Where are the Clorox Wipes?
July 5, 2020 12:22 AM   Subscribe

I remember the last week in mid-February when I could still buy household disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, before they became nigh impossible to acquire due to the impending pandemic. Hand sanitizer is now much easier to get (at least in my area). Nearly everything else that was in short supply--paper towels & toilet paper, hydrogen peroxide, pure bleach, even masks--has started returning to store shelves and online retailers' websites. Why not Clorox/Lysol wipes?

It doesn't seem to be a situation where they're being manufactured at previously-normal rates, being stocked in stores, and just immediately selling out. So are the manufacturers just out of supplies and don't yet have enough materials to make them--and if that's the case, what's the holdup for the materials? Or are they making them and just reserving them all for healthcare? If that were the case I'd expect a bigger black market for them, but I haven't seen that.

I'm in the SF Bay Area, if location helps.

I'd love to hear from anyone with knowledge of the situation (vs. pure speculation).
posted by rhiannonstone to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I found some 3-packs of Clorox wipes at a Target store in early June while shopping for my parents in the Minneapolis area.

When I picked one up I overheard an employee telling a customer they probably wouldn't get any more until later in the summer because, according to him, Clorox was distributing primarily to hospitals and government agencies at that time. I have seen Target's store brand wipes ("Up&Up") in stock since then, also in the Minneapolis area.
posted by theory at 1:07 AM on July 5, 2020

I wonder if it’s non-healthcare institutions? I think increased cleaning protocols are happening for many offices, hotels, schools, government buildings, and so on.
posted by nat at 1:08 AM on July 5, 2020

This article is written from a Australian perspective, but I think what it says is probably applicable more broadly: there is a difference between the hoarding of items like toilet paper and paper towels, which represented stockpiling while the actual consumers' need for those items remained static, and items like hand sanitizer, bleach wipes etc. where demand and usage has genuinely increased. (This doesn't explain why items like masks are returning to shelves and bleach wipes are not, but I suspect there's an answer to do with supply chains)
posted by Cheese Monster at 3:35 AM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Clorox is a client of the company I work for. We are also trying to assemble clean desk kits for when we return to the office and disinfectant wipes would be so helpful, but they're out of stock everywhere. So I actually had our account manager reach out to her Clorox peeps and ask if there was any way we could get on a special buying list and just be able to buy wipes directly. We were fine paying full price, we just. need. the. wipes.

Even Clorox employees aren't able to get wipes. There are no wipes.
posted by phunniemee at 4:27 AM on July 5, 2020 [16 favorites]

Re the caffeine free diet cola... I had a lot of trouble finding it as well (Chicago area), and happened to talk to one of the reps at the grocery store. He told me there is a shortage of aluminum (I guess it is needed to make ventilators), and that production of caffeine-free diet in cans had been temporarily suspended. You can still get it in bottles but it is in short supply.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:06 AM on July 5, 2020 [7 favorites]

We got some Clorox wipes at a Walgreens last month. Mr. liet idly asked a clerk if they were ever in stock while he was buying something else and the guy was like “we always stock them on x day of the week at y time.” So the Mr. went back at that day and time and there was one package left on the shelf. He bought it. Suburbs of Austin, TX.

No idea why a chain drugstore in our area would be getting regular shipments.

Now, hand sanitizer is everywhere — and like an earlier poster said, some of it is manufactured by local distilleries.

Disinfectant spray, on the other hand, is nowhere to be found. I haven’t seen any on the shelves in months. I really want some Seventh Generation, but I would settle for anything that doesn’t smell as terrible as Lysol.
posted by liet at 5:32 AM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you for mentioning the caffeine free diet soda thing!! We’ve been hoarding it at my place as well. It’s very annoying!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:26 AM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I was able to get Lysol brand wipes via Amazon Fresh (their grocery delivery service) a month or so ago, and according to the website those are still in stock for delivery. So there are at least some out there, just not nearly enough to meet all of the demand.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 AM on July 5, 2020

I'm not able to find them at the usual place I buy them (chain grocery store), but the little corner stores near my house always have them in stock. I have no idea how, but they're there. Sometimes they may not have the ones I prefer (the green/teal lid) but it's just a day or two before they re-appear.

This is in Dubai. We have been incredibly fortunate to not run out of things during the pandemic/even during lockdown, maybe partly because we are a logistics/supply chain hub? Not sure.

If mailing Clorox wipes is permitted, I could mail you some!
posted by gursky at 6:41 AM on July 5, 2020

The Target website said they were in stock in Sacramento in stores yesterday.
posted by slidell at 6:43 AM on July 5, 2020

Apparently they're all in Cincinnati. I can get them pretty much any time I go to the grocery store, to Target, and my mother says they're at Walgreen's again. Friends in various parts of the city tell me the stock is back for them, too.

Sorry we have them all. I'll send you some if you like!
posted by cooker girl at 6:47 AM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: From Nonwovens Industry, a trade website, on June 10th:
On The Clorox Company’s earnings call last month, chairman and CEO Benno Dorer reported that the company had all-time record shipments of Clorox disinfecting wipes, cleanup disinfecting spray, disinfecting bathroom cleaner and Scentiva products. Demand for some disinfectant products spiked more than 500%. “Demand has been clearly unprecedented,” he said.

Dorer told analysts that the company has been able to increase production of disinfecting products by 40%. It’s now focusing on fewer SKUs; production of its line of Clorox compostable cleaning wipes is on hold for now in order to prioritize disinfecting wipes.

Clorox has also activated third-party suppliers to help it cope with the surge in demand. “We continue to find new ways to increase our capacity,” he added.

In terms of availability, Dorer told Yahoo! Finance last month that there will be substantial improvements in supply this summer. “It’s going to be touch and go until then, unfortunately. But help is on the way, and I think things should ease up in the next few months.”
posted by jocelmeow at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I'm an office supplies retailer. Most of the COVID-related goods (Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, masks, face shields, gloves, etc.) have been restricted almost since this all started in the US. Supplies went very quickly, partly due to hoarding, and partly due to the global just-in-time logistics system. We buy some things from wholesalers, and others we do bulk buys directly from the manufacturers. There were several months where neither I nor my wholesalers could buy these products from the manufacturers, as priority was being given to healthcare and other front-line users, and rightly so. Fast forward to today, and things are starting to get caught up again. I've got a whole pallet of Clorox wipes that I ordered in March, that just showed up last week.

Here's what we've been told:

•The main reason was our global just-in-time logistics system. Everybody, from manufacturers to distributors to retailers orders product "just in time", as they need it, instead of maintaining their own massive stockpiles.

•People started getting sick, lockdowns happened, and across the manufacturing, distributing, retail spectrum, you suddenly have no workers. I don't have any Clorox wipes because my distributor doesn't have any, because they don't have the warehouse staff they need to operate, but it's kind of moot because they can't get any from Clorox, who can't make any, because they don't have the production line staff to produce anything, but it's moot because they can't get the raw materials because those manufacturers don't have the production line staff, but it's moot because they can't get their raw materials, and on and on...

•Shipping became a giant mess. An awful lot of freight rides along on passenger flights, and with passenger flights down some 80%, there was no way to quickly move the stuff that was out there. Sure, some airlines adapted and converted some flights to cargo, but all of that takes time and the delays ripple out.

•We were finding (and still are) other, completely unrelated goods like ink and toner to be extremely difficult to source, for many of the same reasons.

•A lot of manufacturing and distribution is a very, very delicately balanced 6- to 8-week ballet of careful coordination. HP makes a lot of their ink and toner in China. These travel to US ports by container ship, which takes weeks. HP realizes the US stocks are getting low, orders more production from China, which will eventually make its way here, but again, it's weeks from the "go" signal. Add in all these other delays, plus crew shortages for shipping and port facilities, and it starts to make sense why it has taken 2 to 3 months for things to start to return to normal.

•Our warehouse network has gone from "zero masks of any kind, period" to suddenly having 30,000 boxes available. Part of this is because for some of the shipments, the manufacturers eliminated the steps for medical-grade certification. These are the same masks produced on the same lines, but because they haven't been tested and certified for medical use (an expensive and time consuming process) they are instead marked as "for personal care - not for medical or healthcare use". Some hospitals and clinics will not use these for liability reasons, others are so desperate for PPE they will take just about anything. Same goes for gloves. There are the "for healthcare" gloves, and "industrial - not for healthcare" gloves; essentially the same product produced on the same lines, but without having received "for healthcare" testing and certification.
posted by xedrik at 7:53 AM on July 5, 2020 [29 favorites]

There is a manufacturer in my community that makes hand sanitizer and they have it stockpiled in 55 gallon drums because they can't get the plastic pumps from China they need to put it in smaller containers for retail.
posted by notjustthefish at 8:36 AM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just made my own wipes by dipping face wipes in alcohol and putting them into a wipe dispenser that I had had the foresight not to throw out. If you don't want the ingredients in face wipes or baby wipes you can use old fabric or cheap cloth cut to size.
posted by serena15221 at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

i went to a target in the bay area (colma) when it opened (deliberately) this past thursday and they had a shelf full of clorox 3 pack wipes. judging by my compatriots' behavior this was why they were there too. i asked a target associate if the wipes are stocked there every morning and they said they were for "a couple of hours."
posted by iboxifoo at 11:40 AM on July 5, 2020

Two cheaper solutions:

I put a sprayer on a standard brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide (standard sizing: stole the sprayer from something else), and use that to disinfect the kitchen, counters, handles, sinks and so on. It's wonderful. It's supposed to be stronger than bleach against viruses, but there's no odor. Once you let it a sit a minute to do its work, it automatically decomposes into water. So I replicated this solution for the bathrooms in the apartment, too.

As for wipes: I ripped up a serrated paper towel into pieces, rolled the pieces into a bottle with a reasonably wide opening and dumped in some hand sanitizer, then shook. When going out, I transfer a bunch into a small plastic bag. Unlike bleach, the components of hand sanitizer are not light sensitive, so the key is just using something strong enough to be effective that doesn't rip off your skin or the surface it's disinfecting.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:15 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, here's an updated answer from the CEO of Clorox: Clorox won't have enough disinfecting wipes until 2021
posted by rhiannonstone at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2020

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