Virus-Preppers Buy Out All the Hand Sanitizer on the Upper West Side; Six Stores and Not a Bottle to be Found

Local pharmacies can’t keep hand sanitizer on the shelves, because the minute they get a new order Upper West Siders swoop in to buy it. The spread of the novel coronavirus, known officially as COVID-19, has frightened people all over the world, and the Upper West Side is no exception.

It seems one cannot buy hand sanitizer for love or money on NYC’s Upper West Side. Six stores and I couldn’t find even a little travel-size bottle of it,” wrote Gayton Gomez on Twitter on Saturday.

Purell and the like are important protections against the disease for people who can’t immediately get to a bathroom to wash their hands.

Claude Essimel, manager of Park West Pharmacy on Columbus between 82nd and 83rd, said they’ve been out of masks, Purell and all other hand sanitizers since Wednesday. He said that in general the virus is showing some of the limits of the drug store supply chain — people, he noted, probably don’t know where their medicines and products come from, and why there may be limits to those supplies.

Sherif Elthawy, the owner Joseph’s Pharmacy on 72nd between Broadway and West End Avenue, says he got some Purell on Friday but was completely sold out by Saturday. And he’s having trouble getting any more — nor can he get wipes or masks. “Distributors are gouging prices like crazy,” he said.

Other stores, including Ace on 90th and Columbus, are creating entire coronavirus sections. On Saturday, it appeared to mostly have Clorox wipes. No N95 masks were available, according to Teresa Pesek.

If you’ve found the secret stash of Purell, let us know in the comments. And don’t hoard it all please, your neighbors may need some!

Here are some basic precautions that you can take to try to avoid the disease, via the CDC:

NEWS | 32 comments | permalink
    1. cjc says:

      Earlier in the week, we were running low on Purell as a normal matter (small children), and when I looked on Amazon to get some, the only available stock were from 3rd party resellers charging $90 for a carton. I did find some Walgreens brand hand sanitizer the next day, but these were the last few bottles.

    2. Joko says:

      West side market on 98th had a few, small
      Purell by check out. All the drug stores have lots of handi wipes which do the same thing as purell, so just use those instead. has large hand sanitizers so you can just refill
      The small ones.

    3. MA says:

      People really are freaking out. I feel vindicated for having taken advantage of the supply chain while it was still operational. I’ve purchased a gallon of hand sanitizer, multiple refillable squirt bottles for it, and a gallon of 99% isopropyl alcohol with spray bottles as a fallback for when the factory made hand sanitizer runs out. I plan to thin it with water until I can’t.

      Yesterday at the Costco in Astoria sanitizing wipes were in short supply. A pallet of them was tucked away quietly in a far corner of the store. I’m proud to say that most of it is now in the trunk of my car. I won’t be buying sanitizing wipes for a while.

    4. EmmKay says:

      Not ideal but Bath and Body works has some small hand sanitizers. staples still has some giant purel refills.

      • RD says:

        kind of stupid to stock on purell, or any hand sanitizer, as to kill virus, you need upwards of 90% alcohol content. Purell is 70% – aka useless for the corona (or even plain old flu…). FDA even warned purell to stop false advertising. But – media generated hysteria is the winner.

        • Michael says:

          Not to mention that high alcohol content is incredibly drying. Extended use causes the skin barrier to fail. This barrier is why you need to touch your face after touching a contaminated surface. If you destroy your skin barrier, there is no need to touch your face.

          Washing your hands for 20 sec. is the best. Drying with paper (sorry environmentalists) is far superior to electric blowers.

          Finally, and to your point, antibacterial soaps are ineffective. This has been proven repeatedly. The only difference between washing with or without antibacterial agents is the continued contamination of our water supply.

        • Ted says:


          You are incorrect. From the CDC website:

          “CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. The guidance for effective handwashing and use of hand sanitizer in community settings was developed based on data from a number of studies.”

          Hand sanitizer is not a panacea. It is not effective against C. dif. spores for example but does not have to be 90% alcohol to be effective.

    5. julie says:

      My neighbor bought a few antibacterial wipes at Zen Medica on West 72nd street yesterday. They have some left….but that was last night

    6. Jay says:

      The joke is on these people hoarding this stuff. Purell won’t do a thing to prevent Coronavirus.

    7. SHG says:

      As above: Wash your hands (soap, warm water, rub for 20 seconds (sing the happy birthday song) rinse. Don’t pick or wipe your nose without a tissue or rub your eyes. Don’t Panic. WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS.😊

    8. ben says:

      Not a single confirmed case in the state of NY yet and the hysteria has already created a shortage. What’s next, WFM sold out of toilet paper?

    9. Dr. Sense says:

      Wash your hands with soap and water. You don’t need Purell and stop buying and wearing face masks unless your sick. While your wearing your mask your unconsciously touching your face 1,000 times and putting any virus in your eyes and ears,

    10. Noemie says:

      Go to Bath & Body works on 125th st. You’re welcome 🙂

    11. Noemie Zysermann says:

      Found 2 normal sized-bottles at Joseph’s pharmacy on W 72nd.

    12. Concerned About Cons says:

      Masks are available at Basics Plus for a mere $200 for 10!

      And the label? Not warranteed for disease prevention.

    13. CFB says:

      Buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a bottle of aloe vera gel, some tea tree oil/peppermint oil/cinnamon/whatever suits you although the tea tree oil is good for your skin and antibacterial.

      2/3 alcohol, 1/3 aloe vera gel, 10-12 drops tea tree oil. Put in a squeeze or small spray bottle. Voila, you have inexpensive easy to make hand sanitizer that’s effective, good for your skin, and smells nice depending on the essential oil you add.

    14. Jennifer says:

      was in Queens today , all along Queens Blvd loads of purell and all supplies
      masks could not be found but stores are getting stocked

      • Nevets K says:

        Though I’m no expert, people may want to try using plastic bags as masks. Though they’re probably ineffective against the virus and may very likely cause suffocation, if you make it to a grocery store you’ll save a nickel and/or a lot of aggravation.
        Remember to recycle!

    15. Gillian says:

      You can make your own hand sanitizer very easily and cheaply. See Google

    16. gail says:

      I read that Purell won’t kill viruses and that the company recently got into some trouble for making antiviral claims. I just found some Lysol antibacterial wipes at Duane Reade on Bway and 102 but I think they were the last ones. I work at a large museum with many international visitors and can’t run to the sink to wash my hands often so this is what I’ll be using for now. There are Clorox wipes and Lysol wipes still available on Amazon.

    17. NEF says:

      Think: Soap and Water!
      FDA Warns Maker of Purell Not to Claim Sanitizers Prevent Flu, Ebola
      The letter stated that the company’s hand sanitizer products were unapproved new drugs and in violation of FDA rules.
      Show Me the Science of Hand Sanitizer

    18. Jonathan Perkel says:

      FYI, as of this weekend, there was a whole shelf of the stuff at Staples. Also FYI, the problem with Purell was that they made ad claims that weren’t supported by studies, not that it doesn’t work. It’s more of an advertising issue rather than an efficacy issue.

      “While the FDA is “not aware of any hand sanitizers that have been tested against Ebola viruses,” Ebola, along with the flu, is an enveloped virus. These viruses are easily killed or inactivated by alcohol and the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using an alcohol-based sanitizer as a preventive measure. Purell hand sanitizers are formulated with ethyl alcohol.”

    19. nwande219 says:

      People are clearing shelves of hand sanitizer and some are probably selling them on Ebay for 5 times (or more) the regular price. ONLINE SITES LIKE THESE NEED TO STOP ALLOWING THIS.

    20. AK says:

      Basics Plus on Broadway between 83rd and 84th has N95 masks but selling a box of 20 for $200!! It’s usually $20-40. It’s ridiculous!

      It’s disgusting to see people gouging.

    21. Kevin Peters says:

      I recently found out that hand sanitizers can actually expire. Basically if its past the expiry date, it starts to lose effectiveness. Stay safe everyone!

    22. Pashtun says:

      I have cases of 12, of purell advanced 8oz pump handsanitizer. Selling each bottle for $10 a pc.