Divert ethanol fuel for sanitiser: expert

Ethanol used to make low-cost fuel could be used to meet demand for hand sanitiser, an expert says.
Ethanol used to make low-cost fuel could be used to meet demand for hand sanitiser, an expert says.

Ethanol used to make low-cost fuel needs to be urgently diverted to meet Australia's demand for hand sanitiser, an infectious disease expert says.

People are being warned only hand sanitisers with a 60 to 80 per cent alcohol content are effective against germs.

Hand soaps and sanitisers have been cleared off supermarket shelves as Australians look to protect themselves from the spread of coronavirus.

The federal health department is warning people not to brew their own sanitiser at home, as restrictions are lifted to allow brewers and distillers to manufacture the product.

Regular household soap is enough when it comes to washing your hands, according to the department.

Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, has called for the ethanol added to some car fuels to be used instead in the production of hand sanitiser.

"This needs to be done as a matter of urgency, but we're going to have to do this for the next two years," Professor Collignon told AAP.

"This problem isn't going to go away anytime soon."

He said companies received subsidies to harvest plants used to produce ethanol.

Professor Collignon said Australia should be using all the alcohol it had to manufacture hand santiser.

That sanitiser should be made readily available at a low cost, he said.

A health department spokesman told AAP the Therapeutic Goods Administration had released formulas for manufacturers to follow when producing sanitiser.

"We do not recommend that people produce their own hand sanitiser at home," he said.

Professor Collignon said people should be aiming for hand sanitiser with 60 to 80 per cent alcohol content.

He said hand sanitisers with 100 per cent alcohol, such as methylated spirits, wouldn't kill germs.

"So using straight metho is probably not a good idea ... it will ruin your hands. You seem to have to have some water there for the killing effect," he said.

When it comes to soap and water, Australians should be washing their hands for at least 20 seconds to protect themselves from infection.

Australian Associated Press