WSU develops its own hand sanitizer

Environmental Health & Safety is at forefront of distributing “Cougar Clean” to essential workers and Cougar Health Services

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

WSU Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) is making “Cougar Clean,” an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that will help combat the hand sanitizer shortage and protect essential university workers. 

Jason Sampson, assistant director of Environmental Services, Public Health and Sustainability, said EH&S began making Cougar Clean once it became evident there was no commercial-grade hand sanitizer available in the United States. 

Sampson said the hand sanitizer is distributed to essential WSU Pullman employees including custodians in housing and facilities as well as dining services workers, maintenance mechanics and people working with animals or on farms. 

All of the university’s commercial-grade hand sanitizer was sent to Cougar Health Services, Sampson said. 

“That’s actually for liability reasons, not that ours isn’t any better,” Sampson said. “When we’re talking about medical procedures, it’s always best to minimize liability.”

The recipe for Cougar Clean came from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is based on recommendations from the World Health Organization, Sampson said. The FDA streamlined the process for approval so more companies could produce hand sanitizer during the shortage. 

Cougar Clean contains pure ethanol, glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and distilled water, Sampson said. This formula is 80 percent alcohol, which exceeds the 60 percent recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand sanitizers with more than 80 percent alcohol content begin to dry out skin. 

Most of the chemicals to make Cougar Clean were already available at University Stores because they would normally be used in research or undergraduate labs that are not currently open, Sampson said.

“We’re able to keep up production, which is going to be more important now that it looks like the governor is going to start letting more and more employees go back to work,” Sampson said. 

Each batch of Cougar Clean is 7.5 liters and EH&S produces at least 10 batches per day, Sampson said. 

Cougar Clean is being used at WSU Pullman and WSU research stations, including ones in Prosser, Mt. Vernon and Puyallup, Wash., Sampson said. 

Other WSU campuses have the capability to produce Cougar Clean but have not done so yet because not all campuses have the need for it, he said. 

Employees who have access to soap and water should wash their hands instead of using hand sanitizer, Sampson said.