Why and How Governments Need to Mobilize Sanitizer Supply

Hand sanitizer supply is critical for reducing the spread of coronavirus but we are massively short on supply. Hourly hand sanitizer usage would reduce disease spread by 70% reduction (Extrapolating MIT Simulation Study). In 2019, the industry made about 200,000 tons per year of sanitizer. We really need that amount for a day. The lower amounts mean efficient rationing coordinated with quarantines while supply is scaled as rapidly as possible. Social distancing is what can be done now without needing materials and is effective but there are places that cannot be shutdown and social distancing is limited. Sanitizer makes frequent hand cleaning more practical and gets higher compliance. Sanitizer works with social distancing.

Sanitizer is the logistically optimal and most practical solution to cleaning hands. Hourly cleaning presents a logistical problem of lining up at sinks or having gallons of water and soap. The next best alternative to sanitizer could be surgical gloves. But hospital studies show that compliance with personal hand sanitizer is double what it is with cleaning stations and sinks. The slight friction of going to a bathroom or a station and lining up drops compliance and the transmission reduction benefit goes away. Thus distilleries and governments are needed to rapidly act on the supply chain.

UPDATE: Ethanol supply is being diverted for the purpose of scaling hand sanitizers. There is sufficient supplies here. The correction is denatured ethanol will be the source of abundant alcohol. The hourly hand cleaning goal is still good. But the source of key ingredient is not a fundamental constraint.

Scale Analysis of Supply Needed for Hourly Hand Sanitizing Globally
In 2019, Hand Sanitizer was only a $1 billion per year business. World production is about 200,000 tons per year. We need 200,000 tons per day. Stockpiles went to individual hoarding and usage. Each week, we can make 5,000-15,000 tons based upon existing actions. This is enough for 15 million people using it once an hour.

Each ton is about 10000 people per week using hourly hand cleaning. We could stretch this as it is convenient for them to wash hands 3-5 times per day after they go to the bathroom. When rationing, think about which facility needs the least transmission. How many people are in the facility? Divide by 10000. Give a 100ml bottle or two 50 ml bottles per week to each person.

Divert ethanol production and denature it. Scale the production and provide to the most critical areas. National and world distillery capacity is not sufficient so we will have to target where we can put it and scale up pure alcohol production. Alcohol is the key ingredient for sanitizer. Rapid mobilization will be needed to rapidly scale.

We will ultimately need hand cleaning every hour for 80% of the world population for about 6 billion people to fully open the world economy. Here is an analysis of the scale of global mobilized sanitizer as we move to re-opening
Each person following the hourly cleaning:
20 milliliters per day per person.
600 milliliters per month per person. But with waste and inefficiency, that is 1 liter per person.
Ultimately 6 million tons of sanitizer per month or 72 million tons per year.

Focus initial supplies on the critical areas that cannot be shutdown. Hospitals, police, fire departments, military, prisons other key operations. Use it in the hardest-hit areas first.

Optimal hand cleaning is similar to a physical vaccine in disease spread reduction. Like a liquid condom for the hands. Gloves have similar function but non-contaminating usage is less practical but better than nothing. Hand washing works but washing as frequently as is needed means lines and distributing personal supply is gallons of water and some soap. Each ton of sanitizer is good for 10000 people per week. Even putting all production at critical places means we need 5-10 times more than what we have.

Recommended Plan
Communicate the need for hourly cleaning to reduce disease spread
Ramp up hand sanitizer production
Ramp up supply chain by 10X and then 100X and then 400X. Critical part of alcohol supply is ethanol production or distilleries.
Have a rationing strategy and managing the front lines of disease spread. Put limited supply to best use.

NOTE on Brian Wang
Brian Wang has been part of a startup for a few weeks that has been working on a more convenient personal dispensing system which would help mitigate disease spread. But the nature of the crisis and the clear identification of the sanitizer supply issue has required a pivot to get international action on the sanitizer and alcohol shortages. It also means getting the pivot to use ethanol production and some distillery capacity for sanitizer. Discussions have started with some people in Italy, Gulf States, and early connections to Latin America. The Singularity University network is getting activated.

Help connect me with mayors and governors to discuss action to ramp up supplies and getting them to the right spots. The right spots being the places that cannot or should not close with quarantines. Hospitals, crisis response areas (police, military), ambulances, prisons, etc…

52 thoughts on “Why and How Governments Need to Mobilize Sanitizer Supply”

  1. If you want to clean your hands, regular soap and water is much, much more effective than hand sanitiser. Dishwashing fluid also works well. The virus coat is a lipid and soaps and detergents are highly effective in dissolving the coat and causing the virus to die rapidly. Sanitiser is only recommended if you can’t get to a sink. If you must use a sanitiser, then the alcohol content must be 60% or higher. Medical sanitiser is 70%.

  2. Supply is an issue because my study indicates that the whole global sanitizer market was $1 billion last year. At ($5-20 per liter sales, say an average of $10 per liter) there was only 100,000,000 liters or or 100,000 tons per year. Or double with $5 per liter price. About 2000-4000 tons per day.

    each usage uses 1.5 milliliters. 13 cleaning per day about 20 milliliters per day per person. 50 people would use 1 liter per day. 50,000 people for 1 ton per day.

    10 million to 20 million people per day based on last years per day supply.

  3. Thanks VBoring. I missed the ethanol part of the supply chain. I still believe the hourly handcleaning is a good directive to enhance quarantines and social distancing and it will make things safer as we re-open the economy after containment is achieved or the disease course has been run.

  4. Common sense need to prevail… Hand sanitizing only addresses one of the means of mitigating this highly contagious disease that is transmitted as easily and as quickly as the common flu. If it’s on peoples hands then it is on their hair and on their clothing, etc. One sick person can sneeze and atomize their breath into thousands of micro-droplets loaded with the pathogen.
    Flushing ones sinuses with salt water instantly kills all the microbes that are festering and eventually making it into the digestive tract in quantities that most immune systems can’t handle. Air quality, air sterilization (using UV Light), and HEPA qualilty air filtration in public places has yet to be a broad topic of discussion. The topic of air exchanges, venting through windows, keeping a positive pressures in homes and offices and spraying of alcohol or other bactericides throughout places (rooms or vehicles) inhabited by people also seem to be widely neglected in the open forum. Coming home and changing your clothes and showering or spraying yourself down are typical things that I’ve seen practiced in the disease ridden third world and that we could benefit from right now as a society. I could go on and on…

  5. i think google should buy a sh!t load of telepresence robots and let there staff play around by Roving robots around in the halls of google for a month from home… think of the PR potential of such a publicity stunt capitalizing on corona virus… cbs news…three telepresence robots meet in the hall way of google and have a conference in the hall while rolling to meeting room… How one technology company is overcoming the virus lock down… what you need to know …

  6. If our options are a radical industrial switchover, or convincing everyone in the country to be sensible and not act like an arsehat, then better start work on that sanitizer factory.

  7. yes, I think all can agree. However, it is a logistics thing. This is why you won’t see doctors/nurses washing their hands all day. I think Brian addressed this in terms of water needs and standing in line.

  8. yes, if you use the contents properly. Think hospitals where medical personnel use them continuously (the right way, not just a quick dab). Slosh it on, don’t be shy.
    Just remember, the moment you touch anything after your hands are clean (e.g the door handle to leave your building), your hand cleaning efforts were pretty much wasted.

  9. There is plenty of alcohol feedstock available. Ethanol. The US produces about 17 billion gallons per year, and it goes all into you car’s gas tank. Ethanol destroys viruses and you need about a 65% solution with another wonderfully abundant feedstock – glycerol, global production is about 1 billion gallons and pretty easy to ramp this up significantly. Dreyfus has a plant in Indiana churning out 80 million pounds a year and globally a 50% increase in production is doable pretty much right away (just needs more biofuels….).

    The bottleneck is in formulation (or skip the nice smelling stuff and go hardcore) and bottling. That can be solved though. The plastics industry can easily cope with this.

    However – all this will contribute to global warming, so I dunno if it is such a good idea….

  10. Over the last week, my 350-resident building installed a hand sanitizer in the lobby. But I wonder if these things are really as safe as they seem, with dozens or hundreds of people touching them every day? Even if you scrub your hands, you are in close proximity to a surface hundreds of people have touched, possibly some with illness.

  11. No, you don’t need one. If you are sick and must go out (but don’t go out if you’re sick) it can help contain your potential droplets from sneezing and coughing. Leave the good masks for our medical community and first responders.

  12. This is just not true. Soap and water is all that’s needed for hand-washing. This from the CDC re corona virus –
    Hand hygiene and other preventive measures
    Household members should clean hands often, including immediately after removing gloves and after contact with an ill person, by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
    Household members should follow normal preventive actions while at work and home including recommended hand hygiene and avoiding touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
    Additional key times to clean hands include:
    After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
    After using the restroom
    Before eating or preparing food
    After contact with animals or pets
    Before and after providing routine care for another person who needs assistance (e.g. a child)

  13. Interesting note. I read a study on IPA and it’s effectiveness at different concentrations. 70% is best, as it has greater effect on the bacteria and virus you want to kill. 90% takes much longer contact time, but suffers from faster evaporation rates.

  14. You are sooo right. Price is information from the market. I watched people walk away from bottled water in Costco because the only thing Costco had at the time was Smart water for $15 per case instead of the cheap $2.98 Costco water. Is Smart water or Costco the bad guy? NO! If people truly needed the water, they’d buy only what they need and more people would have it. Just silly how little people understand this. Prices on all of this stuff should have gone up immediately, then we’d have it for our hospitals, firemen, cops, etc.

  15. This article is just academic drivel that will not work. This is just so much of an overreaction as to be laughable. What next, weld apartment doors shut? Oh wait, the totalitarian regime in China did that, and much more. Look at Taiwan’s response and how well it worked. If you are in a vulnerable group, stay home!!!! If you come into contact with people in a vulnerable group; assume you have the virus and act accordingly. Don’t be an asshat and go out if you have symptoms. Some dickhead bartender in Park City UT went to work, with symptoms!!! Total douche move. Stay home if you’re worried. This is a very bad flu that will kill mostly old people, or those with certain conditions, like heart or lung issues. People are getting scared over not much and doing stupid crap. To quote Hunt for Red October, “This business will get out of control! It will get out of control and we’ll be lucky to live through it!”

  16. Why denature? Just use it as a mixer.
    It may not protect you against the virus, but at least you can enjoy being sick.

  17. More hand sanitizer is a good thing but Covid-19 won’t be a threat stimulating this level of response even remotely close to long enough to scale up production to those extreme levels.

    The whole reason for shutting everything down is just to level out the infection rate and not overwhelm medical facilities, not to prevent most people from being infected. That’s going to happen well before any vaccine is widely available and well before everyone is using hand sanitizer 10X a day. The end of the crisis comes when most people have been infected and acquired natural immunity – the response is to slow that down, not stop it.

  18. Fuel ethanol production capacity in the United States totaled 16.9 billion gallons per year (gal/year) or 1.1 million barrels per day (b/d), as of January 2019

    200L per barrel. That’s 220 million litres per day,

    7.5 billion people, disinfecting their hands once per hour for 18 waking hours per day, that’s 1.6 mL per handwipe.

    Just about the perfect dose.


  19. If his state has price gouging laws, he could get in trouble for that, unless he sells them at cost (and he might need some kind of license, too, to set up a roadside stand). He might be able to sell them to a local store that is having trouble restocking, but he’d probably have to take a loss to do that. Donating them to a local charity or food bank might be his best option to get rid of them legally, but it would be a big loss.

  20. And now 17k bottles of sanitizer have been taken out of circulation exactly when they’re needed. Price controls in the middle of a shortage have been known to be counter-productive for a couple generations now, but people never stop doing them.

  21. Alcohol denatures proteins, (Which largely depend on hydrophilic and hydrophobic sites interacting with the water to maintain their shape.) at concentrations dependent on the specific protein. My understanding is that the viral DNA, or RNA in the case of coronavirus, remains intact, but with the protein envelope disrupted, it is no longer capable of infecting cells.

  22. If you have a bunch that are not individually wrapped. First put each in its own Ziploc bag…so you minimize the risk of one contaminating another. If you bring your mask home don’t fit it right back in the pack with the others as the outside will be touching the inside of another. And if it saved you from anything, that anything, is on the outside.
    When selecting…if you have a choice…you want more surface area, as that makes it easier to breathe. The valve makes it less humid inside if humidity is uncomfortable or just gross to you.
    If you are pretty sure you were exposed to someone who had it while you were wearing the mask…I would just get rid of that one…or make that the last one you reuse. Maybe give it a rinse with 70% alcohol before reuse.
    I have 3M VFlex 9105 masks. I have had others, and they were more difficult to breathe through. Though I have not had one with the valve. The valve is one way. It lets you exhale with ease. Breathing in will still require effort.
    I am not an expert. Just trying to apply some common sense.

  23. N95 or better is required to filter out the little droplets of sneeze or cough. I suspect you can use them for several days…maybe even weeks. Not 8 hour shifts or anything, just wear them if you have to go to the grocery, get gas, and such. Not compatible with beards, so you must shave well. Look in the mirror make sure it is touching your face all around. The nose usually bends…get it right before you put it in your car. Don’t touch the inside. Don’t yank the elastic too much…it can come off.
    Public transit? Maybe it can last a week?
    They might be rinsable…if you are desperate. Rinse from the inside. And allow time for it to dry. It probably depends on the maker if it will stand up to this. They are not designed for it. They are supposed to be single use, but with the gouging, you might have to make due. I don’t trust boiling. It will probably disintegrate, deform or the elastic will be damaged. The elastic needs to stay strong to hold it to your face. I think I have 8. The ones I have are not molded but they seal parity well. I bought them for use with my saw before any of this happened…because I am alergic to saw dust…even though I like the smell. The ones I have don’t have the valve. I would recommend the ones with a valve if you have any issues with breathing already like if you are a smoker, very heavy, or a bit weak.
    I would also recommend wearing it just to try it out to see if you can stand the one you bought. You don’t want to have to remove it.

  24. On March 1, the day after the first coronavirus death in the United States was announced, brothers Matt and Noah Colvin set out in a silver S.U.V. to pick up some hand sanitizer. Driving around Chattanooga, Tenn., they hit a Dollar Tree, then a Walmart, a Staples and a Home Depot. At each store, they cleaned out the shelves.

    Over the next three days, Noah Colvin took a 1,300-mile road trip across Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and thousands of packs of antibacterial wipes, mostly from “little hole-in-the-wall dollar stores in the backwoods,” his brother said. “The major metro areas were cleaned out.”

    Matt Colvin stayed home near Chattanooga, preparing for pallets of even more wipes and sanitizer he had ordered, and starting to list them on Amazon. Mr. Colvin said he had posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer and immediately sold them all for between $8 and $70 each, multiples higher than what he had bought them for. To him, “it was crazy money.” To many others, it was profiteering from a pandemic.The next day, Amazon pulled his items and thousands of other listings for sanitizer, wipes and face masks. The company suspended some of the sellers behind the listings and warned many others that if they kept running up prices, they’d lose their accounts. EBay soon followed with even stricter measures, prohibiting any U.S. sales of masks or sanitizer.

    Now he’s stuck with 17k bottles.

  25. Most hand sanitizers don’t even work very well. The FDA just made one of the companies remove their claims.
    Popular homemade vodka and aloe vera recipes don’t work either.
    Hand washing is much better.
    Straight rubbing alcohol probably works fine. Has got to be the 70% or the 91%. In theory anything over 60%, but 70% and 91% are the standards I see.

  26. We should tell people to close their windows and sterilize their homes with a cleanser consisting of sodium hypochlorite and ammonia.

    *posted while shopping in an empty mall** like ‘Dawn of the Dead’.

    ** they put extra meat in your tacos in the food court, during pandemics. they don’t want to throw it away.

  27. Let me disagree with the experts. There are no bacterial microbes that live in 40 let alone 80 proof. I don’t particularly understand how alcohol is supposed to damage a virus anyway, and I wash my hands regularly because I have children in the house and I am civilized.

    So until you go do a dissertation on how long viruses can last in 80 proof alcohol I’m going to stick to my intuition here.

    Read the label on Lysol and it says it takes 10 minutes to disinfect a toilet seat (what do you read when you go #2?). Duration of application of the sanitizing agent is one part of the equation.

  28. They should be mass producing nanoparticles virus destroying masks and match them with similarly made gloves, especially gloves, as the virus is not truly airborne, but is mostly transmitted by touch and secondarily by droplets.

    People should also be encouraged to take immunity stimulating herbs that are not hard on the body when they go to places where there are a lot of people like the Chinese herb formula Virugo Max.


  29. Everclear at 140 proof is sufficient by itself. Use 190 proof if diluting with aloe, glycerine, or coconut oil as an emollient. Three parts 95% alcohol to one part skin softener should be good.

  30. Ethanol fuel plants produce 100% alcohol.

    Denature it, put it in spray bottles, have USPS deliver them to everyone, call it a day.

  31. There is no shortage of ethanol. We use it as fuel in cars at 85 percent concentration.
    Millions of tons produced.

  32. No, vodka doesn’t work. You need 70 per cent alcohol. However, as vodka is made from alcohol, the production facilities could be turned into production of sanitizers

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