Since the Covid-19 pandemic began to sweep through the U.S. in early March the price and availability of virus-killing disinfectants have grown in opposition to each other -- with prices going up and availability going way down. Even months later in July, it's still challenging to get your hands on Clorox wipes, rubbing alcohol, or even bleach.
But what if you could make a disinfectant that's just as powerful at home using only salt and your tap water?
What's the news -- The wellness company Pur-Well announced on Thursday the debut of a new product aimed at helping buyers create an "unlimited" amount of disinfectant solution using just tap water, salt, and its specialized spray bottle. Listed on its site originally for $100, the company's "Pur Chlor-itizer" is currently discounted to $49.99.
Derek Alessi, a managing member of Pur-Well Living, said in a statement that the company hopes this product will help customers more easily disinfect their homes while also cutting down on plastic waste from disinfectant spray bottles.
"We are extremely excited about the use of this product in the marketplace," said Alessi. "We believe that it will allow individuals both at work and home to effectively, sustainably, and economically practice increased sanitization, protecting both themselves and their families."
The company's other product range from anti-aging cream to alcohol wipes and cast iron skillets.
How does it work -- While unlimited disinfectant sounds great, it also sounds potentially too great to be true. But in the case of Pur-Well's Chlor-itizer, it is at least based on real science.
When table salt and water are combined they create a kind of brine solution (like what you might soak your Thanksgiving turkey in.) These two chemical components, NaCl and H2O, on their own have little disinfectant power, but when put through the process of electrolysis -- aka being zapped with a little bit of electricity -- they transform into a compound containing primarily sodium hypochlorite and a little hypochlorous acid.
The CDC has cited sodium hypochlorite as being an "effective disinfectant" and a solution that is "low cost, ease of use, safety, and effectiveness in areas where there is enough water to drink and water."
For another point of reference, sodium hypochlorite is also the main cleaning component of bleach, making up two to ten percent of a bleach solution.
Pur-Well says that its bottle can produce a solution with 317 parts per million, which is more than the recommended level for sanitizing. To create the solution they say to charge the bottle via a USB and add 350 mL of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. After 10 minutes, the solution should be ready to go.
Is it safe -- The CDC states that a European study looking at children who admitted to having accidentally consumed sodium hypochlorite in the form of bleach experienced "acute accidental exposure to household bleach in use or in foreseeable misuse situations results" and that "in the great majority of the cases, in minor, transient adverse effects on health."
That said, consuming disinfectant -- let alone bleach -- is still a health risk and should be avoided. If it's not food, don't eat it.
Can you do it yourself -- If creating sodium hypochlorite is so easy, should you do it yourself? Yes, with caution. It is possible to create your own sodium hypochlorite producing rig using electricity and a plastic bottle of water, but when dealing with chemistry experiments (especially those that involve electricity) it's important to take precautions such as wearing gloves, protective eyewear, and an apron.
With a solar panel, even your disinfectants can have a carbon-neutral footprint.
But, whether you pay $50 for a device like this or go the DIY-route, creating a sodium hypochlorite solution may be a lot quicker than waiting for the Lysol spray you ordered in April to arrive.