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No-Alcohol Hand Sanitizer Can’t Crack Market

Shivie Dhillon has developed a stable version of hypochlorous acid for use in a hand sanitizer to combat the coronavirus.Dhillon, president of SunDial Powder Coatings Inc. in Sun Valley, said that getting the alcohol-free liquid to be stable and not deplete its effectiveness by having it “float” away in a gaseous state made the product viable.

“Our mindset was this would be really good for schools. Kids don’t need to have alcohol sanitizers or chemicals necessarily,” Dhillon said. “Having this ability to protect yourself and others and be as safe and clean as possible, it became a game changer.” But getting the hand sanitizer with the hypochlorous acid – also called HOCl – into the hands of customers has not been easy. It is a completely different product than SunDial’s main line of industrial coatings.Currently, Dhillon is working with a manufacturing partner that makes the sanitizer on machines in the Central Valley. He said he is waiting to take delivery on custom-made machinery to make the sanitizer at Bottle Coatings Inc., a subsidiary of Sundial also in Sun Valley.

While he is not selling the sanitizer yet, he has gotten gallons of it out to schools and other institutions.

“The problem is the market is saturated for hand sanitizers,” Dhillon conceded. “So, it is difficult to get it out there and sell it. We have been working with institutions to educate them how to use it.” The alcohol-free hand sanitizer follows another brand that Dhillon launched after the pandemic started in the U.S. SanitiSpray has alcohol content of 80 percent, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We did really well with it. It kept a lot of our employees working,” Dhillon said. “We were essential, we were getting people what they needed.”In contrast, hypochlorous acid is an old technology, Dhillon continued.

“By no means did we develop this in our own chemistry lab,” he added.

The lack of stability in HOCl is a reason why it is not a commonplace product. But Dhillon said he was able to solve that problem by shrinking the particles down to a very small size. That way they cannot just float away in a gaseous state.

Putting the sanitizer into 1 oz. and 2 oz. glass bottles, they were then tested for six months and nine months to see if it would remain effective. It turned out that it was, although Dhillon said that he didn’t think people would keep the sanitizer for months at a time. In his own personal use, he opens a new bottle after about 30 days.

“I use it on everything. I spray it on my mask. The HOCl cleans it and disinfects it,” Dhillon said. “I use it on my hands, I use it on hard surfaces, I spray it on my face. It is for topical purposes and surface cleaning. It is a daily use, constant use thing that is gentle.”Bottle Coatings still makes the SanitiSpray sanitizers, but Dhillon considers the HOCl hand cleaner to be part of an effort to explore more natural, organic and  environmentally friendly approaches to making personal protection equipment during the pandemic.

But he admitted it is a challenge getting the product recognized, especially when larger, more well-known products from Clorox Co. in Oakland and Procter & Gamble Co. in Cincinnati are out there and dropping gallons and gallons of their products at schools and other places.

“What we’re trying to do is educate people about it. It works and it’s stable, but we can’t seem to get anybody to listen to us,” Dhillon said. “We have given gallons to people to try and given them a lot of the educational components, the literature on HOCl. We have yet to get a call back.”  

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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