Spiritus vs. Surgical Spirit

What's the Difference?

Spiritus and Surgical Spirit are both types of alcohol-based solutions used for disinfecting and cleaning wounds. However, Surgical Spirit is specifically formulated for medical use, while Spiritus is a more general term for any type of alcohol-based solution. Surgical Spirit typically contains additional ingredients such as methyl salicylate and diethyl phthalate, making it more suitable for medical purposes. Both products are effective in killing bacteria and preventing infection, but Surgical Spirit is more commonly used in healthcare settings due to its specialized formulation.


AttributeSpiritusSurgical Spirit
CompositionAlcohol and herbsDenatured alcohol and additives
UsageTraditional medicine, religious ceremoniesAntiseptic for cleaning wounds
ColorClearClear or slightly colored
OdorHerbal or floralStrong alcohol smell

Further Detail


When it comes to disinfectants and antiseptics, two commonly used products are Spiritus and Surgical Spirit. While both are used for similar purposes, they have some key differences in terms of their composition, uses, and effectiveness. In this article, we will compare the attributes of Spiritus and Surgical Spirit to help you understand which product may be more suitable for your needs.


Spiritus, also known as rectified spirit, is a type of alcohol that is typically made from fermented grains or sugarcane. It has a high alcohol content, usually around 95% ethanol. On the other hand, Surgical Spirit is a solution of ethanol, methanol, and other ingredients such as castor oil and methyl salicylate. It typically contains around 70% alcohol.

While both Spiritus and Surgical Spirit contain alcohol as their main active ingredient, the difference in alcohol content can affect their effectiveness as disinfectants. Higher alcohol content in Spiritus may make it more potent in killing bacteria and viruses compared to Surgical Spirit.


Spiritus is commonly used in the pharmaceutical industry for making tinctures, extracts, and other medicinal products. It is also used in laboratories for cleaning and sterilizing equipment. Surgical Spirit, on the other hand, is primarily used in healthcare settings as an antiseptic for cleaning wounds, cuts, and abrasions.

Due to its lower alcohol content, Surgical Spirit is considered safer for use on the skin compared to Spiritus. It is less likely to cause irritation or dryness when applied to the skin, making it a preferred choice for medical professionals for disinfecting skin before injections or minor surgical procedures.


When it comes to effectiveness as a disinfectant, Spiritus with its higher alcohol content is generally more potent than Surgical Spirit. The higher alcohol concentration in Spiritus allows it to kill a wider range of bacteria and viruses on surfaces and equipment. However, the lower alcohol content in Surgical Spirit may be sufficient for disinfecting skin and minor wounds.

It is important to note that both Spiritus and Surgical Spirit are flammable and should be used with caution. They should not be ingested or applied to open wounds. Proper ventilation should be maintained when using these products to avoid inhalation of fumes.


Spiritus is typically available in pharmacies and specialty stores that sell alcohol-based products. It may be sold in different concentrations, so it is important to check the label before purchasing. Surgical Spirit, on the other hand, is more commonly found in medical supply stores and pharmacies. It is often sold in small bottles for individual use.

Both Spiritus and Surgical Spirit are relatively affordable and easy to find, making them convenient options for disinfection and antiseptic purposes. However, it is important to follow the instructions on the label for proper use and storage of these products to ensure their effectiveness.


In conclusion, Spiritus and Surgical Spirit are both effective disinfectants and antiseptics with their own unique attributes. Spiritus, with its higher alcohol content, may be more potent in killing bacteria and viruses on surfaces and equipment. Surgical Spirit, on the other hand, is safer for use on the skin and is commonly used in healthcare settings for wound care.

Ultimately, the choice between Spiritus and Surgical Spirit will depend on the specific application and desired level of disinfection. It is important to consider the composition, uses, effectiveness, and availability of each product before making a decision. Both products have their own strengths and limitations, so it is important to use them responsibly and according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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