When COVID-19 first began to spread in the U.S., stores nationwide faced significant shortages of everything from toilet paper to canned foods and dry ice. Once stores proved to shoppers that there was no need to hoard food and paper products, many companies could catch up with the demand. But there’s still a Clorox wipes shortage across the country, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
The Clorox Company CEO Benno Dorer told Reuters in August 2020 that customers shouldn’t expect a restock until 2021. He said the demand has increased by 500% since the pandemic began in March, and with Halloween (and the prospect of trick-or-treating) coming soon, that demand won’t be decreasing anytime soon.
“Disinfecting wipes, which are the hottest commodity in the business right now, will probably take longer because it’s a very complex supply chain to make them,” Dorer told Reuters.
Reuters reported that these kinds of wipes are typically made of the same material used for personal protection equipment like face masks and medical gowns, and that has contributed to the shortage.
Dorer told USA Today at the beginning of August that the company had brought on 10 new suppliers and had plants operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try to catch up to demand. Even still, if you’re lucky enough to find wipes out in the wild, you’ll probably be limited to how many you can buy.
Rachel Noble, an environmental microbiologist, told Quartz that anyone could purchase either isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or household bleach and mix with water to create a solution. Place paper towels in an old disinfectant wipe container and soak them in the solution. The paper towels are biodegradable alternatives to Clorox wipes, which are made out of a plastic fiber that never breaks down.
Interestingly, Nobel said she doesn’t recommend reusable cloths in lieu of paper towels because some disinfectants can form a harmful gas when inadvertently mixed.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of 500 alternative disinfectants that also kill the novel coronavirus in case the Clorox wipes shortage continues for even longer.
Health experts still believe that COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person via respiratory droplets. People are less likely to get the virus from a surface shared with others. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said evidence suggests the virus may be viable for hours or days on a diverse array of surfaces.
“Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings,” the CDC said.
The CDC recommends that Americans frequently wipe-down surfaces with EPA-approved cleaning supplies in combination with practicing social distancing, handwashing, and wearing a mask. But remember, they’re not a cure-all. Oh, and you should never inject yourself with disinfectant or drink bleach to try to avoid the virus.