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New market for Westport company

Features

GROUNDBREAKING  The Cleanrite santiser used in the Wild West, developed with children’s safety in mind, has been in demand all year.

Westport

Oisín McGovern

Since the arrival of Covid-19, the market has been flooded by a huge variety of different brands of hand sanitisers. The recent recall of numerous sanitisers from schools due to safety concerns were a reminder of the dangers of hastily mass-producing such products.
One man who foresaw the need for a child-friendly, alcohol-free hand sanitizer was Tommy Gill, owner of Wild West Play Village in Westport.
Back in July, The Mayo News reported on the reopening of Wild West and the various precautions put in place to make the environment as safe as possible. Central to this was the regular sanitisation of the facility in between visits.
To do this safely, Tommy was determined to find a product that wouldn’t cause any irritation or damage to small hands and that contained zero alcohol.
This led to him sourcing a child-friendly hand sanitizer called Cleanrite, which he now distributes to a number of schools, crèches and hotels.
Speaking to The Mayo News this week, Tommy says that obtaining a safe product has always been a priority.
“In the Wild West our main customer is between a toddler and a ten year old and safety is the most important thing when you’re dealing with some kind of chemical-based hand sanitizer,” he says.
“My background is in environmental and agricultural science. I wasn’t particularly happy asking kids to use alcohol [hand sanitiser] they visited the Wild West. I looked at what other zero-alcohol products we could use.”
The Thornhill native was eventually able to source the product from a company in Kilkenny that was backed up by years of research and approved by the American EPA for use against SARS/COV2.
In the absence of alcohol, Cleanrite contains a chemical naturally produced by the human body known as hypochlorous acid. The Department of Education-approved agent has been proven to kill 99.99 percent of viruses, funguses and bacteria and is also safe when in contact with food.
As well as being alcohol-free, Cleanrite can be used on skin and surfaces and doesn’t cause any kind of skin irritation, as had been the case with some of the hand sanitizers that have recently been recalled by the Department of Agriculture.
“What I’ve said all along is that I don’t agree with the long-term use of alcohol on the skin by anybody,” says Tommy.
“Any product you apply to the skin will be ingested into the body in some way or another. If you look at the effectiveness of a product that has 70 percent alcohol... it’s twice the strength of vodka being rubbed on the hands of babies through to ten year olds, who are our customers. That’s what I don’t agree with and that’s what drove us to look for something safer.”
He adds: “A lot of kids have sensitive skin with little cracks and they get a burn or string from alcohol formulation. I said to customers that we’d find something that was far safer and easier on the skin.
‘“There are quite a few children that may have sensory needs that may not be au fait with using the correct amount. Safety is far more important to us.” 
While the Wild West play centre is currently closed due to Level 5 restrictions, it continues to supply Cleanrite to local schools and crèches.
Tommy insists that while they aren’t distributing the product ‘to make a fortune’, he does believe that regular hand-washing – and therefore demand for safe hand sanitiser – will be here for some time to come.
He says: “We started out to find the best product for little hands, and since its introduction, we have growing demand from parents, teachers, and business owners, right across the country, not only for use specifically for children, but also adults, and especially those with skin sensitivities.
“I think the awareness of keeping hands clean is certainly there now, whether [it is] soap, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal or sanitiser ... the culture has changed over the past couple of months and I can’t see it changing back for a while.”
He adds: “If you walk around Westport today, even in the shops that are open, we nearly take for granted that people wear face masks. If you saw that around Bridge Street a few months ago you’d say ‘What’s wrong with them?’
“We’ve accepted it culturally. It’s strange how the pandemic has changed our culture and practices so quickly. Sanitisation is here to stay. There’s nothing better than just old-fashioned hand washing. The product we have is the highest standards in safety out there.”