do if There’s a Disinfectant Shortage in Your Area

Health + Wellness
What to Do if There’s a Disinfectant Shortage in Your Area
Consumers looking to buy disinfectant sprays and wipes may be out of luck for a while. eldinhoid / Getty Images

By Nancy Schimelpfening

Consumers looking to buy disinfectant sprays and wipes may be out of luck for a while.



Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen a large surge in demand for disinfectants and other cleaning products over the past few months.

In an interview with Healthline, Cliff Welborn, PhD, professor of supply chain management at Middle Tennessee State University, cited statistics from research firm Nielsen indicating that sales of spray disinfectants were up 520 percent over the same time last year.

In addition, sales of multipurpose cleaners were up almost 250 percent.

However, Welborn said manufacturers are having a difficult time keeping up with the rise in demand, leading to shortages for consumers.

Why Disinfectants Are in Short Supply

Prior to the pandemic, demand for disinfectants was fairly stable, with only small increases seen during flu season.

Production facilities were equipped to handle the normally expected demand.

However, people's fears about the virus sparked panic buying and hoarding.

"This was not a huge industry before the spike in demand," said Welborn. "There was not a great deal of excess capacity in the production process."

In addition — according to Scott Grawe, PhD, chair of the department of supply chain management at Iowa State University — companies don't tend to keep a lot of stock on hand. Storing it is expensive and it keeps costs down if they don't stockpile it.

As a result, manufacturers are struggling to keep up.

Grawe said an additional problem is that as more disinfectant products become available, suppliers upstream from retailers must decide where to send them first.

Often, they end up going directly to healthcare facilities and industrial customers first due to their greater need for larger quantities of product.

What Manufacturers Are Doing to Remedy the Situation

Grawe said one of the things that manufacturers may be doing to increase the supply of disinfectants is to look for nontraditional suppliers of ingredients.

For example, quite a few distilleries have stepped in to make hand sanitizer for their local communities.

Also, manufacturers may be temporarily curtailing their production of more profitable products in order to focus on their customers' increased need for disinfectants.

Welborn said another strategy manufacturers may be employing is to limit the number of different products they're making. This increases their efficiency and enables them to increase output.

He also noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expanding its list of approved disinfectants, adding 91 new products in the month of April.

How Long Can We Expect Shortages to Exist?

"This is a tough question," said Grawe.

Firms want to catch up to demand and replenish their inventory, he said.

However, they're also likely to be cautious that they don't flood the market.

Demand will at some point return to a steady level, although it's unclear whether it will return to the same level as before or whether there will be a new, elevated "normal," he said.

As new sectors of the economy open up, there will probably be an increase in demand for disinfectants. This may lead to regional shortages for a period of time.

Grawe said, however, that he expects supply and demand to balance out after most closed businesses have reopened.

What You Can Do in the Meantime

Julie Fischer, PhD, associate research professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University, said as long as you have access to soap and water you can do an effective job at eliminating SARS-CoV-2 from your hands.

No special soap is needed, she said. Any bar or liquid soap will work.

Just wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds.

If you don't have access to soap and water, hand sanitizers are a good substitute.

With commercial products being in short supply, Fischer noted that many people have turned to making homemade hand sanitizers using either isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or ethanol (liquor) mixed with aloe vera.

The important thing to keep in mind with many recipes found on the internet, she said, is making certain they yield the correct concentration of alcohol.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendsTrusted Source a concentration of greater than 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.

Many home recipes fall short of these recommendations, Fischer said. You'll want to double check the math on any recipe you use.

For the disinfection of surfaces within your home, Fischer said diluted household bleach works well.

Make sure it's household bleach, not a bleach alternative such as color-safe or chlorine-free bleach.

Dilute it using 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water (or 4 teaspoons per quart).

Allow the bleach solution to sit on the surface for at least 10 minutes and re-wet if it dries out more quickly than that.

Diluted bleach should be discarded within 24 hours and kept in an opaque container since it degrades and becomes ineffective fairly quickly.

Fischer said a solution containing at least 70 percent alcohol diluted in water is also a good option for disinfecting surfaces.

Use a spray bottle to apply it and leave it on the surface for at least 30 seconds before wiping it away to allow time for it to inactivate the virus.

Fischer cautions that both bleach and alcohol can be drying to your skin, so wear gloves to protect your hands.

Use these disinfectants in well-ventilated areas.

Also, you should use only water to dilute bleach. Other cleaning products may interact with it to release dangerous vapors.

Finally, she added, you should rinse the surfaces afterward with water to remove any remaining residue.

The Bottom Line

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a large increase in demand for spray disinfectants and wipes, leading to shortages.

Although manufacturers are currently struggling to adjust, supply and demand will eventually balance out, probably once businesses have reopened.

Alternatives to spray disinfectants and wipes — such as good handwashing techniques and bleach or alcohol solutions — can help fill the void until adequate supplies of these products become available again.

Reposted with permission from Healthline. For detailed source information, please view the original article on Healthline.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A resident works in the vegetable garden of the Favela Nova Esperanca – a "green favela" which reuses everything and is subject to the ethics of permaculture – in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 14, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP via Getty Images

Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.

Read More Show Less
Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less