Have you ever come across isopropyl alcohol IPA before? Perhaps it’s because you probably know it by another term – “rubbing alcohol.” This colorless liquid has become a staple in many households due to how versatile it is. However due to COVID-19 it has become near impossible to find, this article will help answer where to buy isopropyl alcohol.
What Is Isopropyl Alcohol?
So, whether you’re having a hard time trying to get those ugly streaks off your windows or want an effective sterilizer to disinfect your household surfaces (because you can’t find any effective hand sanitizer). Isopropyl alcohol isopropanol does it all.
It is, however, more popular in the medical world and is typically used to disinfect medicinal objects and contact areas in hospitals and clinics. It is a highly-effective hand sanitizer popular among medical professionals, patients, and individuals to curb the spread of diseases like COVID-19.
Recommended Use of Isopropyl Alcohol IPA
When it comes to the effectiveness of isopropyl alcohol for hand and surface hygiene, there’s a science to it. But first, it’s important to understand some of the terms the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses in its recommendations for the use of isopropyl. The two most common ones you’ll come across are disinfection and sterilization.
The two terms are often used interchangeably but mean completely different things. Nonetheless, they both refer to decontamination processes. Disinfection eliminates or reduces harmful microorganisms from objects and other contact areas. Sterilization kills all microorganisms that may be present on objects and surfaces.
The process annihilates the microbial spores. This is necessary for decontaminating food, surgical instruments, and medicine. Disinfection, on the other hand, is mostly used for decontaminating the air and objects.
The techniques used for sterilization include radiation, sterile filtration, heating, and steam sterilization. The methods for disinfection include using alcohol like isopropanol or ethanol, oxidizing agents, aldehydes, and phenolics.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recommendations
With that said, the recommendations on the use of isopropyl alcohol are as follows:
- Not recommend for the sterilization of surgical instruments or other medical equipment since it lacks “sporadical action.”
- Recommended for disinfection of stethoscopes, scissors, thermometers, and equipment like manual ventilation bags and ventilators.
- For isopropyl alcohol to inactivate viruses such as the 2019-nCov, or others with similar physical and genetic properties, it needs to have an alcohol concentration of at least 70%.
- Leave it on for at least 20 seconds to kill viruses.
- If hands or contact areas are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water instead. Follow the five steps for proper handwashing every time you do.
How to Use Isopropyl Alcohol
There are various ways in which you can use isopropyl alcohol for disinfecting. Here are some of them.
For Home Use
- Buy 70% isopropyl alcohol from your local grocery store
- Wash your hands with soap and water to avoid contaminating the surface you intend to clean
- Dab the required amount of the alcohol onto a towel. If you’re worried about it spilling on your hands, wear rubber or latex gloves
- Use the towel to wipe down the different contact areas in your home like phones, door handles, countertops, sinks, tap handles or any other solid areas that have high-traffic throughout the day
As a Topical Antiseptic
- Wash your hands thoroughly
- Dry them and wear disposable latex gloves to avoid contaminating the wound with germs, bacteria or viruses that may be present on your hands
- Dab some isopropyl alcohol onto a sterile cotton swab and gently rub it on the wound to disinfect it
For Sterilizing Surgical Instruments
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
- Dry them and wear disposable latex gloves
- Submerge the instrument in a container of isopropyl alcohol and let it soak for 20 seconds
- Take it out of the liquid, place it on a sterile towel and fold-in the ends to dry it
- Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the skin before an injection or making an incision
For Sanitizing Hands
Wash your hands, especially if they are visibly dirty or greasy. If soap and water aren’t readily available, use isopropyl alcohol to disinfect your hands.
- Put enough liquid to cover the entire surface of your hands
- Rub your hands together until they feel dry. This should typically take around 20 seconds
- Don’t wipe or rinse it off before it dries. Doing this reduces its efficacy.
- Lower concentrations of isopropyl alcohol may not be as effective in killing viruses like COVID-19
Isopropyl alcohol toxicity is usually at an all-time high when it’s in its purest form. As a result, it is readily absorbed through the skin.
For this reason, you should always wear gloves to avoid it from coming into direct contact with the skin. The fact that it is alcohol also makes it highly flammable if exposed to an open flame, sparks, or high heat. So use the liquid in a well-ventilated environment.
Isopropyl alcohol products made for home use are generally safer than those manufactured for industrial use since they are less concentrated. So they aren’t harmful when they come into direct contact with the skin. They are still highly-flammable, though.
Ingesting or inhaling isopropyl alcohol vapor may have serious side effects, including isopropyl alcohol poisoning, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and even vomiting. It does not, however, cause metabolic acidosis. This is the result of an elevated anion gap.
While it is safe for children to use, they should only use it under the supervision of an adult. 99% isopropanol, however, isn’t suitable for kids. Lower concentrations would suffice.
Safety Measures in Case of Exposure
Some of the immediate measures you should take if you, your child or someone you’re with gets exposed to isopropyl alcohol include:
- Ingestion – If someone accidentally, or otherwise, swallows the substance, give them two or more glasses of water to drink to dilute it. Do not induce vomiting, as this may cause lung aspiration. Seek medical help immediately.
- Skin-contact with high purity isopropyl alcohol – Remove contaminated clothing and wash the affected area thoroughly.
- Eye contact – If the victim is wearing contact lenses, remove them first. Proceed to flush the eyes with water or a mild saline solution for a minimum of 20 minutes. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Inhalation – Take the affected individual to a well-ventilated area, preferably outside. Allow them to breathe in the fresh air. Seek medical assistance right away if they start to display breathing problems resulting from isopropyl alcohol intoxication.
How Much Isopropyl Alcohol Should You Use for It to Be Effective?
It all comes down to quality, not quantity. Use enough isopropanol to sufficiently wipe down contact areas and coat your hands. In the case of an alcohol-based sanitizer, the alcohol concentration is what ultimately determines its efficacy.
A 70% minimum concentration of isopropyl alcohol is ideal for killing disease-causing microbes. These include germs, bacteria, and viruses.
What Does Isopropyl Alcohol Help With?
It has various applications as a solvent, a cleaning fluid as well as in hand sanitizer to combat the spread of viruses like COVID-19. The most effective sanitizer has to have isopropyl among the list of its ingredients.
Isopropyl Alcohol and Protection Against Viruses and Other Microbes
Keep in mind that disease-causing microorganisms are not visible with the naked eye. A surface might appear clean but, in reality, crawling with billions of bacteria, germs, and viruses. The coronavirus, for instance, can last on objects for anywhere between three and 72 hours, depending on the surface it’s on.
If you come into contact with this surface, you effectively get contaminated as well, making it easy for you to spread it to other contact areas and people.
Isopropyl alcohol is a powerful antiseptic disinfectant. It kills the vast majority of these microbes. It is particularly effective in killing the coronavirus and other viruses that share the same genetic and physical properties. Why is this important?
You have very little control over the number of things you touch throughout the day. You have to touch some buttons to use an elevator. You touch the buttons on the ATMs when you need to withdraw cash. You touch the shopping cart handlebar when you go to the grocery store.
What about when you want to pump gas at the filling station? You guessed it! You have to touch the gas pump.
Using isopropyl alcohol spray to decontaminate areas that may have viruses, germs, or bacteria or, at the very least, your hands, minimize the risk of spreading these microorganisms to other areas. You may end up ingesting them without even realizing it, becoming sick as a result, and spreading the infection to others. This is what stops the cycle of illness.
Isopropyl Alcohol and Protection Against Chemicals and Pesticides
Isopropanol is quite effective in killing disease-causing microorganisms that contribute to the spread of illnesses. It does not, however, remove harmful chemicals such as pesticides or heavy metals. It has the opposite effect.
Since it is a solvent, it enhances the dermal absorption of any chemical residue or pesticides that may deposit on the skin. A 2012 study found that the use of hand sanitizer among farmworkers increased the concentration of pesticides in their body. This was in comparison to those who used soap and water.
Isopropyl alcohol, therefore, doesn’t offer any protection against chemicals and pesticides. If anything, it increases their absorption.
How to Prevent the Coronavirus Disease at Home
The World Health Organization has come up with a few guidelines on what you can do at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. They include:
- Ensure that you wash your hands regularly with soap and water:
- After using the toilet
- Before, during and after you handle and prepare food
- Before you eat
- After you cough or sneeze
- Before and after you care for an ill member of the household
- If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy
- Avoid unnecessary exposure by not sharing the same items used by the ill person. These include things like dishes, utensils, drinks, and towels
- Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing. You can also use a disposable tissue to prevent droplets from spreading and contaminating things
- Frequently monitor your health and that of the other members of your household. Look out for any signs of fever, coughing, breathing difficulties, or any other symptoms synonymous with COVID-19. Get in touch with a healthcare facility immediately if you notice anything out of the norm
- Ensure that you use an isopropanol alcohol-based sanitizer to frequently clean all the contact areas of your home. These include countertops, doorknobs, tap handles, sinks, TV remotes, other electronic consoles, and any high-traffic items
- Keep your home well ventilated
Isopropyl Alcohol Buying Guide
There are generally three different types of alcohol you’ll come across in the market today: isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl alcohol.
Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is well-known for its cooling and disinfecting properties. A chemical process of combining water and propylene produces it. It’s what you’ll find in any top-rated sanitizer.
There are different types of isopropyl alcohol, with the most common being Isopropyl 99% and Isopropyl 70%. Any other isopropanol product with a concentration lower than that won’t be as effective in killing certain viruses like the coronavirus.
It might work for other microbes. But, if you’re looking for something that will specifically work on annihilating COVID-19, then isopropyl alcohol that’s less than 70% concentration won’t work.
Ethyl alcohol is a consumable derived from grains and other plant types that have high sugar content. A complex brewing and distillation process produces the chemical substance. It also produces ethylene glycol for car radiator coolant and antifreeze products.
Methyl is an industrial substance that you’ll commonly find in paint removers and antifreeze. The destructive distillation of wood produces it.
Just because they are all different types of alcohol doesn’t mean that you can drink them. Isopropyl and methyl are highly toxic to humans. Ethyl is consumable but is also toxic in very high concentrations.
Where to Buy Isopropyl Alcohol
You can buy Isopropyl 70% at any drug or grocery store. Simply walk into Walmart or Target, and you’ll find it in the health section of the store. You can also buy it online from AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, Walgreens, or shop around on Google Shopping.
On the other hand, if you want 99% high purity isopropyl, you’ll find it behind the counter at a drug store, but only if you ask the pharmacist for it. You won’t find it on the shelves.
What to Look for When Buying Isopropanol
Here are some quick tips you should use when buying the product to know what to look for and what to avoid:
- To reap the sanitizing properties of isopropyl alcohol you want to get one that has a concentration of 70% or more
- Use the barcode scanner on the bottle to make sure the product isn’t fake
- Check the seal’s integrity
- Isopropyl is highly volatile so ensure that the container has a tight-sealing cap with no signs of leakage
- Avoid any products that have fragrances in the ingredients
- Buy from trusted brands only
- Consider the existing reviews and ratings of the product
Pro tip: If you don’t like the drying effects of the sanitizer, consider getting a product with Aloe Vera in its ingredients. Alternatively, you can make your own Aloe Vera gel and isopropyl alcohol solution by mixing the two ingredients.
What to Do When You Don’t Have Isopropyl Alcohol
Not having alcohol rubbing alcohol is no excuse for not sanitizing your hands, household, and workplace contact areas. If you don’t have isopropanol, good old fashioned soap and water will do. Use them to wash your hands thoroughly using and clean all areas with multipurpose cleaners.
You can also use any of the government recommended disinfectants to keep your household coronavirus-free. Some of these include thymol, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite (Clorox), quaternary ammonium, and sulfuric acid.
Acetone may also qualify as a disinfectant but only in its concentrated form. Isopropanol and acetone both belong to the same family. An oxidative process derives one from the other.
Where to Buy Isopropyl Alcohol and Our Recommendation
Like many essential products, most local stores and pharmacies are sold out of isopropyl alcohol. Luckily, Essential Goods keeps an updated list of isopropyl alcohol and shows you when they’re back in stock on Amazon. You can check them out below and sign up to our site to receive notifications on when products are back in stock.