Post By Herman, MD
Tel. +254 721 264 147
Spirit exists in two categories, namely Surgical spirit and Methylated spirit. Both are used in a variety of household hygiene routines. Surgical spirit is more preferred in wound cleaning and disinfection (especially in hospital setting) over methylated spirit which is commonly used in barber shops, First Aid and lighting.
Clear differences between the surgical and methylated spirit are observable. The differences can be categorized in physical and chemical properties exhibited by the Two types.
Physical characteristics: Methylated Spirit is often colored (blue or pink) while surgical spirit is usually clear. On the other hand, methylated spirit has unattractive offensive smell while the surgical spirit has a hospital smell.
Chemical characteristics: methylated spirit contains less ingredients while the surgical spirit contains additional ingredients. Methylated spirit contains methanol which gives it the characteristic pungent smell. It also incorporates some coloring material which discourage its abuse as an alcohol. Surgical spirit does not have the coloring agents but contains choridexol™ which acts as an antiseptic. Chloridexol also gives the surgical spirit the characteristic hospital smell that is distinct and sharp. Other easily noticeable differences between the two is pricing and packaging. Surgical spirit is more expensive than the methylated spirit. While methylated spirit is dispensed in big packs (500ml) the surgical Counterpart is commonly sold in small 100ml containers.
Nevertheless, business in the two is impressively profitable and with the recent report about possible cross contamination of HIV through unhygienic hair cut procedures, many professional barbers are now opting for surgical spirit than methylated one.
Chloridexol™ (chemically expressed as CHl3) that forms part active ingredients in surgical spirit is and often incorporated in very small amounts. Together with castor oil, and less often Methyl salicylate the two ingredients are what give the surgical spirit its suitability in wound toiletry (cleaning) and surgical procedures. Chloridex™ is prepared through intricate laboratory procedures and packed independently as an ingredient. We however, train our students interested in surgical spirit making how prepare the ingredient. This however comes with additional expenses apart from the normal charges for surgical spirit preparation classes.
This article is dedicated to the following people, who without their roles in imparting discipline and mentoring would not have made me a consultant: Mrs Stella Mwobobia (my elementary school teacher-Ruiri ), Prof. Ombaka, a veteran Pharmacist/drug manufacturer (Kilifi), Dr. Arithi (Arichem), the leading importer of pharmaceutical and cosmetic raw materials, Mrs Kahiti, Retired senior nursing officer in charge theater (Coast General hospital) and, of course, my college lecturers (Prof Mericado (gross Anatomy), Prof. Majwejwe (epidemiology) Dr. Saldivia (Surgery) Mrs Florence Laker (gynecology) and all the teaching staff, KIU school of Medicine-Ishaka Bushenyi.