By Manette Fisher
Distillery-developed hand sanitizer is leaving a New Mexico warehouse as quickly as it disappeared from grocery stores after Sandia National Laboratories helped confirm the product meets all federal requirements for distribution.
In response to the severe, widespread shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayward Sons Craft-Distillery in Santa Fe, NM, reconfigured its operations to produce a hand sanitizer they named Elbow Bump, and worked with Sandia to test and confirm that it meets standards set by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“They needed someone with a technical background to help them figure out how to make this product and test its effectiveness,” said Sandia chemist Jessica Kruichak, who worked with the company. “Because there has been a shortage, it’s humbling that I was able to help them with that.”
Sandia worked with Wayward Sons through the New Mexico Small Businesses Assistance program that pairs Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory with small businesses facing technical challenges. The program provides access to the labs’ expertise and capabilities at no cost to the company.
Kruichak and Sandia analytical chemist Curtis Mowry provided technical consulting and resources to help the company determine correct quantities of materials for the hand sanitizer and whether manufacturing of the product could be scaled up while maintaining its effectiveness.
Even though the WHO and the FDA distributed guidelines for making the sanitizer, Kruichak said producing it wasn’t a simple, straightforward process. She, Mowry and Wayward Sons co-owner Byron Rudolph researched materials and differing alcohol proofs to make sure the combination would work. Kruichak said she also studied how to denature alcohol, which involves adding one or more chemicals that make it unfit for human consumption. Kruichak said the guidelines also presented the hand sanitizer recipe in volume measurements, but Wayward Son’s commercial scales measure by mass.
“When you go from volume to mass, it changes things. You have to look at density, the proof of the alcohol, initial ingredient percentages and avoid diluting it too much,” Kruichak said. “Even with the guidance, it’s not as easy to make hand sanitizer as you might think.”
In doing research on how to make the product, Rudolph talked to other distilleries that used different tools.
“It was a matter of deciding what tools work best for Wayward Sons, and the ability to test the product helped us make that decision,” Kruichak said.