Alcohols are a class of organic compounds, one of which is isopropyl alcohol, (CH3)2CH2OH, also called rubbing alcohol, isopropanol or 2-propanol (the latter name is the official, or IUPAC name, for isopropyl alcohol). Rubbing alcohol is most often used medicinally for topical uses.
The descriptive words “rubbing alcohol” refer to rubbing the liquid on the human body, such as on the back, neck, legs or arms. It may be used for cooling or soothing the skin. It can also be used to treat small sores before bandaging, and may be used to dab the place where a member of the medical profession intends to administer an injection.
Rubbing alcohol is generally diluted, though it can have a concentration of up to 99 percent. Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable. It also evaporates readily, and the fumes can be easily ignited. Diluting the alcohol with water allows for hydrogen bonding of the water molecules, reducing some volatility and along with it the likelihood of a static spark igniting alcohol fumes.
Some purveyors sell isopropyl rubbing alcohol at a concentration of 99 percent. Some sell it at 91 percent. The most commonly available strength of isopropyl rubbing alcohol is a 70 percent solution. It makes sense to dilute it because it both reduces fire risk of ignition and lowers the cost of production.
As a Solvent
Sometimes rubbing alcohol can be used as a mild solvent to remove sticky substances from plastic surfaces because most alcohols will not eat through most plastics. The 99 percent variety is useful in cleaning tape recorder heads and flux from solder joints. It can be used to spot-clean glass and other surfaces.
When using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, it is important to use it as directed and in accord with safety information, such as that found in material safety data sheets (MSDS) for each individual concentration. Particular heed should be paid to the potential of fire hazard because ethyl alcohol and other polar solvents such as isopropyl alcohol can cause fires that are difficult to extinguish, as the Industrial Fire World website points out.
Denatured Alcohol Vs. Isopropyl Alcohol
Alcohol is the name of a group of compounds with a hydroxyl group, consisting of an oxygen and hydrogen atom, attached to...
How to Use Rubbing Alcohol Around the House
Rubbing alcohol is 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and 30 percent water, and is safe for contact with the skin. It has a...
How to Disinfect With Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol usually refers isopropyl alcohol, a chemical substance that is diluted with water to create an effective cleaning substance. Rubbing alcohol...
How to Clean With Acetone or Isopropyl Alcohol
If you use paints or wear nail polish, you may be familiar with the chemical acetone, a substance used mainly as a...
How do I Make 70 Percent Isopropyl Alcohol?
Creating dilutions reduces the concentration of one liquid with the addition of another. In order to create 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, a...
What Is the Difference Between Rubbing Alcohol & Peroxide?
Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are both commonly found in home medicine cabinets, first aid kits and doctor's offices. Although they look...
What Are the Dangers of Isopropyl?
Isopropyl, or rubbing alcohol, is a useful chemical, but it can also be a dangerous one. Isopropyl alcohol is used on its...