When the pandemic first hit the US, virtually all consumer paper products – from toilet paper to facial tissues to paper towels to wipes – were suddenly in high demand as consumers sought to stock up ahead of self-isolating and stay-at-home orders. Shortages ensued. However, even though many stores still have limits on the number each such product a customer may purchase in a single shopping trip, most of these goods are once again readily available…all, that is, except wipes.
Surface disinfecting wipes from Clorox, Lysol, and others vanished from store shelves in March and have yet to return in any significant way despite capacity expansion efforts from suppliers. Production has first been earmarked for hospitals, caregivers, and commercial users, and there hasn’t been enough product left over for retail sales.
We likely won’t see wipes reliably on retail shelves until next year. According to Clorox company president and CEO-elect, Linda Rendle, "Given the fact cold and flu (season) sits in the middle of the (fiscal) year, and we expect the pandemic to be with us for the entirety of the year, it will take the full year to get up to the supply levels that we need to be at."
So what gives?
- Polyester spunlace, a frequent base for consumer-grade disinfecting wipes, is also used for masks and medical gowns, which are also in high demand.
- Companies have prioritized liquid bleach and other disinfecting cleaning products that do not have supply chain
- Stricter and increased cleaning protocols have led to extraordinarily high demand for surface disinfecting wipes at medical facilities, senior living communities, daycare centers, schools, businesses, and retail outlets.
What do you do in the meantime?
- Get on wait lists: some retail stores keep a list to notify customers when a shipment of surface disinfecting wipes arrive
- Make your own.
- Be flexible about brands. Wipes are sometimes available in store brands or other less well-known brands. Just make sure they are made with EPA-registered disinfectants.
- Use spray cleaners along with separate paper towels or washable rags.
For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s COVID-19 impact reports on Surface Disinfectant Wipes and Global Industrial & Institutional Disinfectants & Sanitizers. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.