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man reaches for bottles through open car windowA patron picks up a couple of bottles of hand sanitizer produced by Wolfhead Distillery from a formula developed by UWindsor chemists. Photo courtesy of Sue Manherz, Wolfhead Distillery.

Sanitizer formulated by UWindsor chemists gets into — and onto — local hands

Wolfhead Distillery handed out 1,900 bottles of hand sanitizer formulated by chemists at the University of Windsor in a by-donation event Friday that raised about $12,000 for the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission.

The hand sanitizer has been in production for about two weeks. In that time, the distillery has donated cases of it to police officers in Windsor, Essex County, and the Niagara Region, and to local nurses and volunteers with Amherstburg’s Meals on Wheels program.

“We were thrilled with the community's response,” said Sue Manherz, Wolfhead co-owner. “The success of this event shows the good that can come from partnerships like the one Wolfhead has with the University of Windsor.”

Hand sanitizer and medical supplies such as masks, gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment are in short supply around the globe as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. Retailers can’t keep the items in stock and resellers are charging exorbitant markups.

“My team at UWindsor and our other community partners are really excited that Wolfhead is getting the formulation into the hands of people here in Windsor-Essex,” said chemistry professor John Trant.

“We are continuing our research into developing recipes that will work should the key ingredients in hand sanitizer become more difficult to obtain.”

The hand sanitizer in production at Wolfhead is a liquid rather than a gel usually available from retailers. Dr. Trant is also working with Peak Processing, a local manufacturer of edible and topical cannabis products, in the bottling of a gel formulation of the hand sanitizer.

“The team both at the University and in the community is now working hard to get through the approval processes so that we can move into larger scale production,” Trant said.

The 350 mL containers used to bottle the sanitizer comes from InnerSeasonings International, a Windsor condiment company known for its line of TBQ sauces. InnerSeasonings owner Helena Racovitis came up with the idea of producing hand sanitizer for the local community and reached out to the University to make it a reality.

The hand sanitizer’s main ingredient is an ethanol-based by-product of the distilling process. Wolfhead has the ingredient in abundance, said Trant. He and local businesses who are his industry partners in research helped secure other ingredients.

The hand sanitizer was formulated by UWindsor’s Fred Shahbazi, a post-doctoral member of Trant’s chemistry lab. Dr. Shahbazi was uniquely qualified to come up with the formulation in that he has experience as a cosmetics chemist.

—Sarah Sacheli