Linn-Benton distilleries crafting hand sanitizer to address shortages
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Linn-Benton distilleries crafting hand sanitizer to address shortages

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An Albany distillery owner said she’s trying to make “lemonade from lemons” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Or, in her case, disinfectant from disaster.

Caitlin Prueitt and her husband Chris, who co-own Vivacity Spirits, are feeling the pressure to fill their distillery with something many grocery shelves are missing: hand sanitizer. Following World Health Organization guidelines, they began making hand sanitizer in late March and quickly ran out.

Ever since, the panic from the COVID-19 outbreak has created a considerable drain on supplies.

“We're trying really hard to keep it going,” Prueitt said.

Even ordering plastic bottles to fill with sanitizer has become difficult, she said, with orders taking at least a week to fulfill. The hand sanitizer ingredients themselves — neutral ethyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and glycerin — are becoming harder to find as time passes.

Still, Vivacity has managed to fulfill a 210-bottle order so far and has built up a backlog of another 2,300. The distillery is also selling hand sanitizer by the gallon to businesses that can use it to refill smaller containers.

In Corvallis, Spiritopia distillery owner Chris Beatty has also been crafting his own hand sanitizer.

“As soon as the virus situation started to take off, I was looking into it,” he said. Once he got the recipe, he began handing out small bottles of the homemade sanitizer to customers picking up liquor orders.

For individuals, he said he’ll allow customers to take one per household member. Beatty said he’s also been getting calls for bulk orders from businesses, fire departments and more.

A 50-gallon drum of sanitizer he made Wednesday was nearly gone early Thursday. 

“I’m just amazed at the demand,” he said. “But I have the ability and the time to do it because the rest of the business is shut down.”

Beatty and Prueitt said the costs of making and selling the hand sanitizer vary due to things like shipping costs and ingredient prices going up from the nationwide demand for them. But they’re trying their best to keep their hand sanitizer prices low. Beatty has even donated hand sanitizer to first responders and a group in Corvallis making face masks for health care workers.

They both said they want to see the big players — companies like Purell and government entities like the FDA — to step up and get back in the swing of things to ease the burden.

But the business owners are managing for now, with Beatty planning on handing out more hand sanitizer Saturday and Prueitt saying her next batch of supplies should arrive by next week.

Both said the hand sanitizer doesn’t make up for lost business. Prueitt had to lay off most of her employees to stay afloat.

“A lot of our normal business mode is gone,” Beatty said. “And we don’t really know if Spiritopia will survive many months of that.”

Reporter Nia Tariq can be reached at nia.tariq@lee.net or 541-812-6091.

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