Explained: Why Turkey is relying on cologne to fight the COVID-19 pandemic


Eau de Cologne, or simply Eau de Cologne, is a perfume originating from the city of Cologne in Germany and has been a very popular accessory in Turkey for more than a century.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the perfume would be distributed to anyone over the age of 65 year. (Photo: AP)

Coronavirus (COVID-65): Like many In other parts of the world, Turkey has issued social distancing and lockdown instructions along with hygiene advice to ward off the novel coronavirus pandemic.

However, there is a difference in the way the Turkish people deal with the ‘epidemic. Unlike most other countries, where soap and hand sanitizers have become highly sought after hygiene products, in Turkey another liquid solution is rapidly disappearing from the shelves: cologne.

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Turkey and cologne

Water de Cologne, or simply cologne, is a perfume originating from the city of Cologne in Germany and has been a very popular accessory in Turkey for over a century.


Cologne became popular in the country due to its 19th century Ottoman ruler, Abdul Hamid II. The sultan was excessively fond of perfume and carried bottles with him everywhere. Soon the accessory became part of the Turkish lifestyle and crept into the Turkish vocabulary, getting “Kolonya” as the local name.

Today, Kolonya is made from ingredients such as jasmine, rose and fig blossoms, and has a high ethanol content. The aroma is commonly referred to as the country’s national scent and is recognized as a symbol of Turkish health and hospitality.

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To this day, many restaurants and patrons spray Kolonya on the hands of visitors before serving them, and it is even sprinkled in hospitals and religious services.

Cologne in the time of coronavirus

Novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) particles are spherical and have proteins called spikes protruding from their surface, which invade human cells.

A fatty layer that holds the tips together is disrupted when it comes in contact with soap or hand sanitizer containing more than 60 % alcohol. This disruption causes the virus to dismantle and kill it.


The high alcohol content of Kolonya (about 60%) is known to be effective in killing germs and therefore serves as a useful hand sanitizer. Although more expensive than soap or hand sanitizer, Kolonya’s scent attracts customers.

The March, Turkey’s Health Minister praised Kolonya’s merits in the fight against the coronavirus, which resulted in an increase in consumer demand.


A week later, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the perfume would be distributed to anyone over the age of 19 year. The Turkish government has also stopped requiring ethanol blends in gasoline, so that there are enough supplies left to manufacture Kolonya.

The Authorities promised to maintain adequate stocks throughout the pandemic, and retailers said they would not raise prices.

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