March 19, 2020, 6:14 AM by Nancy Derringer
Ron Lipson’s company has a generic name – RBL Products Inc. – and is housed in a generic low-rise building north of Eastern Market, one of thousands of light-industrial facilities around Metro Detroit.
Workers prepare to pack canisters of disinfecting wipes at RBL Products. (Courtesy photo)
“Not one window in this place,” he says, leading a tour. RBL Products Inc. makes “everything to do with automotive painting” except for the paint. But in recent days, they’ve moved resources into a particular part of that product array.
A production line is making and bottling Cadillac-level moist towelettes, which are manufactured to the standards needed for clean rooms, computer equipment, and other industrial-type settings. The solution is stronger than you’d find in the household variety; 85 percent isopropyl alcohol to 15 percent deionized water. The alcohol kills nearly everything it touches, and the water ensures it stays wet long enough to make sure everything is dead.
There are other differences. The flip top has a spring to snap it back into place, so they won’t dry out. The plastic container is large, because the wipes are larger. And they have a to-the-trade price tag -- $300 a case, or six containers of 100. Buy more cases, and the price comes down; for 10 cases or more, you’ll pay $150.
The product has been offered to industrial customers for some time. But Lipson said he believes a redesigned label (carrying a caduceus – snakes entwining a staff, a symbol of medicine) will make it more appealing to household consumers.
Marc Zaborny, marketing manager for RBL, said he envisions case sales to neighborhood associations or groups of friends who can share the cost.
And unlike the wipes at Kroger or Costco, which were stripped from the shelves by panicked consumers days ago, these are still available. If you have a school or restaurant or just deeper-than-usual pockets, and a mind clamoring to be put at ease that your immediate environment is as clean as you can make it, you can still buy these.
Recent sales have been mainly to industrial customers, but as word gets out, Zaborny said he expects consumer sales to grow.
Lipson said he opted to offer these to the general public not because of the price, but the need. With consumer wipes impossible to find, “it made sense to do something. I mean, we have this stuff.”
Admittedly, these wipes are “way overkill” for household needs, but these are nervous times, Lipson said.
“We made the decision Friday to go from a niche to offering it to the general public,” he said. And peace of mind has never been a hard sell when the enemy is invisible.