Shortage of Disinfectants? Here’s What You Can Do

  • Disinfectant sprays and wipes are in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Manufacturers of these essential commodities are working round the clock to keep up with the high demand for these goods.
  • It will take some time to rebalance between demand and supply.
  • You can rely on some alternatives in the meantime – including bleach solutions, alcohol solutions, and handwashing.

Recently, there has been a high demand for disinfectant sprays and wipes. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a surge in demand for these and other cleaning products over the past 2-3 months.

An expert from the Middle Tennessee University says that there was a 520% increase in the sales of spray disinfectants compared to the same time last year. He cited statistics from Nielsen, a research firm.

Also, the sales of cleaners increased by 250%. However, the expert fears that manufacturers may be struggling to meet up with the increased demand, resulting in a shortage of disinfectants for consumers.

Why is there a shortage of disinfectants?

There was a fairly stable demand for disinfectants before the pandemic, with very slight increases occurring during the flu season.

Production plants were able to contain the expected demand. However, fears about SARS-CoV-2 sparked hoarding and panic buying.

The disinfectant industry was not a huge one before the pandemic. Production companies usually don’t keep excess stock on hand. Storing these commodities are expensive and it is cheaper to not stockpile it.

This explains why manufacturers are struggling to ramp production. The situation is complicated by the fact that, even after production, suppliers upstream from retailers have to decide where to distribute them to first.

In most cases, they are first supplied to industrial customers and healthcare facilities due to their need for very large quantities of the product.

What are producers doing to salvage the situation?

One of the things that producers may be doing to prevent a shortage of disinfectants is to search for non-traditional suppliers of the ingredients.

For instance, some distilleries have taken up the task of producing hand sanitizers for their host communities.

Producers have also halted their production of other products to channel more time and resources into meeting the high demands for disinfectants.

Producers are also limiting the number of non-essential products they are producing. This increases their efficiency and boosts their output.

It is also worth noting that the United States Environmental Protection Agency is approving more brands of disinfectants, increasing the number of products in their catalog by 91 in April alone.

How long will shortages of disinfectants last?

Frankly, this is a tough question.

Production companies are trying hard to meet up with the demand and also replenish their inventory.

But then, they are taking care not to flood the market with the products.

Demand will become steady at some point, although we cannot tell whether it will return the same level as it was before the pandemic, or whether there will be a whole new, high “normal” level.

As the economy gradually opens up, there will be an increasing demand for disinfectant sprays and wipes. This may trigger regional shortages for some time.

However, experts predict the balancing of demand and supply after most businesses have reopened.

What can you do about the shortage of disinfectants?

An associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Georgetown University says that everyone has a high chance of eliminating SARS-CoV-2 from their hands so long as they have access to water and soap.

You don’t have to buy any special soap. Any liquid or bar soap will do the job effectively.

Wash your hands with care for no less than 20 seconds.

If you don’t have water and soap handy, you can use hand sanitizers. With the shortage of disinfectants, many people now rely on homemade hand sanitizers using either ethanol or isopropyl alcohol mixed with aloe vera.

What’s important is that you pay attention to the many recipes found on the internet, and ensure that they yield the right concentration of alcohol.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your hand sanitizer should have a concentration greater than 70% isopropyl alcohol or greater than 60% ethanol.

Many homemade recipes tend not to follow these recommendations. So, you have to doublecheck the math on your preferred recipe.

To disinfect the surfaces within your home, you can do with household bleach. It is effective.

Ensure that it is household bleach and not alternative bleach like chlorine-free or color-safe bleach.

Dilute with 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water. Let the bleach sit for at least 10 minutes on the surface. Rewet it if it dries out faster than ten minutes.

Discard diluted bleach within 24 hours and store it in an opaque container because it degrades fast.

You can also disinfect surfaces with a solution containing no less than 70 percent alcohol diluted in water.

Apply the solution to the surface with a spray bottle and leave it for 30 seconds before wiping it away. This will give it time to inactivate the virus.

Alcohol and bleach have a drying effect on your skin, so be sure to wear gloves.

These disinfectants should be used in well-ventilated areas. Dilute the bleach with nothing but water. Other cleaning products may interact with it and cause a release of toxic vapors.

Finally, ensure that you rinse the surfaces with water to wash off any remaining residue.

Learn more: Homemade Hand Sanitizer Prep Guide: 20 Unique Sanitizer Recipes to keep your Hands Germ Free.