Still Can’t Find Disinfectant Wipes? You’re Not Alone

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Four months into the coronavirus pandemic, and the race to find disinfectant wipes continues.

“I figured the rush would be over and people would relax a little bit, but I think they’re still hoarding,” Sean Sphisak, a shopper, said.

“There’s none,” Angel Gonzalez, another shopper, said. “I’ve gone to all these grocery stores. I’ve gone to Rite Aid, CVS, anything you can think of, I’ve been there.”

In May, Clorox Chairman and CEO Benno Dorer said in an interview that there would be a substantial improvement in supply by summer, and experts said the supply is up — but so is demand, due partly to reopening efforts.

“Demand has certainly skyrocketed,” Nick Vyas, a USC global supply chain expert, said. “In some cases, I believe demand is as high as 400-500% just looking for the wipes. This is an incredible amount of surge that you simply cannot create an additional manufacturing capacity to meet this demand.”

Vyas said a part of the supply issue was that companies do not want to over-invest in expensive equipment to increase capacity for what could be a temporary spike in demand.

“Manufacturers are somewhat hesitant because if you build the capacity just for today’s demand, this demand is likely to dissipate at some point in six months, a year,” he said. “So how much of that capital do you want to invest in for that kind of an outlook for six months to a year?”

Christopher Tang, a distinguished professor at UCLA, said manufacturers were also facing challenges because most of the plastic for packaging is made in China.

But, Vyas said, the United States government could step in and help manufacturers ramp up production without massive out-of-pocket costs.

CBS Los Angeles reached out the parent companies of both Clorox and Lysol about increases in production. A representative for The Clorox Company said they would not be sharing new information ahead of its earnings report.