While isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol are commonly used terms, they are often confused or interchangeable. Manufacturers and consumers often use these terms, making it important to know the difference.
Thus, this article aims to help you differentiate the two by explaining the detail of each and how it’s used to fight germs effectively. So, let's compare Isopropyl Alcohol Vs Rubbing Alcohol right now.
What Is Isopropyl Alcohol?
Isopropyl alcohol is also known as 2-propanol and is one of the commonly used disinfectants in various industries. For instance, It’s used in hospitals to disinfect medical devices and in pharmacies and manufacturing industries to disinfect surfaces.
Isopropyl alcohol is used in concentrations between 60-90% to fight bacteria, fungi, and viruses because lower concentrations are not as effective. Likewise, higher concentrations of isopropyl alcohol do not have potent antimicrobial properties.
70% concentration of isopropyl alcohol has the most antimicrobial properties. Water acts as a catalyst to speed up denaturing bacterial proteins and cell membranes.
As a result,70% of isopropyl alcohol penetrates the bacterial wall and coagulates proteins leading to death. Additionally, it slows down the evaporation process resulting in more contact time and increased effectiveness.
Concentrations of more than 91% coagulate bacterial protein instantly, but the bacteria forms a protective shell immediately after exposure. It also evaporates quickly before breaking the bacterial protective shell.
Isopropyl alcohol is used in manufacturing industries as a solvent because it’s miscible in water. It can also be used as a chemical intermediate when manufacturing other solvents and as an astringent. Besides, isopropyl alcohol is commonly used as a cleaning agent and hand sanitizer manufacturing.
What Is Rubbing Alcohol?
Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol or ethyl alcohol that has been mixed with water. Its also known as surgical spirit according to the British Pharmacopia. Rubbing alcohol made from isopropyl alcohol is the most common antiseptic, and it contains 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water. Its meant for external use like disinfecting surfaces and cleaning open wounds.
Rubbing alcohol has many uses around the home. For instance, you can use it to eliminate pests from your indoor plants by spraying directly or using a cotton swab to wipe the leaves. You can also remove ink stains on clothes, clean glass windows, and disinfect doorknobs and countertops.
Why Is Rubbing Alcohol Called ‘Rubbing Alcohol’?
Rubbing alcohol got its name in the 1980s because it was the main ingredient in salves for rubbing in. During the time, it was mixed with perfumes and additives to remove the bad odor. It was also called rubbing alcohol to distinguish it from alcoholic beverages and discourage people from consuming it.
Today, rubbing alcohol is one of the components of medical and first aid kits. Its also used to clean wounds and disinfect the surgical equipment.
Why Is Isopropyl Alcohol Used In Hand Sanitizers?
Isopropyl alcohol is used in hand sanitizers because of its effectiveness in fighting viruses, bacteria, and fungi. It acts by denaturing bacterial proteins and lipids and causing cell death. Additionally, it does not cause excessive skin dryness, and it evaporates rapidly while destroying bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It does not cause odor because it does not leave residues after use.
Although isopropyl alcohol is an ingredient of rubbing alcohol, it may contain other denaturants making it unsafe for human consumption. The two alcohols are used differently, and none is superior to the other. Although both have potent antimicrobial properties, rubbing alcohol is used for disinfecting surfaces as an astringent and a cleaning agent. On the other hand, isopropyl alcohol is mainly used in industries as a solvent and manufacturing hand sanitizers.
How Much Isopropyl Alcohol Do You Need In A Hand Sanitizer?
The CDC recommends 60-80% isopropyl alcohol in hand sanitizers. It further recommends 60% or more isopropyl alcohol concentration for killing Covid-19 and other types of viruses. This is because adding water to isopropyl alcohol increases its effectiveness. Water acts as a catalyst and reduces the evaporation rate. As a result, it increases the contact time and enhances its action at denaturing proteins and lipids on the bacterial cell wall. On the other hand, lower isopropyl alcohol concentrations below 50% are ineffective against microbes.
Why Not Higher Isopropyl Alcohol Concentrations?
Isopropyl alcohol for general and medical use should be 70%, with 30% water. Using higher concentrations reduces the contact time because the evaporation rate increases with increased concentration. Thus, lower concentrations are more effective in fighting microbes. Additionally, diluting isopropyl alcohol results in less vapor and toxic fumes.
70% isopropyl alcohol is more effective and cheaper when disinfecting larger surfaces because it evaporates slowly and increases the contact time.
When To Use 99% Isopropyl Alcohol?
Although a higher isopropyl alcohol concentration is ineffective against microbes, it can be used as a solvent or cleaning agent in industries that manufacture hydro-sensitive products. 99% isopropyl alcohol evaporates fast; it’s pure and does not leave residues.
99% isopropyl alcohol is preferred in medical devices and computer manufacturing. It effectively cleans sensitive devices like computer chips, circuit adaptors, circuit boards, and adaptors. It is also effective in cleaning sticky residues and grease than 70% isopropyl alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol is 68-72% isopropyl alcohol diluted with water, and it may contain denaturants. Both rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol have strong antimicrobial properties and effectively fight infections.
The CDC recommends more than 60% isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant and 70% for killing Coronavirus and other viruses. On the other hand,99% isopropyl alcohol is useful in cleaning sensitive devices like computer chips and adapters.
Rubbing is used for disinfecting surfaces, cleaning medical devices, while isopropyl alcohol is used to manufacture hand sanitizers.