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Is there a difference between isopropyl alcohol & rubbing alcohol?

Isopropyl alcohol and water are combined to make rubbing alcohol. It may contain other ingredients on occasion. Isopropyl alcohol, on the other hand, is pure alcohol with no additional components.

The two liquids have similar qualities because rubbing alcohol contains isopropyl alcohol, but they are not the same. Both, for example, have antibacterial and disinfecting effects.

Isopropyl alcohol, on the other hand, is too dangerous to use as a disinfectant for the skin or the home because it is undiluted. In industrial settings, isopropyl alcohol is used to make items, whereas rubbing alcohol is used at home.

The similarities and differences between isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol will be discussed in this article. We’ll also go through how to disinfect using rubbing alcohol and the possible adverse effects.

isopropyl alcohol

No, rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are not the same thing.

Isopropyl alcohol is a colorless liquid with a musty, harsh odor that is pure alcohol. A bottle of isopropyl alcohol contains no other components.

Rubbing alcohol, on the other hand, contains isopropyl alcohol as well as additional components like water. Isopropyl alcohol makes over 70% of most rubbing alcohol brands.

Isopropyl alcohol is not to be confused with ethyl alcohol, which is found in beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages.


Water is the other major component of rubbing alcohol. Other substances may be present, depending on the product.

Essential oils like wintergreen are used in several rubbing alcohols used to treat hurting muscles. Wintergreen essential oil contains methyl salicylate, a chemical that dilates small blood vessels in the skin. This can aid in the relief of aches and pains.

Similarities and differences

The concentration is the fundamental difference between isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol has a 100% concentration, whereas rubbing alcohol has a lower concentration due to the addition of water.

Aside from that, the two liquids are very similar. They have antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. When inhaled or swallowed, they are also combustible and poisonous.

Both products have risks associated with their use, however isopropyl alcohol is more harmful than rubbing alcohol since it is more concentrated.


Isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol, despite their similarities, have multiple uses.

Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is used by manufacturers to make:

  • dyes
  • lacquers
  • cosmetics
  • window cleaners
  • personal care products
  • perfumes
  • antifreeze
  • pharmaceuticals

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is commonly used as an antiseptic to clean cuts and scrapes at home, reducing the risk of infection. It could be found in a first-aid kit or medicine cupboard at home.

Individuals can use rubbing alcohol that includes wintergreen or methyl salicylate to assist reduce muscle aches caused by exertion. Disinfecting small household goods is another application.

Is one better than the other?

Isopropyl alcohol has stronger antibacterial effects because it is undiluted. This, however, makes it more dangerous, and it is not suitable for use at home.

Isopropyl alcohol should not be applied to the skin for any purpose since it can enter the bloodstream and cause toxicity. When it comes to first aid and sterilizing small objects or surfaces, rubbing alcohol is preferable.

How to use

There are various ways to use rubbing alcohol listed below.

Disinfecting items in the home

Rub alcohol can be used to disinfect thermometers and commonly handled items such as computer keyboards and phones in the home.

To begin, make sure the space is well-ventilated. After that, soak cotton wool in rubbing alcohol and use it to clean the surface or object.

Disinfecting cuts and scrapes

To disinfect minor wounds and scrapes, people can use rubbing alcohol that includes 70% isopropyl alcohol. Follow these steps to accomplish this:

  1. Ensure the room has good ventilation.
  2. Gently clean the skin around the cut with some water.
  3. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a cotton pad and apply to the area. Allow it to dry.
  4. Cover with a sterile bandage, if necessary.
  5. Repeat this 1–3 times per day.

Rub alcohol should not be applied to a broad region of the body or near the eyes, and it should not be used for more than one week without visiting a doctor.

Relieving muscle aches due to exertion

Rubing alcohol containing 50% isopropyl alcohol and added wintergreen can be used to relieve muscle aches. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to clean gauze or a cotton swab and gently rub the affected area. Alternatively, apply a small amount of the liquid to the skin and rub it in with your hands.

It’s important, once again, to ensure that the room is well ventilated. Avoid getting rubbing alcohol in your eyes or on your mucous membranes.

Side effects and risks

There are certain risks associated with using rubbing alcohol on the skin or in the home, including:

Skin irritation

Some people’s skin may be irritated by rubbing alcohol. If this happens, people can wash the chemical away with soap and water.

Because pure isopropyl alcohol can pass through the skin and cause poisoning, people should never put it on their skin. If someone receives isopropyl alcohol on their skin, they should:

Isopropyl and rubbing alcohol are both extremely flammable. When not in use, keep them away from open flames and close the top carefully.

Damage to the eyes

Rub alcohol should not be used near the eyes or other sensitive regions. Exposure to the sun can cause the eyes and result in significant injury.

If the product goes into your eye, flush it with clean water for at least 15 minutes, lifting your lower and upper lids to ensure that all of the alcohol is washed out. If you wear contact lenses, you should take them out first.


Both isopropyl and rubbing alcohol are toxic. Whether a person inhales the vapors or drinks the liquid, this is true. Neither chemical can be used to replace alcohol in drinks, and even a single sip can cause the following side effects:

  • Depression of the brain and spinal cord can result in the following symptoms:
    • headache
    • dizziness
    • inebriation, which means behavior that resembles intoxication from alcoholic beverages
  • Irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause:
    • abdominal pain
    • nausea
    • vomiting blood
  • Intoxication, which leads to:
    • low body temperature
    • low blood pressure
    • cardiovascular collapse
    • death

Ingestion of wintergreen with methyl salicylate is also dangerous. Medicines and alcohol should always be kept out of reach of youngsters in a closed cabinet.


Isopropyl alcohol has been diluted to make rubbing alcohol. Other components, such as wintergreen essential oil, are sometimes included. While isopropyl alcohol has a concentration of 100%, many types of rubbing alcohol have a concentration of 70%.

Because of the difference in strength, rubbing alcohol is safe to use at home to disinfect objects and skin scrapes. However, it is only safe if the user follows the manufacturer’s instructions and takes precautions such as operating it in a well-ventilated location and avoiding eye contact.



Obianuju Chukwu

She has a degree in pharmacy and has worked in the field as a pharmacist in a hospital. Teaching, blogging, and producing scientific articles are some of her interests. She enjoys writing on various topics relating to health and medicine, including health and beauty-related natural treatments, the nutritional worth of various foods, and mental wellness.