Rubbing alcohol

Jump to: navigation, search

Template:Globalize/US Template:Contradictory

File:Rubbing alcohol.JPG
A bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, U.S.P. / B.P. (also known as Isopropyl alcohol) is a liquid prepared for topical application prepared from specially denatured alcohol and containing 68.5-71.5% vol./vol. of absolute (ie. 100%) alcohol. However, individual manufacturers can use their own "formulation standards" in which the ethanol content usually ranges from 70-95% v/v.

The British Pharmacopoeia and United States Pharmacopoeia define the term alcohol as a mixture of ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol, C2H5OH=46.07) and water of fixed proportions. Alcohol, B.P. is 96% ethanol v/v, and Alcohol, U.S.P. is 95% ethanol v/v. Therefore, the term rubbing alcohol generally refers to a mixture using ethanol (ethyl alcohol).

In the United States, rubbing alcohol, U.S.P. and all preparations coming under the classification of Rubbing Alcohols must be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the US Treasury Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, using Formula 23-H (8 parts by volume of acetone, 1.5 parts by volume of methyl isobutyl ketone, and 100 parts by volume of ethyl alcohol). It contains 68.5-71.5% by volume of absolute ethyl alcohol, the remainder consisting of water and the denaturants, with or without colour additives, and perfume oils. Rubbing Alcohol contains in each 100 mL not less than 355 mg of sucrose octaacetate or not less than 1.40 mg of denatonium benzoate. The preparation may be coloured with one or more colour additives. A suitable stabilizer may also be added.

Rubbing alcohol also exists on pharmacy store shelves without the U.S.P. standard designation. The concentration of the ethyl alcohol component can vary but it is generally printed under the ingredient list of that particular product. A common concentration is 95%.

Physical Properties

Transparent, colorless or colored as desired, mobile, volatile liquid, with an extremely bitter taste, and in the absence of added odorous substances, a characteristic odour; flammable; specific gravity of Formula 23-H is between 0.8691 and 0.8771 at 15.56°.


Applied a cooling, soothing application for bedridden patients and athletes. It is also widely used for cleansing the surgeon's hands and instruments and for disinfection of the skin prior to penetration of the skin by a hypodermic needle. As an antiseptic it is good against vegetative bacteria and fair against fungi and viruses. It is ineffective against spores. It is widely believed that 70% ethanol provides the greatest reduction in bacterial count; however, this is incorrect. Other concentrations may be more effective, but their rate of kill is slower. In order to reduce the skin bacterial count to 5% of normal, 70% ethanol must be left on the skin for at least 2 min. Rubbing alcohol is also a feeble anesthetic and a mild counterirritant. It is not drinkable, although people have been known to attempt ingestion.

Rubbing alcohol is recognized as a rubefacient because it evaporates quickly and is used to cool and soothe skin. It is, however, more widely used as an antiseptic for sterilizing surfaces or clean minor cuts or abrasions.

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol can also be supplied in a 99% concentration. This product is used to harden skin such as in the case of the feet of novice hikers. Care should always be taken, and label of the preparation read carefully. It is unsuited as a fuel in alcohol stoves because of the relatively low vapor pressure of isopropyl alcohol.

In the UK the equivalent skin preparation is surgical spirit which is always based on an ethyl alcohol-methyl alcohol mixture, and which often has the addition of small quantities of iodoform as a topical bacteriocide.

A typical modern composition for Surgical Spirit BP is: ethanol, methanol, water, castor oil, methyl salicylate, diethyl phthalate. It has a strong smell of oil of wintergreen due to the presence of the methyl salicylate.


Rubbing alcohol is sometimes consumed by those who cannot afford or cannot legally buy beverage alcohol (ethanol). The minimum age to purchase alcohol does not apply to rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol products that contain methyl alcohol (methanol) can cause blindness or death when consumed.

Rubbing alcohol burns with a bright blue flame, which is almost invisible in the light, but visible in the dark. The higher the alcohol percentage, the richer the color, typically.


Rubbing alcohol should be used in a well-ventilated area. Some cautions go so far as to say protective gloves should be worn while using it. Poisoning can occur from ingestion, inhalation, or absorption of rubbing alcohol.

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is poisonous and can cause permanent disabling illness or death if consumed.

Mixing rubbing alcohol with pool chlorine can result in a Haloform reaction [1], generating lots of heat and boiling off its products as excess gas. If this chemical reaction is done inside a closed plastic container, the gas can build up until it ruptures violently. This can pose a serious risk of injury as the chemicals (such as bleach) and shrapnel from the container are thrown outward by the explosion.

Other applications

  • It will allegedly remove silly putty from textiles and pine resin from most materials.
  • Due to its volatile nature, it can help to evaporate liquids.
  • It helps to separate glue from bonded objects.
  • It will remove Thermal grease from Computer Processor Heatsinks
  • It can be used to clean the optical surface of CDs and DVDs.
  • It can be used to extract soluble chemicals from an insoluble matrix; the appropriate steps are mixing, maceration, filtration, and evaporation.
  • It can be used as a fuel in some engines.
  • It can be used as a do-it-yourself cleaner for guitar/bass guitar strings in order to enhance thier life
  • It removes shoe polish.
  • It is the preferred cleaner for LCD monitors
  • Due to its rapid evaporation, it can be used to clean electronics or other devices that become damaged when wet
  • Video head cleaner also Audio head cleaner for Audio and Video-VTR Record-Players.
  • When mixed with one Part Epsoms salt rubbing alcohol can be used to remove resin build up from marijuana smoking devices.
  • Can be used as a temporary cure to motion sickness when used in small amounts by inhalation.
  • Can be used to erase permenant ink of most surfaces.

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, U.S.P. / B.P. contains 68-99% of isopropyl alcohol, by volume, the remainder consisting of water, with or without colour additives, suitable stabilizers, and perfume oils. Isopropyl alcohol is oxidized by the liver into acetone. Symptoms of isopropyl alcohol poisoning include flushing, headache, dizziness, CNS depression, nausea, vomiting, anesthesia, and coma.

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is poisonous and can cause permanent disabling illness or death if consumed.

Isopropyl alcohol should be used in a well-ventilated area. Some cautions go so far as to say protective gloves should be worn while using it. Poisoning can occur from ingestion, inhalation, or absorption.

External links