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How to use salt to separate purell

Updated July 19, 2017

Purell and many other hand sanitisers are a blend of ethyl alcohol (ethanol), water and moisturisers. Using ordinary table salt, you can easily separate hand sanitiser gel into alcohol and the gel's other components. Salt binds to the glycerine in the gel, forming a viscous goo and leaving the alcohol behind as a clear liquid. Aside from scientific interest, this technique could be used in a pinch to obtain ethyl alcohol for use in a camp stove.

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  1. Combine 113gr. of hand sanitiser gel with 1 tsp of table salt.

  2. Cover a cup or bowl with several layers of cheesecloth or a similar porous material.

  3. Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth. The liquid ethyl alcohol will pass through, leaving the congealed salt and glycerine behind. In one experiment, the filtered liquid that resulted from this process was 70 per cent ethyl alcohol and 2 per cent isopropyl alcohol by volume.

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Things You'll Need

  • Ethyl alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel
  • Cheesecloth

About the Author

Grace Grimm has been a professional writer since 2008. Her work on birding and the environment has appeared in "The Jack Pine Warbler: The Magazine of Michigan Audubon," "The Pine Press" and on numerous websites. She is an ecologist with a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's degree in conservation biology.

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