Sep 2, 2020

Lysol’s Manufacturer Gets Everything It’s Sprayed For

But will it still be a hot item when we go back to work?

By Ed Goldman

Sales of Lysol disinfectant products, including the company’s popular ozone-destroying aerosol, are enjoying a pandemic-inspired surge, according to the Wall Street Journal. To which I respond: Why not Windex?

If you ever saw the wonderful character actor Michael Constantine in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” you’re probably ahead of me already. In the 2002 film starring and written by Nia Vardalos, Constantine (who just turned 93 in May, by the way), plays Vardalos’s character’s dad, who touts the various virtues of Windex as he sprays and wipes it somewhat indiscriminately. He claims it can cure everything “from psoriasis to poison ivy.” 

Vardalos says she based this on an incident with her real-life father, who accidentally spilled Windex on a wart that subsequently dried up and claimed it had cured him. Coincidentally, I had some warts on my fingers when I was a kid and a variety of treatments was tried, though not Windex. The ultimate cure turned out to be puberty. The arrival of wrist hair seemed to frighten the warts into retreat.

Anyway, after “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” became popular 18 years ago, medical experts naturally felt the need to weigh in, to fend off the dilemma that would arise years later when President Donald Trump—whose medical knowledge is as illusory as his contributions to charity—touted injecting disinfectant into one’s veins as a possible cure for Covid-19. As remarkably idiotic as it sounded, dozens of American citizens, many of whom are allowed to hold responsible jobs and even to procreate, ran out to buy up and hoard supplies of disinfectants (including, it should be noted, Lysol). 

Happy Hour at Ed’s

As doctors explained at the time vis a vis Windex’s miraculous properties, the product’s chief ingredient is ammonia. Lysol’s is benzalkonium chloride, which sounds neither medical nor beverage-like. But its popularity, as noted in the opening of today’s column, is growing. “Consumers are cleaning their hands and homes more during the coronavirus pandemic, a trend makers of big hygiene brands are betting will outlast the Covid-19 crisis,” according to the Wall Street Journal. 

In fact, the owner of Lysol recently “reported a surge in first-quarter sales as shoppers stocked up on cleaning products during lockdowns. While the company said it expects some of that demand to unwind, like others in the industry, it also thinks people will continue to clean more even when they are spending less time at home.”

Really? And on what rigorously researched, peer-reviewed, control-group scientific study do the Lysol people base this expectation? (Spoiler alert: none whatsoever.) 

But let me approach this as meticulously as I’m sure the gang at Lysol did. Here’s a terrific short survey—“terrific” because you needn’t bother to complete it, no one’s job promotion or elimination depends on your answers and unless my assumptions that follow each question are ridiculously off, I’ll never mention it to again. 

You also won’t receive a congratulatory email thanking you for being a loyal customer, as I regularly receive from Walgreens even though I’ve never walked into one—nor will you earn Amazon bonus points, good toward your purchase of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine’s phenomenally non-selling book, “Stronger Together: A Blueprint for America’s Future.”*

TRUE OR FALSE: When I go back to working outside my home, and only have to sleep there, I’ll keep it just as tidy and disinfected as I do when I spend 24 hours a day there, working and homeschooling my nine-year-old quintuplets. (My assumption: Your answer will employ an expletive followed by a comma and the word ”no.” The comma is optional.)

TRUE OR FALSE: When I go back to working outside my home, I will continue to wash and disinfect my hands, feet and ACL at least 57 times a day. (Your likely response: “I plan to be too busy tearing rather than disinfecting my ACL, the gotta-have-it-sports injury of this young century.”)

MULTIPLE CHOICE: I would never put Lysol or Windex in my evening cocktail, though I might add a jigger of (a) Drano, (b) Clorox or (c) Ajax, the Blue-Dot Cleanser®, which will be invoiced for this product placement. (My guess is that most of you will choose “None of the above,” though it’s not listed as an option. This is the way you control the results of marketing surveys.)

And now, if you’ll excuse me, my windows are filthy and both my psoriasis and poison ivy require immediate attention. Thank Heaven for one-stop shopping.

*One of Amazon’s actual duds.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).