Surgical spirits may be used to clean cuts or as a household disinfectant. Surgical spirits are solutions of ethanol that are toxic and unfit for consumption because of the addition of methanol and other ingredients.
Surgical spirits are useful in killing bacteria, viruses and fungus. They are able to cross the lipid layer of the bacteria cell wall, destroying the cell membrane and reaching the cell's interior components to destroy the organism. However, because they are unable to kill bacterial spores, surgical spirits are considered antiseptic but not sterilizing agents. For this reason, they are acceptable for household use and minor medical applications but not for more advanced procedures such as instrument cleaning.