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Clorox disinfecting wipes may not be fully restocked until 2021, CEO says

Many parents are struggling to find wipes as back-to-school gets underway

BEAUMONT, Texas — It will be next year before store shelves are fully stocked with disinfecting wipes, Clorox CEO said in an interview with Reuters

Clorox, the world's largest producer of cleaning products, continues to struggle with demand of its products, particularly disinfecting wipes, amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Disinfecting wipes, which are the hottest commodity in the business right now, will probably take longer because it’s a very complex supply chain to make them,” CEO Benno Dorer told Reuters.

Dorer said in May that there would be improvement in supply by the summer after the company increased production by 40%. But the company later said demand for disinfecting wipes rose some 500%. 

Part of the problem is the lack of one of the key ingredients used to make disinfecting wipes -- polyester spunlace -- which is also used to manufacture PPEs such as masks, medical gowns and medical wipes. There is a shortage of the raw material globally and it is impacting large and small companies that produce disinfecting wipes. 

Aerosol disinfecting sprays and antibacterial soap have largely returned to large-scale production thanks to companies adding extra shifts to increase capacity. Still, finding these products can take patience. 

Seventh Generation, a leading manufacturer in green cleaning and hygiene products, has also said it could be 2021 before disinfecting wipes make a full-scale return.

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Many companies that manufacture disinfecting and antibacterial products are keeping an eye on the fourth quarter of 2020, when coronavirus and flu season could spur new concerns. 

Disinfecting wipes are also a key supply on many back-to-school lists sparking an even higher demand for the foreseeable future.

"Every time I go to the store, I just peak down the aisle hoping to see disinfecting wipes," Kristy Poche said. "I haven't seen them since early March, but I look every week hoping to get lucky. "

Generic brands of disinfecting wipes on Amazon come with a 3-4 week wait. However, alcohol hand sanitizer wipes are readily available. 

Beaumont physician Dr. Ray Callas says that anything with an alcohol content greater than 70% will work for parents and teachers in a pinch.