But now, one of the largest manufacturers of private label wipes says tens of millions more wipes are expected to hit store shelves.
Rockline Industries, which manufactures Good & Clean wipes and stores branded products for major retailers, said the wipes will be available in stores later this month.
It is unclear to what extent the availability of additional Rockline wipes will alleviate the shortage across the country.
Large consumer product companies such as Clorox and Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser dominate the $ 1 billion wipes market, with a 45% and 20% share, respectively, according to IRI market research firm. Private label manufacturers, which include companies such as Rockline, have 28% of the pie.
"This will help us make more product available to customers," according to a person familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity because the company typically does not discuss its supplier agreements.
Rockline employs nearly 2,500 people worldwide and has manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin, Arkansas, New Jersey, Tennessee and overseas in England and SouthChina.
How Rockline solved supply problems
Rockline was able to increase wet wipe production due to an adjustment of packaging.
Cleaning wipes are packaged mainly in hard plastic containers, unlike baby wipes, which usually come in soft packages.
Chris Dresselhuys, director of product management at Rockline, said: "Ninety percent of disinfecting wipes are sold in cans. The main reason for using cans is to do with how consumers use and store wipes," said Chris Dresselhuys, director of product management at Rockline. "They tend to store these vertically under the kitchen sink, for easy access along with other disinfectant products."
But the unprecedented demand for household disinfectant wipes led Rockline to maximize its canning production. It needed another solution to be able to quickly and significantly increase the volume of packet wipes to meet demand.
"It's not a ban on putting disinfecting wipes in soft packages, but the industry standard has been the capsules," says Dresselhuys.
Considering how quickly the disinfectant dries supply drops in the market in response to the pandemic, Rockline in February began exploring different ways to accelerate supply, including alternative packaging formats.
The disinfectant dries products are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the category and approves new products, new ingredients and packaging changes for individual businesses.
Several weeks ago, Rockline had talks with EPA about putting disinfection wipes in soft packs as well as cans as a way to get even more product in stores. Clorox and Lysol are already selling some wet wipes in soft packages.
"The approval can usually take several months," Dresselhuys said. Rockline managed to get the approval in just a few weeks.
The EPA said it was in their interest to ensure that Americans have access to approved surface disinfectant products that are effective against the new coronavirus.
"For this purpose, the agency provides disinfectant product reviews and identifies regulatory flexibility to avoid supply chain disruptions, including change of ingredients, additives or site changes and packaging changes," the agency said in a statement to CNN Business.
Sales of disinfectant wipes have increased 144% since early March, shortly after the coronavirus outbreak gained a foothold in the United States, according to Nielsen market research firm.
Reckitt Benckiser told CNN Business last month that the factories are working "pretty much around the clock to increase supply" as outstanding demand for wipes has emphasized the supply chain. "What we hope is that these [demand] spikes the transition to more normal buying patterns. "