Distilleries in Michigan Step Up to the Hand Sanitizer Shortage
Tom Spendlove posted on April 13, 2020 |
Distilleries have switched portions of their production from alcohol to hand sanitizer.
(Image courtesy of Griffin Claw)
(Image courtesy of Griffin Claw)

In the last month several breweries and distilleries in Michigan switched portions of their production facilities from alcohol to hand sanitizer. Michigan announced that licensed distilleries are “permitted to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers in order to help meet demand” until June 30. The World Health Organization released a guide demonstrating the safe production of hand sanitizer for facilities to create locally and safely. These distilleries developed a new supply chain for ingredients by making new bottles and packaging as well. 

Production of hand sanitizer requires water, alcohol, and glycerin. With plenty of water and alcohol on hand, brewers and distillers worked with their supply chain to find glycerin to change their output. Michigan’s State Emergency Operations Center recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least sixty percent alcohol, but still notes that washing your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds is the best protection method. They are churning their alcohol into hand sanitizers as the ingredients required to do this are available and include, more specifically, hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, and denatured alcohol.

Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham is working with Valentine Distilling Company in Ferndale to make hand sanitizer. The brewery had to essentially shut down operations, however the application of using distilled spirits to make hand sanitizer kept the employees working. Not only is this technique creating more needed resources to hospitals and the public, but also allows these places to keep their workers employed. They plan to first supply nurses, nursing homes and the police department. The groups are making small two-ounce bottles for sale to customers, and bulk gallon containers they send to the State of Michigan, first responders, and health care workers.

(Image courtesy of Blake's.)
(Image courtesy of Blake's.)

In Ann Arbor the Ann Arbor Distilling Company is making sanitizer from aloe vera juice, vegetable glycerin, and neutral spirit due to its access to high-proof alcohol. Their project began with handing out four-ounce bottles to customers and community members. Eventually requests came in from automotive companies, mail carriers, delivery companies and hospitals and production bumped up to larger quantities. 

Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City is working to supply  Munson Medical Center, fire departments and police departments with hand sanitizer. Their recipe includes xanthum gum to increase viscosity. Blake’s Cider Mill in Armada is creating gallon containers to supply Maclaren Health Care and smaller bottles for sale at their facility. 

COVID-19 caused a shortage of hand sanitizer for medical facilities and first responders but the recommendations that consumers also use sanitizer caused shortages at the storefront level as well. It’s great to see these manufacturers pivot so well to meet societal needs while keeping their employees and facilities working during the global pandemic. 

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