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Demand for hand sanitizers up 1,400% and sellers are rationing supplies

Fear spreads along with coronavirus
Fear spreads along with coronavirus 07:13

Makers of household cleaning supplies like Lysol wipes and hand sanitizers such as Purell are ramping up production due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Demand for hand sanitizers spiked 1,400% from December to January, according to market researchers at Adobe Analytics, and a supplier to smaller manufacturers of hand sanitizers on Monday warned its customers that it's running out of product to sell them. 

Some retailers are even rationing sales of hand sanitizers: Texas-based grocery store chain H-E-B on Monday reportedly began rationing purchases of hand sanitizer and hand soap. Customers will be limited to four bottles of hand sanitizer and four bottles of hand soap per visit, local news outlets reported.

The World Health Organization on Friday upgraded the global risk from the new coronavirus to "very high" as the outbreak continued to widen. As of Monday there were nearly 89,000 cases of the COVID-19 disease confirmed in more than 50 countries, while the global death toll has topped 3,000.

Health officials advise that people disinfect countertops and other frequently touched surfaces to help contain the virus, as well as using alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water aren't readily available. 

Bulk Apothecary, a supplier to smaller-scale manufacturers of health and beauty products, on Monday cautioned it's running out of hand sanitizer, citing a run on the product. 

"We are working diligently to keep up with demand and are currently putting in a second and third shift but want to warn our core customers that there is a very real chance we will not be able to keep it in stock," the company stated in an email. Its manufacturing efforts would focus on one-gallon sizes of hand sanitizer and 55-gallon drums, it added.

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Lysol parent Reckitt Benckiser Group, told analysts in an earnings call on Thursday that the British consumer products company's "people are working around the clock with consumers in mind." Chinese consumers are purchasing more cleaning products online as they avoid public shopping expeditions, Narasimhan noted. 

Clorox, too, is powering up for surging demand. "Clorox has increased production of our disinfecting products, and we're monitoring the issue closely in order to be prepared to meet the needs of people, retailers, health care facilities and communities," a company spokesperson said in an email. "Many Clorox disinfecting products have demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to this coronavirus strain on nonporous surfaces."

Clorox could not comment on whether it's seeing increased sales, as the public company is in between earnings announcements and regards it as "new market information." But In an earnings call February 4, Clorox CEO Benno Dorer said the company was gearing up to "be able to supply our customers and also our health-care institutional customers."

Gojo Industries, the maker of Purell, also said it had ramped up production. "We are seeing increased demand for our hygiene products, including hand sanitizer, hand soap, hand sanitizing wipes and surface disinfection spray," a spokesperson said in an email. 

Do face masks protect against coronavirus? 01:30

The company in late January was told by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop making unfounded marketing claims that some of its hand sanitizers can help guard against Ebola, norovirus, the flu and other maladies. Gojo took immediate action to rectify the situation after getting the FDA warning, the company said in a statement on its website. 

The Lysol, Clorox and Purell brands are among a list of more than 100 products approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as effective at killing viruses, according to the Center for Biocide Chemistries, an industry trade group.

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