It's 2020, and the drops we're all waiting in line for — not Yeezy's or the iPhone 12 — but disinfectant wipes. While the initial toilet paper shortage seems to be over, store shelves still seem to be missing Lysol and Clorox wipes, nationwide.
How Are Wipes Made?
While the process for wipe-making differs brand to brand, generally the process starts with a roll of fabric that is cut into usable squares, which are rolled into a container. These containers are then run through a production line that adds the disinfectant solution. Then, the packages are sealed up and ready to go.
Why Is There A Shortage?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, supply chains have become fraught with delays and ingredient shortages as wipe manufacturers attempt to keep up with over 144% increase in demand.
On the material side, according to Brian Sansoni, Sr. Vice President of Communciation for the American Cleaning Institute, American companies are having a difficult time sourcing the active ingredients for disinfectants, such as quaternary ammonium compounds.
Other problems some disinfectant wipe brands face is a shortage of one key ingredient: the actual fabric wipes. The fabric used often contain polyester spunlace or polypropylene, which also happens to be ingredients used in personal protective equipment, or PPE, like masks and medical gowns. Only certain fabrics are EPA-approved for use in disinfectant wipes, which limits manufacturers to working with certain suppliers.
The other thing to think about is that manufacturers work with a whole network of third party suppliers to get their packaging components and ingredients. When the pandemic hit, these third party suppliers didn't just receive an increase in order from one manufacturer, but all of them.
Why Can't Wipes Just Use Different Materials?
In order for disinfectant wipes to make claims that they can kill viruses and bacteria, the product and the product's marketed labeling must be approved by the EPA. Even one slight change can result in needing a new re-approval. Not to mention, a whole lot of new labels need to be printed.
When Can We Expect Wipes To Get Back To Normal?
It's looking a bit grim — representatives from the major wipe manufacturers such as Clorox and Reckitt Benckiser both announced that stock levels at retail may not normalize until 2021.
Some consumers have begun making their own DIY disinfectants, but the ratios can be finicky or the raw ingredients like bleach and alcohol may be tough to find and fairly toxic in large volumes. With Microbē, the newest home disinfectant generator, we provide the exact measurement of ingredients to make disinfectant spray that research shows is 80-120x stronger than bleach.