© 2022
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Blacksburg Plant Quickly Changes Gears to Fight COVID-19


 A plant in Blacksburg that makes insect repellents is now making hand sanitizer to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

Steve Schwallie is Division Vice President of Marketing at Spectrum Brands, which makes the insect repellent called “Cutter."

 “A few weeks ago when we started to hear about shortages with hand sanitizer nationwide, we had talked about things that we might be able to do to help with that because a lot of our ingredients that are in our personal repellents are also used to manufacture hand sanitizer. But we were really restricted because it's heavily regulated by the FDA.” 


But the FDA released new guidelines, so they quickly switched gears.

“It’s kind of like MacGyver where you figure out what assets do we have, what ingredients do we have, what components do we have available for us? What can we do quickly and follow the guidelines that the FDA has required of us,” Schwallie said.

The world health organization mandates hand sanitizer contain at least 60% alcohol. Spectrum’s has 80%

The company is donating cases of the stuff to hospitals and community groups in Virginia and beyond.


Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.