It's clear, flammable, and even a little bit stinky. It's a chemical compound that is used in the medical industry as a solvent, in laboratories, and even in the automotive industry.
So, what would you possibly want to have in your healthcare facility that is also perfect for your car?! Isopropyl alcohol (IPA), of course! It is more commonly referred to as rubbing alcohol, but be aware that the term “rubbing alcohol” can also refer to other ethanol fluids.
To be more specific, rubbing alcohol is a mixture of compounds (a type of denatured alcohol), whereas isopropyl alcohol is not.
What Is Isopropyl Alcohol?
As we noted above, IPA is a chemical compound that is made up of all kinds of stuff, including carbon atoms. It can dissolve in water, chloroform, and will remove ethyl cellulose, oils, gums, and can clean certain resins. It will not dissolve in salt solutions, but it can be separated from other compounds using salt.
That may have been more detail than you needed, but with this knowledge, you have a great foundation to keep reading and learn even more. Typical Isopropyl Alcohol is about 70% alcohol and 30% water, although you may also see a 91 to 9 ratio.
The details about IPA are:
- Density: 0.45 oz/in³ (0.79 g/cm³)
- Boiling point: 82.60ºC
- Chemical formula: C3H8O
- Melting point: -89ºC
- Average Molar Mass: 60.10 g/mol
- IUPAC ID: isopropyl alcohol
Isopropyl Alcohol Benefits
Isopropyl alcohol has several uses for everyday needs:
- As an antiseptic, you have probably already noticed that it is used to swab your skin before being given a shot.
- As an astringent, it tightens your skin’s pores.
- As a liniment, it can help reduce pain and swelling.
- It can effectively clean and disinfectant most surfaces, and you can add a bit to your usual cleaners to kill germs if you like.
- As a window or toilet bowl cleaner, it can remove sticky gums and other residues. It even keeps frost from forming on your windows and can help you clean your windshield from ice during the chilly winter months.
- If you’re a water lover and have experienced swimmers ear, a bit of alcohol in your ear will mix with the water to evaporate quicker and aid in the fight against any infection.
- If you spray some in those funky gym shoes, you can let it dry and the odor should be gone in the morning.
- If you get insect bites or poison oak, rub your skin with alcohol and once it dries, wash the area with soap and water.
- It’s great for getting hair spray off your mirrors.
- If you wipe your neck with IPA in the morning before donning your shirt or blouse, there will be no more ring around the collar.
- Remove garlic and onion odors from your hands.
- IPA is great for cleaning cell phones and other electronic items.
- It can remove ink and other stains from your clothes, such as permanent markers and dry erase board markers.
- Cleans granite and silk plants (dilute it for silk plants).
- Can polish your shoes.
- Helps remove ticks from our beloved pets – the ticks love alcohol as much as they love your pet. Once the tick has been withdrawn, dab the skin to disinfect the area.
- Use it as nail polish remover, to kill head lice, and treat embarrassing cold sores.
Isopropyl Alcohol Side Effects
Because it can be an ingredient in so many household items, you should be aware that if you ingest too much IPA, you can get IPA poisoning. There are two types of symptoms:
Dizziness, slow breathing, stomach pains, and confusion.
Within Several Hours
Each of these is indicative of poisoning, so depending on the severity, you may want to visit the nearest emergency facility or call 911.
Some parents have used the product to reduce children’s fevers; however, this practice is not encouraged, because it could lead to poisoning. If you take antidepressant medication, symptoms may occur faster and be more severe, so be extra careful with your use of IPA.
Children are also more prone to IPA poisoning than adults. It is not unusual for a hopeless alcoholic to swallow some IPA to relieve their withdrawal symptoms (nausea, tremors, sweats, seizures, and overall annoyances) as well. However, this is incredibly dangerous and can cause not only the same symptoms they are trying to escape, but can also be lethal.
If you feel any of the symptoms mildly, drink lots of water to flush your system and rinse your eyes well, if you think they may be affected.
Isopropyl Alcohol Poisoning Prevention
There are ways to prevent and reduce the threat of IPA:
- Never swallow paint thinners, perfumes, most household cleaning products, or rubbing alcohol.
- Keep products of this nature out of a child’s reach.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands.
- Consider a dust mask while using and try to keep your work area well ventilated.
Isopropyl Alcohol Dangers
The most dangerous effects of IPA are that it is:
- Highly flammable and ignites quickly.
- Poisonous (as mentioned above).
- Lesser amounts on your skin may be okay; however, if a significant amount gets on your skin, wash it immediately with good old soap and water to avoid your skin absorbing a large amount of IPA.
Isopropyl Alcohol Skin Impacts
While alcohol is often used to help dry acne, it can also be an irritant, so you want to be careful whenever you use the product on your skin, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Be extra vigilant if you use it around your eyes.
Isopropyl Alcohol Final Words
IPA has many excellent benefits, and the key to safely using any product is education regarding its benefits, threats, and risks. We've posted this information not to deter the use of alcohol, but rather it is intended to be a clear educational opportunity regarding its use.