Why Is Purell So Damn Expensive? And What’s the Company Doing About It?
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If you’ve been searching for hand sanitizer and wipes, we’ve got some good news, and some questionable news. The good news: sites like Amazon have restocked their supply of wipes, soaps and hand sanitizer from Purell. After being out of stock for months due to the pandemic panic, Purell’s parent company, GOJO, says the company has “doubled” production to help meet demand, with a spokesperson telling Rolling Stone that the brand “shipped more Purell Hand Sanitizer to our retail partners [this month] than any time in our history.”
The bad news: while Purell is once again readily available (at least for now), many retailers are still pricing the products at two or 3x the regular price. Savvy sites are hoping the increase in demand will also lead to an increase in profit, and it seems as though people have resigned themselves to the premium pricing.
Take these travel packs of Purell wipes below for example. While the pack of 20 wipes used to sell for a couple bucks at the gas station or drugstore, the latest pricing (as of this writing) has them going for more than $10 a pack.
Buy Purell Hand Sanitizing Travel Wipes… $10.99
A bottle of Purell hand sanitizer in stock, meantime, is going for upwards of $10 per 16 oz. bottle, if purchased in bulk. As of this article’s publishing, this Amazon vendor below was offering a case of 12 bottles of Purell hand sanitizer gel for $140. And the product has been going in and out of stock — even at this inflated price.
Since Purell doesn’t offer an online shop on its own site, it relies on retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart and The Home Depot to stock and sell its products. While Target and The Home Depot control their own inventory, retailers like Amazon and Walmart are often open to third-party vendors, who can sign up for accounts to sell their own stock of products on the sites. How much they sell their offerings for is, at least for now, still unregulated.
Other sites have popped up in recent months to take advantage of the rising need for wipes and other sanitizing products. The U.S.-based DMB Supply sells Purell products and alcohol wipes, plus N95 masks and other PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) on its site, shifting from only offering these products for large facilities and institutions to making them available to the public as well.
Purell Hand Sanitizer Dispenser 1200ml (with two refills), $299.99, available at DMB Supply
And then there’s eBay, a sort of wild west of sanitizer sales, where on last count, we spotted Purell products for as “cheap” as $10 and as high as $120.
While it can control distribution, a spokesperson for Purell’s parent company GOJO says the company has no say over how the products are priced or whether retailers limit the amount of product customers can buy. “GOJO does not set retail prices to consumers, but we feel strongly that there is no place for price-gouging, especially during times of elevated public health concern,” says Samantha Williams, GOJO Senior Director of Corporate Communications.
Related: 7 Things the CDC Recommends to Stop the Spread of Covid-19
Williams says Purell has been able to effectively double the amount of product shipping into retailers compared to this time last year, in an effort to make wipes and sanitizers more widely available and to help keep costs down. “We are shipping more than a billion uses of hand sanitizer per week in North America alone,” she says, “and it’s going into every market and geography we serve, including healthcare, first responders, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, stores/online retailers, mail and parcel carriers, U.S. military, food processing, convenience stores, restaurants, airports, and more.”
As Purell (and similar brand-name companies like Clorox and Lysol) try to keep up with demand for their cleaning and disinfecting products, other startups have pivoted to launching hand sanitizers, wipes and disinfecting sprays of their own. While they don’t carry the “Purell” or “Lysol” names, these items boast similar efficacy (the wipes below have 75% alcohol content, which exceed CDC recommendations). And unlike the big-name brands, these alternatives are consistently in stock and available for sale.
Standard Alcohol Wipes, $4.99, available at Honest PPE Supply
As for Purell, the company tells Rolling Stone it’s hiring more than 250 team members in the coming months to help keep up with production, and they’re set to open a new facility that will manufacture its Purell Surface Spray. And while they can’t control how their vendors price the products, Williams says the company can continue to increase production, so that store shelves continue to be stocked for those who need it most.
“We are a Purpose-Driven Family Enterprise focused on saving lives and making life better [and] we will not stop until Purell products are available everywhere,” Williams says. “We feel deep responsibility and are doing everything we can to meet the staggering demand from all markets for our essential Purell products.”