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
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

Although considered safe overall, aloe vera does carry the risk of making some skin rashes worse. serezniy / Getty Images

By Kristeen Cherney

Skin inflammation, which includes swelling and redness, occurs as an immune system reaction. While redness and swelling can develop for a variety of reasons, rashes and burns are perhaps the most common symptoms. More severe skin inflammation can require medications, but sometimes mild rashes may be aided with home remedies like aloe vera.

Read More Show Less
There are plenty of things you can do every day to help reduce greenhouse gases and your carbon footprint to make a less harmful impact on the environment. ipopba / Getty Images

By Katie Lambert and Sarah Gleim

The United Nations suggests that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but we are also at a defining moment in history. Weather patterns are changing and will threaten food production, and sea levels are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe. Countries must make drastic actions to avoid a future with irreversible damage to major ecosystems and planetary climate.

Read More Show Less
Petri Oeschger / Moment / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health.

Read More Show Less

Junjira Konsang / Pixabay

By Matt Casale

For many Americans across the country, staying home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) means adapting to long-term telework for the first time. We're doing a lot more video conferencing and working out all the kinks that come along with it.

Read More Show Less
Looking south from New York City's Central Park. Ajay Suresh / Wikipedia / CC BY 4.0

By Richard leBrasseur

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered humans' relationship with natural landscapes in ways that may be long-lasting. One of its most direct effects on people's daily lives is reduced access to public parks.

Read More Show Less
PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Ryan Raman, MS, RD

Minerals are key nutrients that your body requires to function. They affect various aspects of bodily function, such as growth, bone health, muscle contractions, fluid balance, and many other processes.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A young monk seal underwater in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. NOAA / PIFSC / HMSRP

By Tara Lohan

The Sargasso Sea, an area of the Atlantic Ocean between the Caribbean and Bermuda, has bedeviled sailors for centuries. Its namesake — sargassum, a type of free-floating seaweed — and notoriously calm winds have "trapped" countless mariners, including the crew of Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria.

Read More Show Less