Alcohol commonly occurs in one of three forms, namely: methanol (methyl alcohol), isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) and ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Of these, only ethanol is fit for human consumption and does not harm the skin when applied topically. All alcohol derived from natural plant sugars, most commonly sugar cane or corn, is ethanol. It includes all forms of alcohol which humans in various cultures have created for consuming. Ethanol is created by the natural fermentation of plant sugars, by yeasts.
Methanol and isopropyl alcohol, in contrast, are derived by artificial means from fossil fuels. They are both extremely toxic even in tiny concentrations, and should never be consumed in any form. Isopropanol (a.k.a. rubbing alcohol) can be applied topically in medical situations as a disinfectant, but is dangerous to swallow and damages the skin when used with any kind of regularity, whereas ethanol, used properly, does not. (Regular use of ethanol on the skin can be drying, but the health protecting benefits of sanitising far outweigh this hazard.)
Ethanol, furthermore, has wider anti-viral effects, being capable of destroying both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses, whereas isopropyl alcohol is only effective against enveloped viruses. Studies by the WHO show both isopropyl alcohol and ethanol to be effective against the COVID-19 virus, but ethanol appears to be more effective.
Along with the type, the concentration of alcohol in hand sanitizer is also important to consider. For optimal effectiveness against COVID-19 as well as other viruses and bacteria, the concentration should be at least 60%. However, it should not be too high, as some water content is essential to allow the alcohol to function properly – proteins are not denaturated without the presence of some water. The WHO has identified 80% ethanol content as the optimal type and concentration of alcohol in hand sanitisers to protect against COVID-19.
The Apothecary Hand Sanitiser and Surface Sanitiser follow these guidelines, and provide safe, effective and natural sanitisers when used properly. To counteract the drying effects on the skin of repeated exposure to ethanol, we have included non-GM, plant derived glycerin in our hand sanitiser, as well as organic, antimicrobial essential oils. We use naturally fermented, 96% pure ethanol derived from plant sugars (cane or corn), and boiled Table Mountain spring water, harvested at source.
Please remember that no sanitiser is designed for consumption. Accidentally swallowing a mouthful of our Hand Sanitiser won’t harm you, but more than this is dangerous. As with all alcohol, consuming more than the recommended quantity can lead to alcohol poisoning.