Distilling hand sanitizer amid disinfectant shortage

To help combat the shortage of hydro-alcoholic gel, a Swiss distillery is using the available supply of its flagship alcohol to produce a hand sanitizer that is both sustainable and exceptional.

Bottles at the distillery
Each liter of hand sanitizer requires about 8 kg of Valais pears. © Etat du Valais, Jean-Yves Glassey

In this time of pandemic, disinfectant products have become a rare commodity in stores. Morand Distillery, a family business founded in 1889 in Martigny, in the Swiss canton of Valais, came up with the idea of converting part of its stock of Williams pear spirit into hand disinfectant gel. “Given the current shortage and the high demand, it seemed important for us to do something. Our idea is to do our part and support the overall health of the population,” explains the company’s director, Fabrice Haenni, to daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste.

Before marketing the product, Morand Distillery made sure that its recipe was compliant. According to the guidelines of the Federal Office of Public Health, the ethanol content must be between 70 and 80% to ensure the effectiveness of the sanitizer. The disinfectant from the Valais distillery contains less ethanol due to the shortage of the product, but this is compensated for by alcohol contained within the schnapps. A 100 ml bottle contains almost one kilo of Valais pears.

Morand Distillery is also working on other solutions to help with the sanitizer shortage. It is selling below cost several thousand liters of Williams pear liqueur to laboratories making disinfectant gel, and evaluating the feasibility of using other cheaper alcohols, such as must.

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