LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Since the start of COVID-19, many products have been hard to come by. But while items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper are back on shelves, for the most part, sanitizer wipes are still scarce.
It comes as schools are scrambling to secure supplies.
“Clorox wipes are really just the one thing that you really just can’t find anywhere," said Becky Ruby Swansburg, a mother of two.
Swansburg moved a few miles away to Crescent Hill last week with her two kids.
“The move was really the first time I felt a need for Clorox wipes and disinfectant spray," she said.
But she said disinfectant wipes were really hard to find.
“It’s been hard not to find the things that you need to keep your family safe," Swansburg said.
Finally, and unexpectedly, she struck gold.
“I found this gigantic thing of Lysol at a Home Depot," she said.
And she told us she plans to make it last because she doesn’t know when she’ll find it again.
“It’s been bare for months," Swansburg said.
“Where are the wipes?” FOCUS investigative reporter Paula Vasan did some digging to find out.
“There’s raw materials shortages," said Barry Swanson, procurement officer at the University of Kentucky.
Swanson specializes in supply chain management at the University of Kentucky. He said there’s not just a shortage of disinfectant wipes. Latex gloves and hospital gowns are scarce too.
“It’s an ongoing problem," Swanson said.
In response, the university has been making their own wipes and hand sanitizer.
“We buy dry wipes and then saturate them with Jim Beam, the Beam sanitizer product," said Swanson.
For many, the response to shortages has been a do-it-yourself mentality. In reaction to a story we posted in March about how to make your own disinfectants, we found DIYers sharing their own tips.
A spokesperson at Lysol told us they’ve been working around the clock, saying in a statement: “As demand remains extraordinarily high, we recognize that it is difficult to locate products that you may be looking for. We apologize for this inconvenience…”
The Clorox Company said they’ve seen demand spike 500 percent on some of their products, including wipes. They tell us: “We’re running our cleaning plants 24/7, and we’re continuing to add capacity for disinfecting products every month.”
“As long as the demand remains high the challenge will remain," said Brian Sansoni, a vice president at the American Cleaning Institute.
Sansoni said unlike hand sanitizer, which is simpler to make with fewer ingredients, wipes are more complicated. They require more manufacturing capability, and that’s limited.
“There’s only so much you can make in 24 hours," he said.
His advice for finding what you need? Keep in touch with your local retailers about new shipments. Check their websites. And consider alternative cleaning products, like bleach.