Talk:Rubbing alcohol

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Why is the flame statement under "Abuse"[edit]

I highly doubt that you could abuse that, unless you wanted to burn things invisibly or something. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:07, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

why does it have the word "rubbing"? - Omegatron 21:06, May 16, 2005 (UTC) bllllllllllllllllah —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:35, 26 October 2007 (UTC)


As far as I am aware Surgical Spirit BP does not contain Iodoform. Iodoform is a pale yellow solid that tints anything that it is dissolved in a pale yellow. The tint becomes stronger with time due to the liberation of free iodine. Surgical Spirit BP is a colourless liquid that ramains so on standing. I have added a typical composition for Surgical Spirit BP taken from a bottle in the local supermarket. Socksysquirrel 21:55, 31 March 2007 (UTC)


becouse you rub it on your skin where be advanced and ruf out your skin tone!! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:36, 1 June 2011 (UTC)

i want more info on rubbing alcohol[edit]

You can ask the reference desk. There is no guarantee that this article will be expanded. JFW | T@lk 23:10, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Stops water from freezing?[edit]

The article said "(Note that alcohol, if added in certain quantities, can stop water from freezing.)". Since alcohol itself freezes, this claim as it sits is both bazarre, and false. It can lower the freezing point of water, but every known substance freezes at SOME temperature. Note also that the comment is a parenthetical comment in a paragraph on the usage as a topical bacteriocide, so it is also irrelevant. SO... I've removed the comment totally.

Rubbing Alcohol as found on a pharmacy shelf[edit]

I did a major edit to clarify the definition of the word "rubbing alcohol". These are based on definitions from both the British and US Pharmacopeoias. Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is popular and is often confused with the ethanol derived product. Some pharmacies attempt to try and prevent abuse of the product by just not carrying the ethanol rubbing alcohol and instead only stock the isopropyl product.

I hope this gives you a bit more info on "rubbing alcohol" and products. consider this a freeby article from the Universe!!!

cheers WIKIPEDIAVI 06:48, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Information based on personal experience[edit]

I know from personal experience that isopropyl rubbing alcohol is very effective at dissolving permanent marker and indelible ink markings. Is this suitable for addition into the article under the "Other Applications" heading? Aron G 04:20, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

Answer: SURE!
Isopropyl Alcohol, particularly the 99% concentration, is very much like other organic solvents (i.e. acetone). When trying to remove unwanted difficult marks, I usually arm myself with a few different solvents because sometimes it is trial an error to see which solvent will work. WIKIPEDIAVI 23:36, 18 June 2006 (UTC)


"Alcohol can be inserted into parts to bring out the liquids within."

Is this a clever piece of vandalism, referring to masturbation? (Not that I know much about it, nor am I supposed to.) --Ihope127 19:44, 9 October 2006 (UTC)

Possibly. Although this article would suggest otherwise

"To prevent swimmer's ear, dry your ears after swimming and shake out excess water, especially if you feel it stuck in there. Again, with your parent's help, a few drops of rubbing alcohol can dry out any moisture in there."

I would have thought the reference was to displacing liquids from machine parts.

--Theendlessdream 22:20, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Not potable?[edit]

From the article: " not potable."

Um...I'm pretty sure that it is. Isn't ethanol just the stuff in drinks? Most ethyl rubbing alcohols have additives that make them non-potable, but ethanol itself is pretty much the potable alcohol. Twin Bird 17:27, 22 October 2006 (UTC)

I see your point - I corrected the wording. De-natured 'rubbing alcohol' is what this sentence was referring to. 20:28, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

Why 'Rubbing Alcohol' is now thought of as being Isopropyl Alcohol[edit]

Having practiced in a hospital, I have noticed that isopropanol based rubbing alcohol products have largely replaced ethanol rubbing alcohol for quick cleaning of injection sites. Probably because isopropanol rubbing alcohol does not have to be 'denatured', thus does not contain the assortment of 'party-favourites' used to denature ethanol products. These denaturants probably leave a residue on the prep'd skin site or sensitize patient's skin. Because isopropanol based products are the norm in hospital settings, when staff ask for 'rubbing alcohol' - they will expect and mostlikely receive an isopropanol based product, but if one was to look closely, the product label will be printed in a manner that reflects that it is isopropyl alcohol (at least this is my experience in North America). Cheers, Wikipedia_V.I. 20:28, 15 November 2006 (UTC)

I am pretty sure isopropanol is the same thing as isopropyl alcohol. Why the "but" in "Because isopropanol based products are the norm in hospital settings, when staff ask for 'rubbing alcohol' - they will expect and mostlikely receive an isopropanol based product, but if one was to look closely, the product label will be printed in a manner that reflects that it is isopropyl alcohol"???

Because it won't just be generic "rubbing alcohol", it'll specifically be an isopropanol (AKA isopropyl alcohol) one; the generic term would, in other contexts, mean an ethanol-based one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:25, 30 April 2013 (UTC)

Lots of confusion about the term ALCOHOL[edit]

I can see a lot of "work" has been done to this webpage in the last while.

Under B.P. and U.S.P. standards, "RUBBING ALCOHOL" contains ethanol (not isopropanol).

BP and USP standards for "isopropyl rubbing alcohol" cotains isopropanol.

In the older definitions of pharmaceutical practice, rubbing alcohol was defined as an ethanol product. In the last 30-40 years, isopropyl rubbing alcohol was defined as the isopropanol product.

I attempted to clarify this issue in previous editions of this article but I see someone has their own opinions. To my chemistry trained friends, the definition of alcohol used is along the pharmacy practice lines (not pure and applied chemistry lines).

In pharmacy circles, "alcohol" when used by itself is meant to be referring to ethanol, not the chemical group of alcohols (ie. butanol, methanol usw). This may be why some individuals have re-written the article to try to correct this when infact it is not an error.

I hope at some point to try and re-write it to correct the misunderstanding. Cheers, Wikipedia_V.I. 04:43, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

I have attempted to clarify the definitions of "rubbing alcohol". Please note, in popular usage amoung pharmacies in north america and probably in other areas, "rubbing alcohol" is now thought of as either ethanol or more commonly isopropyl alcohol products. Many manufacturers still attempt to reserve the term "rubbing alcohol" for ethanol products. They may even add the BP or USP standards to the label to further clarify what kind of alcohol is used. If the product is made from Isopropyl alcohol, then the labelling generally shows isopropyl rubbing alcohol on the label. If anyone has an opinion of how to further clarify the matter please contribute. Cheers! Wikipedia_V.I. 20:07, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Editing Required[edit]

i thought some of the "Other Applications" did not meet wikipedia standards, such as "Although it does not work perfectly, it is effective for removing sharpie marker from human skin."

i also re-worded a few so that they didnt sound so awkward

Dfritter4 07:28, 19 February 2007 (UTC)

"Cautions" contradictory, not clear[edit]

I came to this page hoping to learn whether rubbing alcohol is appropriate and safe to use for sterilizing a thermometer. While I do now judge that it is safe, I found on the page more than one apparent contradiction about its safety, the most glaring seen in the following text comparisons:

-- "It is also widely used for cleansing the surgeon's hands ..." (From the "Uses" section of the page.) -- "Some cautions go so far as to say protective gloves should be worn while using it." (From both the "Cautions" section and the "Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol" section.)

If contact through the skin is unsafe past a particular exposure level, shouldn't that be specified? I would have liked to have seen more detail about why some cautions recommend using gloves. Is it just a legal phrase to protect the branding company and manufacturer against liability?

Additionally, under "Cautions", the specific phrasing of the text "Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is poisonous and can cause permanent disabling illness or death if consumed" does not adequately specify whether it is poisonous: a) only when consumed or inhaled, or b) in all interactions, even through overexposure through the skin. Is it more practical to read, "Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is, when consumed or inhaled, poisonous and can cause permanent disabling illness or death." Or is overabsorption through the skin also a risk for poisoning? Wikipedia's own link to "poisonous" in the above page text confirms poisoning is not just through ingestion: "... while other poisons are generally defined as substances which are absorbed through epithelial linings such as the skin or gut."

Another observation: the page seems a bit unclear in places whether it's referring to isopropyl or non-isopropyl alcohols, or both.

Lastly, it's not clear why the "Abuse" section contains the text, "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." Is this referring to a danger of fire due to the risk that it may not be noticed in regular light before growing out of control? If so, it is under the wrong section and would be more appropriate under "Cautions". If not, then it is a simple description of an attribute of the substance that would be appropriate for the "Physical Properties" section.

Tpanger 07:45, 21 April 2007 (UTC)

Is the addition of the instructions for making a rudimentary explosive device an act of vandalism. I certainly don't think that this is a 'caution' since the act it is describing is rather unlikely to be done 'by accident'. Equally, if every page involving a chemical was to contain such "cautions", wikipedia would rapidly become a list of what not to do with chemicals i.e. not very useful. [[user:jimjamjak]] 15:15, 7 November 2007 (UTC)

Please explain formula[edit]

The second paragraph says: (Ethyl Alcohol, C2H5OH=46.07). Why is the name Ethyl Alcohol used, and not Ethanol? What does the number 46.07 mean? It should be explained or removed. It's not at all self evident. --HelgeStenstrom 08:15, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Answer: Ethyl alcohol is simply another name for ethanol. 46.07 is the molecular weight of ethanol. It is self evident to anyone with a knowledge of basic high school chemistry.

I've got basic high school chemistry (or A-level as we call it in the UK) and I was not aware of that, mainly because I've forgotten it since I left school. I agree with Helge. BudgieJane (talk) 23:59, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

poison through absorption[edit]

something should be said about the nature of poisoning as a result of absorption through the skin. The page mentions the danger, but also mentions its use for "rubdowns". 17:10, 13 July 2007 (UTC)


I can't follow the opening paragraphs here. My understanding (I now live in the US) is that rubbing alcohol in the US is typically 70% isopropyl alcohol. So why does this article start talking about ethanol? Is ethanol ever used in rubbing alcohol formulations? If not, please remove all suggestions that it is. If it is, then please clarify when it is ethanol and when it is isopropyl alcohol. The references to BP and USP definitions may be irrelevant if the term "alcohol" is being used according to the standard chemistry definition of an alcohol being and alkyl-OH, as in the main alcohol article. Please clarify! Walkerma 06:13, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

  • I agree. Part of the problem is the use of porly defined terms such as "alcohol" without clarification. I am pretty certain that "Rubbing alcohol, 70% isopropyl alcohol" contains some isopropyl alcohol. I personally think that rubbing alcohol *should be* 95% ethanol but I only see that marketed as "denatured ethanol" and primarily in paint store and hardware stores not pharmacies. Inhalation of ethanol vapors is much better for your health than isopropanol vapors. It's great if that is the case outside the US but the article should be clear.--Nick Y. 22:33, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Why is it called rubbing alcohol?[edit]

The article doesn't really explain why it is called rubbing alcohol.-- 08:14, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

Should not be used for Acne[edit]

Using Rubbing Alcohol to treat Acne is not a good idea. The alcohol overdries the skin, making it produce even more oil, so its use is counterproductive. The only time I have heard it used to help treat acne is if you lance a papule/pustule and need to disinfect the lance/needle. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:49, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

The USP definition of 'Rubbing Alcohol'[edit]

  I looked up 'Rubbing Alcohol' in the US Pharmacopoeia, the 2008 edition.  On page 1319

it described it as BATF formula 23-H: 100 parts ethanol, 8 parts acetone, 1.5 parts methyl isobutyl ketone by volume, diluted to 68.5-71.5% with water, then denatured with 355 mg sucrose octaacetate or 140 mg denatonium benzoate per 100 ml. 2-Propanol is not rubbing alcohol even though we all may find it just as good as the real stuff. I looked at the stuff in stores and didn't find any rubbing alcohol, just isopropyl alcohol, none of it claiming to be USP. RussellBell (talk) 18:12, 8 September 2008 (UTC)


This article needs some serious cleanup. The first intro paragraph was particularly confusing. I tried to make it less confusing but still need some help. Thanks, RockManQ (talk) 02:38, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

I agree. The intro says "In the UK the equivalent skin preparation is surgical spirit which is always an ethyl alcohol-isopropyl alcohol mixture." This is not true: the bottle of surgical spirit I have in the medicine cabinet states that it is a mixture of ethanol and methanol, and there is no mention of isopropanol. BudgieJane (talk) 00:05, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

Technical question[edit]

Can someone please explain how Rubbing Alcohol, or ANYTHING for that matter, can have more than 100% alcohol by volume? "... contains 97.5-100.5% by volume of pure, concentrated ethanol..." Does this not violate conservation of matter and energy? Maybe the remainder causes the solution to shrink, and they measure the alcohol's volume before mixing it?Josheisenberg (talk) 22:58, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

This is not particularly relevant to this article, however.... The nature of measuring anything always involves uncertainty. It is not that there is actually more than 100%. Any good measurement that is meant for expert consumption always has error added at the end. Say that the method used to determine the %alcohol is accurate within + or - 0.5% (95% confidence interval). This makes it possible to get a result of 100.5 +/- 0.5%. For that matter even 100.6+/- 0.5% given that the error is not an absolute maximum error. So if your sample is truly 100% you should get a distribution of results over multiple measurements that approaches an average of 100% but half the results will be more than 100%. If you were to round your 100.5% based on physical intuition then you would be arbitrarily biasing your results. The range of likely compositions that might be the true answer will be shifted down to a lower percentage. In the case here they are saying that the results of their testing may vary between these results. Most likely it is a significantly smaller range, however there is no need to reject a lot if it deviates above 100%.--Nick Y. (talk) 19:46, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

However the wording "contains" is not correct, as it can not contain more than 100%. The correct wording must reflect that 100,5 % is a MEASUREMENT value in which case it would be clear to the reader that the usual error margins apply to it as to any measurement value, sunce no measuring EQUIPMENT can be absolute perfect. (talk) 11:43, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

common sense[edit]

"Care should always be taken, and the label should be read carefully.[citation needed]"

/common sense —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:17, 6 August 2009 (UTC)


Should not the 'citation needed' tag be removed from 'Isopropyl alcohol is oxidized by the liver into acetone.[citation needed]'? As a secondary alcohol, isopropyl alcohol is indeed oxidized into a ketone, which is acetone in this case. Nirmos (talk) 04:25, 19 August 2009 (UTC) Why, because you say it is true, it does not need a reference? I don't think that's the way Wikipedia works. That is not exactly "common knowledge". That you "know it to be true" is not good enough. References and citations. .45Colt 02:47, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Probably the reference is already available at the generic Alcohols (chemistry) article, it just needs to be copypasted. (talk) 11:45, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Method of Action[edit]

I noticed the article does not mention it's method of action at all. It says it is an antiseptic, but not the method it uses. My doctor said that it works by dehydration, that is, desiccation--it dries out bacteria thereby killing them. Can anyone find this information? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Darktangent (talkcontribs) 19:18, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

Cellular liquid?[edit]

Under Physical/Chemical properties , it says "Rubbing alcohol is a cellular, volatile, and flammable liquid." Can anyone clarify what this means? I tried Googling cellular liquids, and found a bunch of nutraceutical stuff with no clear definition of what a cellular liquid is. I would recommend that this word be deleted from the article if no one can define it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:29, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

What is it used for, how does it work, etc.[edit]

Apparently this article at some point in the past made some mention of something beyond rubbing alcohols chemical properties and why it is dangerous to drink it, and there was some debate over the exact wording or some such thing. I don't see that as good reason to remove any mention of the aforesaid subjects from the article however. I come here and I find that it is used as "a topical solution" and that it is either denatured ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. I see its specific gravity and boiling point. I see the indications on why it is unwise to drink it. I do not, however, see any explanation of WHAT they use it for. I know "common sense" says that it is to disinfect, but shouldn't the article make at least brief mention of this? How about some sentence outlining HOW it works to disinfect? Why should I choose alcohol over bleach? I hear that disinfects quite well also. "What is it and what does it do?" ought to be important parts of any article. An encyclopedia should not ASSUME that "everyone knows" that rubbing alcohol is used as a disinfectant (and I don't recall seeing anything other than "topical solution", now that I think about it), and it definitely shouldn't assume we all know how alcohol works to kill germs, since that is what I came here hoping to find..45Colt 02:44, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

what is the composition of alcohol? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Thara Bastian Antony (talkcontribs) 12:23, 6 September 2014 (UTC)

What is it used for:

Rubbing alcohol as far as I know is applied in two ways: 1, since concentrated alcohol is a disinfectant (it kills most microorganisms on contact), it can be used to wipe a portion of the skin to remove (that is to kill) any potentially infectious bacteria from it, eg.: like before applying the needle for an injection or taking blood; 2, since alcohol dilutes the blood vessels and causes increased blood flow in the affected area, it is historically used for rubbing to relieve rheumetic pains, to increase blood flow (it hastens the healing of a local inflammation) and immediately after your feet have been soaked wet in the snow or rain to counter the presumably onstepping common cold/flu (this method is similar to topical use of mustard, hot bath for the feet, sauna, or just simply going to bed and sweat, etc).

A third and discouraged use is the "internal" method, aka drinking the alcohol, to "heat up" the body, instead of the local increase of blood flow as when rubbing it in, this causes an overall effect which must be well known to all who concumed once more than one "shots". Obviously the internal use aka consumption of alcohol (ethyl-alcohol) is discouraged for many reasons, one of which is that this is undiscernible (by the state authorities) from the recreational drug use/abuse of alcohol and since medical materials usually are exempt from the extra tax applied to alcohol (and tobacco) products, drinking the rubbing alcohol would cause an economical problem for the state by avoiding this tax. Hence all the efforts to make it unpotable, by adding denaturants to ethyl-alcohol, or by using isopropyl-alcohol instead of it. (talk) 12:12, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Rubbing alcohol vs surgical spirit[edit]

I just deleted part of a sentence which claimed:

"In Ireland and the UK, the equivalent skin preparation is surgical spirit, which is always an ethyl alcohol-isopropyl alcohol mixture."

There is at least one brand ("Care") of Surgical Spirit in the UK which actually consists of 95% (v/v) methylated spirit, and also includes castor oil, methyl salicylate, and diethyl phthalate. Considering that methylated spirit is ethanol and methanol, surgical spirit is not always "ethyl alcohol-isopropyl alcohol mixture". — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cog77 (talkcontribs) 18:27, 9 September 2014 (UTC)

other cultures/countries[edit]

In Austro-Hungaria since the middle of the 19 century numerous products were marketed as rubbing-alcohol, by the latin name Spiritus con Menthae. These contained ethyl-alcohol with menthol-oil and salt water (to dilute the solution to the desired alcohol-concentration). You can find more about it in the Hungarian "Sósborszesz" ( article. (talk) 12:20, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Equivalents in other countries - a merge would be more helpful to international readers[edit]

As an Australian I had never heard of "rubbing alcohol" other than on labels on bottles in Bugs Bunny cartoons and the like. Hardware merchants and chemists here have no idea what you're talking about.

Coming across it as an ingredient in wood dye, I needed to know precisely what alternative I could use. It turns out, reading between the lines of this article and others, that "Rubbing alcohol" is a purely US term for common methylated spirits. This article is therefore unhelpful to international readers, so I've put in a "See also" section to guide others as confused as I am. As far as I can see, "Rubbing Alcohol" is no different functionally from Methylated Spirits which is just ethanol with poisonous additives, with only those additives (minor ingredients) varying. Please correct me if I am wrong. Why then shouldn't this article be merged with either Ethanol or Methylated Spirits? Please consider a merge Jamesmcardle(talk) 23:50, 8 August 2016 (UTC)