Why some alcohol sanitisers smell different to others

October 2020

May 2020

There are two main reasons that ethanol-based sanitisers smell different and these are to do with what the ethanol is derived from, and what it has been denatured with – not other ingredients within the sanitisers if there are any.

Firstly, it has to do with the feedstock of the alcohol or what product the ethanol is made from.  As an example, we normally use a very neutral odour grain derived ethanol from North America as it gives one of the lowest perceived odours for those that use products with few or no additives to the final sanitiser.  Other sources such as whey or sugar cane derived ethanol have quite different odours – some say they are more pungent; however this is very subjective to opinions which vary wildly.

The second reason is to do with the compound the ethanol has been denatured with (to make it unsuitable for drinking).  Some denaturants are fully volatile while others are not, some have a sharp smell, whereas other are more of a sweet odour, but once again, this is very subjective, as every individual will interpret an odour differently.

Why is there quite a number of changes right now?

As you would be aware, the advent of Covid-19 has significantly increased the worldwide demand for Ethanol based sanitiser products and New Zealand was no exception.

Normal ethanol sources became very hard to procure during the height of Covid-19 because Governments around the world banned the export of ethanol.  For this reason, Hygiene Technologies had to purchase a shipment of the only available product in NZ, which had a different odour.

It is important to remember that if a product uses the same volume of ethanol, there is no impact on the efficacy of the product.  In the case of Hygiene Technologies products, the food-safety of this temporary grade has been fully checked, tested and okayed by MPI.

If you unsure about a different smelling product, all you need to simply ask your supplier is to confirm that the new product is guaranteed to have the same efficacy as it used to and if you are using it on food contact surfaces, that there will be no odour, by-products or denaturant residue left once the ethanol has fully evaporated.


Post by Dayle Senior