When will toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning products be back on shelves?

NBC investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen shares when out-of-stock items will be widely available again — and what to do in the meantime.
/ Source: TODAY

Shortages of household items have become commonplace during the coronavirus outbreak, and in many cases, it's unclear how long they'll last.

On TODAY, NBC investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen addressed when we'll be able to get our hands on some of the most pressing products and what to do in the meantime.

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Cleaning products

Nguyen said that disinfectants and wipes will likely be back in stock in June and July. She added that two major makers, Clorox and Lysol, have said that they've ramped up production as much as they can, but "because China is where a lot of the raw materials come from, and China was so affected with shutdowns, that's why we're seeing that trickle effect."

If you tried buying cleaning products online but have been unsuccessful, Nguyen recommended checking a local store in person. A viewer and her producer told her they've found Clorox wipes and Lysol spray on store shelves.

If you can't safely leave your house, you can try the alternative recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nguyen said. Mix one-third cup of bleach with one gallon of water to make a cleaning solution, or buy hydrogen peroxide and put it in a spray bottle before use.

After application, "remember to let it dry because it needs those minutes to kill the virus," Nguyen added.

Hand sanitizer and toilet paper

The hype around hand sanitizer seems to have slowed, as Nguyen said she was able to find it in multiple stores in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. If you don't have any though, soap and water is "always the best" alternative, she said.

The same goes for toilet paper. Nguyen said for weeks she hasn't seen toilet paper being shipped from online retailers, but now 18 rolls of Charmin for $18 are available on Target's website.

Baking products

As America turns to stress baking, essentials like flour and yeast have become increasingly hard to find in some parts of the country. According to Nguyen, such items are still sold in stores in the Northeast.

If you're having trouble finding pantry staples, she recommended "(checking) with some of your local restaurants because they're selling groceries, and bakeries are also selling flour and yeast."

You can also make your own starter to use instead of yeast.

"It's just flour and water, but it has to ferment. There are a lot of recipes online," Nguyen said. "It's like a science experiment you can do with your kids."

Diapers

"The kind of variety" of diapers that we're used to seeing, especially with regard to sizing, will take six weeks to two months to return, Nguyen said. For those in need, she suggested reaching out to the National Diaper Bank Network, which helps the 1 in 3 U.S. families with diaper need. If you have extra diapers, consider donating them.

Nguyen also presented a DIY diaper alternative, which requires more laundry but works in a pinch.

Take an old T-shirt, and put it print-side down. Take the bottom and the top corner (where the shoulder is) and fold them in. Do it again on the other side. The width of your fold should depend on the size of your baby. Nguyen recommended folding in about one-third of the way.

Next, fold the neck down a little, and fold the bottom up about a third of the way. Place your baby on top of the T-shirt, and fold the bottom of the shirt up between the baby's legs, and wrap the sides up around the torso. Last, secure the sleeves to the rest of the diaper with a safety pin or other fastener.

Meat

Over the weekend, Tyson Foods, one of the country's largest meat producers, released an ad in The New York Times warning of possible meat shortages, as plants nationwide are closing due to coronavirus infections among workers.

But the shortage isn't upon us yet, Nguyen stressed, because many producers have frozen surpluses that are still available. She added that stores should consider the same strategy they used for cleaning supplies and toilet paper at the beginning of the outbreak: Limit the amount an individual can purchase.

"The problem is not here right now," she said. "What will make it a problem is if everyone runs out and panic buys ... Everybody should just buy what they need."

To make your shopping trips more efficient and minimize risk, consider these tips from Nguyen:

  • Collaborate with friends and family, and take turns visiting different stores on different days. Start a text thread and tell each other when and where essential products are in stock.
  • Register for online alerts at your go-to stores. They can notify you when items are available.
  • The best times to shop are typically Wednesdays and Thursdays before 10 a.m.
  • Check with retailers about what days they receive their deliveries before going to the store.