COVID-19: What’s the Future for Commercial Cleaning Professionals’ Usage of Hand Care and Disinfectants?

While the world contends with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and much of the United States shelters in place, there have been strong surges in consumer demand for hand sanitizers, hand soaps, and disinfectants. In fact, Nielsen reports that during the first week of March 2020, consumer sales of hand sanitizers were up 470% compared to the same week of 2019.*  Some suppliers of hand sanitizers indicate they expect to sell typical annual volume within only two to three weeks during the pandemic.   

The commercial cleaning industry sometimes mimics the consumer market but not always, and not exactly the same trends are seen. Comparing what happened to hand care and surface disinfecting sales during past pandemics can shed some light on what to expect, but the comparison is a bit of apples and oranges.   

The H1N1 pandemic impacted the United States from April 2009 through August 2010; however, there were no shelter-in-place orders, no closing of schools, businesses, or the economy. A vaccine for H1N1 emerged in September 2009, and the country was still trying to see its way out of the Great Recession. In the commercial cleaning industry, we did see increased sales of hand sanitizer, hand soaps, and surface disinfectants during H1N1, but all commercial enduse businesses were open and operational during that pandemic.  This is a key difference between the current pandemic and then—today, foodservice, hospitality, education, travel, transportation, non-essential retailers, office buildings, some industrial facilities, and recreational facilities are closed during COVID-19, and this may extend for a period of several months in some states.   Another key difference is that the healthcare industry (hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities) and essential retailers that are open during COVID-19 have ramped up cleaning frequency to multiple times per day to try and stop the spread of the virus.  This is happening at the same time as schools, colleges, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, non-essential retailers, and others are closed during this period and aren’t cleaning at all or very minimally.   

One thing that is certain, however, is that hand care and surface disinfecting are key to fighting COVID-19. The one tool both consumers and cleaning professionals have to fight coronavirus is frequent handwashing; using hand sanitizers when soap and water aren’t available; and frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces like door knobs, hand rails, elevator buttons, and shopping carts.  Therefore, these products are poised for rapid growth among cleaning professionals during 2020.  However, it is likely that there will be some pantry loading, and early 2021 sales of these products may fall off a bit as end users will use up extra stock purchased during the pandemic. It is also likely we will face another recession as unemployment and bankruptcies soar. Therefore, there will likely be some softness in the overall jan/san cleaning market as end users tighten budgets and increase price sensitivity.  However, purchases of hand care and surface disinfecting products that kill germs are expected to fare well over the long term. 

Kline’s Industrial and Institutional Hand Care: U.S. Market Analysis and Opportunities study helps assess the impact of COVID-19 on professional hand care sales in 2020 and makes scenario forecasts for future sales. This comprehensive assessment of the U.S. away-from-home hand care market is based on structured research with hundreds of end users to understand market trends and opportunities, product preferences, and consumption patterns while forecasting sales of the hand care market.  This report will be published in Q4 2020, and we are accepting charter subscribers now who have input on the COVID-19 topics to be researched with end users.  


Later this month, Kline will also publish Janitorial Cleaning Products: Impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. Market, which provides assumptions and scenario forecasts for expected sales and consumption by enduse segment and product class.  Our flagship study of the industry, Janitorial and Housekeeping Cleaning Products, which is based on over 1,100 enduser surveys, will be published in June 2020.  For more details, contact us.   


* Source: Tom Huddleston, Jr. CNBC, 3/28/20 “How Hand Sanitizer Sales Spike During Pandemics”

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