Nuances in understanding what claims are made affect the level of confidence applicable to fighting against the Covid-19 virus. Many wet wipes are said to kill 99.99% of many common bacteria. According to Mindy Costello, Registered Environmental Health Sanitarian and NSF International’s Consumer Product Certification Specialist:
There are numerous products tested and certified to specific kill rates, from wet wipes to dishwashers, and they are generally tested on the most common bacteria or other microbes we might encounter, such as staphyloccus aureus, klebsiella pneumoniae, and pseudomonas aeruginosa. It’s important to always read the label or check the product website to learn exactly what it has been tested to kill. Because the virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel virus, it’s not very likely that a product like a wet wipe has been thoroughly tested for this specific virus. While an independently-tested high kill rate on the label is good news, it’s only an indicator of the product’s potential performance, and we can’t automatically assume that it will perform as well on SARS-CoV-2 until the science of testing catches up to the current situation.
(Also, see associated article, “Wet Wipes Sold Out” for producers’ comments on effectiveness against Covid-19.)
Beyond claims and kill rates, product labels need to meet several other standards for identity, ingredients, responsibility, usage, storage conditions and disposal. Even font sizes, graphics and logos are among requirements. It’s not always widely known that products are not examined and recalled by the FDA unless there is a complaint brought to the FDA’s attention. One industry expert asserts that, with a flood of products coming from all over the world, mis-labeled products can get to store shelves. “It’s frustrating for some of us as long-term reputable suppliers,” he said. In the case of masks, dozens of recalls occurred with a more focused spotlight on them.
When products are recalled, retailers like Walmart base the recall on manufacturers’ and regulatory agencies press releases. According to Walmart, that information includes products involved and steps on what you should do if you have a recalled item. One resource is U.S. Product Safety Commission and another is the website www.recalls.gov where it includes:
- Which agency is responsible for the recall
- Details about the recalled product
- Additional safety information
- Ability to sign up for email alerts
The importance of correct labeling not only gives users confidence when buying wet wipes, it is a key feature in marketing advancements and differentiates offerings. During these critical times for sanitization, imparting knowledge has grabbed new attention. When compared with some hasty offerings with related products, the wet wipes industry looks to meet its promises.
Wipes Face Shortages
Did we ever think that this bastion of nonwovens applications would be so backlogged that store shelves are empty, and buyers are seeking any means to find them? That’s the status of wet wipes, especially sanitizing and antibacterial wipes. At the same time, did we ever imagine a pandemic that would call for a higher level of cleanliness to fight a new viral threat?
Today pandemic anxiety continues. Schools and sporting activities are opened, and sometimes later closed. Travelers pack up their sanitizers and find out which states (or nations) have rules for entering “their” borders. Hotels tout their updated protocols. Those planning to fly study which airlines are more restrictive. People venturing out to eat may choose outdoor terraces where wipes canisters sit at the entrance, or tableside.
When your good friends in the wet wipes converting industry cannot answer the phone for days since they are so busy. When contract manufacturers do not want to be quoted or receive any notice while they are working day and night on backlogs. The stress from retail, healthcare and other markets has rippled into and throughout the wet wipes industry and the nonwovens supply stream.
There are some in the industry beginning to comment at the brand level. Clorox CEO and Chairman Benno Dorer, in August, said that although supplies will improve over the next four to six months, its disinfectant wipes remain unavailable until some point in 2021. Currently, stocks of disinfectant wet wipes are often only available for first responders or healthcare professionals. For Clorox, often seen as the first major entrant in the wet wipes cleansing marketplace around the year 2000 and whose brand led the way to acceptance, the current situation has to be trying, despite a surge in sales. For families eyeing cold and flu season, forget these wipes says Prevention magazine.
Behind the scenes, an effort to increase output is occurring too. Rockline Industries, for example, has announced a $20 million investment that is projected to double its disinfectant wipes capacity with a state-of-the-art production line. According to Randy Rudolph, president, the investment is targeted “to meet consumers’ increasing demand for disinfecting wipes.” The “Galaxy” line has been custom designed by Rockline engineers in conjunction with leading equipment manufacturers and will be operational in mid-2021.
In another case, Neptune Wellness Solutions Inc., a company focused on natural lifestyle brands, has received a company number from the U.S. Environmental Agency for surface disinfectant wipes, moving the company beyond its hand sanitizing portfolio. Michael Cammarata, CEO, commented on consumers “seeing empty shelves” with restocking waiting until next year. “We are mobilizing on the regulatory, product development and supply chain fronts,” he said.
Several companies have reached out to meet critical needs. Rockline Industries and others have donated to hospitals. Nice-Pak recently generated data showing its EPA Reg. products demonstrated efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, sold under brand and private labels. Its sister company PDI, with Super Sani-Cloth wipes, are also effective against the virus. Also affirming its effectiveness against Covid-19 is Diamond Wipes International with its HandyClean Steridol wipes for hard, non-porous surfaces. The company is shifting its production focus to its sanitizing products.
At the converter level, one wipes manufacturer principal said that much of their production is committed for some 18 months! At the nonwovens level, many variations are sought:
- Spunlace nonwovens, the major player in the wet wipes industry, are under increasing tight supply with long lead times. Some spunlace nonwovens producers are “not taking any new orders” according to one wipes converter.
- Meltblown nonwovens, which are also crucial elements in N95 and other masks, also have long lead times for wipes. Some converters have seen “some ease in availability, but still not near normal” even with new tonnage coming on line.
- SMS (spunbond-meltblown-spunbond), spinlace and similar nonwovens are also in play with wet wipes manufacturers casting for alternatives.