Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol, USP / B.P. is a liquid prepared and used primarily for topical application. It is prepared from a special denaturized alcohol solution and contains 68.5-71.5% by volume of pure, concentrated ethanol (ethyl alcohol) [See [ Industrial Alcohol In Washington State] , "Rubbing Alcohol is a cooling and soothing liquid for external application that contains approximately 70 percent denatured ethyl alcohol or isopropanol."] . Individual manufacturers can use their own "formulation standards" in which the ethanol content usually ranges from 70-95% v/v. Fact|date=July 2008

The term "rubbing alcohol" has become a general non-specific term for either isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or ethyl alcohol (ethanol) rubbing-alcohol products. The confusion comes from the greater popularity of isopropyl rubbing alcohol, and as a result, individuals requesting "rubbing alcohol" generally expect and get an isopropyl alcohol product. However, the British Pharmacopoeia and United States Pharmacopeia standards (standards recognized in many countries other than just the UK and USA) define "rubbing alcohol" as a mixture of ethanol and water of fixed proportions. Fact|date=July 2008


In the United States, "rubbing alcohol, USP" and all preparations coming under the classification of Rubbing Alcohols must be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the US Treasury Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, using Formula 23-H (8 parts by volume of acetone, 1.5 parts by volume of methyl isobutyl ketone, and 100 parts by volume of ethyl alcohol). It contains 68.5-71.5% by volume of absolute ethyl alcohol, the remainder consisting of water and the denaturants, with or without color additives, and perfume oils. Rubbing Alcohol contains in each 100 mL not less than 355 mg of sucrose octaacetate or not less than 1.40 mg of denatonium benzoate. The preparation may be colored with one or more color additives. A suitable stabilizer may also be added. [Expert Committee:(PA2)Pharmaceutical Analysis 2, USP28–NF23 Page 62, Pharmacopeial Forum:Volume No.27(3)Page 2507 [] ]

Physical Properties

Rubbing alcohol is a cellular, volatile, and flammable liquid. It is transparent, though it can be coloured as desired. It has an extremely bitter taste and (in the absence of added odorous substances) a characteristic odor. The specific gravity of Formula 23-H is between 0.8691 and 0.8771 at 15.56°. Fact|date=July 2008

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, USP / B.P. contains 68-99% of isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) by volume, the remainder consisting of water, with or without color additives, suitable stabilizers, and perfume oils.Isopropyl alcohol is oxidized by the liver into acetone. Fact|date=July 2008 Symptoms of isopropyl alcohol poisoning include flushing, headache, dizziness, CNS depression, nausea, vomiting, anesthesia, and coma. Fact|date=July 2008


Rubbing alcohol can be applied as a cooling, soothing application for bedridden patients and athletes. It helps soothe deep down cold bones (e.g., shins) if rubbed into skin during winter seasons. It is also widely used for cleansing surgeons' hands and instruments and for the disinfection of skin prior to penetration by a hypodermic needle. As an antiseptic it is good against vegetative bacteria and fair against fungi and viruses, but is ineffective against spores. It is widely believed that 70% ethanol provides the greatest reduction in bacterial count; however, this is incorrect. Other concentrations may be more effective, but their rate of kill is slowerFact|date=February 2008 Verify source|date=July 2008. In order to reduce the skin bacterial count to 5% of normal, 70% ethanol must be left on the skin for at least 2 minutes. Rubbing alcohol is also a feeble anesthetic and a mild counterirritant. It is not drinkable, although people have been known to attempt ingestion. Fact|date=July 2008

Rubbing alcohol is recognized as a rubefacient because it evaporates quickly and is used to cool and soothe skin. It is, however, more widely used as an antiseptic for sterilizing surfaces or cleaning minor cuts or abrasions. Fact|date=July 2008

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol can also be supplied in a 99% concentration. This product can also be used to harden skin, such as in the case of the feet of novice hikers, or the fingertips of guitarists.Fact|date=November 2007 Care should always be taken, and the label should be read carefully. Fact|date=July 2008

It is unsuited as a fuel in alcohol stoves because of the relatively low vapor pressure of isopropyl alcohol, and because the water content will vaporize to steam creating excessive pressure in the stove. Fact|date=July 2008

In the UK the equivalent skin preparation is surgical spirit which is always based on an ethyl alcohol-methyl alcohol mixture, and which often has the addition of small quantities of iodoform as a topical bactericide. Fact|date=July 2008

A typical modern composition for Surgical Spirit BP is: ethanol, methanol, water, castor oil, methyl salicylate, diethyl phthalate. It has a strong smell of wintergreen due to the presence of the methyl salicylate. Fact|date=July 2008


Rubbing alcohol should be used in a well-ventilated area. Some cautions go so far as to say protective gloves should be worn while using it. Poisoning can occur from ingestion, inhalation, or consumption of rubbing alcohol.cite journal |author=DeBellonia RR, Marcus S, Shih R, Kashani J, Rella JG, Ruck B |title=Curanderismo: consequences of folk medicine |journal=Pediatr Emerg Care |volume=24 |issue=4 |pages=228–9 |year=2008 |month=April |pmid=18418260 |doi=10.1097/PEC.0b013e31816b7a92 |url=]

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is poisonous and can cause permanent disabling illness or death if consumed.cite journal |author=Trullas JC, Aguilo S, Castro P, Nogue S |title=Life-threatening isopropyl alcohol intoxication: is hemodialysis really necessary? |journal=Vet Hum Toxicol |volume=46 |issue=5 |pages=282–4 |year=2004 |month=October |pmid=15487656 |doi= |url=]

Mixing rubbing alcohol with pool chlorine can result in a haloform reaction, generating lots of heat and boiling off its products as excess gas. If this chemical reaction is done inside a closed plastic container, the gas can build up until it ruptures violently. This can pose a serious risk of injury as the chemicals (such as bleach) and shrapnel from the container are thrown outward by the explosion. Fact|date=July 2008

External links

* [ The difference between denatured alcohol and rubbing alcohol]


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • rubbing alcohol — n. any of various liquid mixtures consisting mainly of either denatured ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol, used to cleanse, cool, or soothe the skin …   English World dictionary

  • rubbing alcohol — rubbing .alcohol n [U] AmE a type of alcohol used for cleaning wounds or skin British Equivalent: surgical spirit …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • rubbing alcohol — rubbing ,alcohol noun uncount a liquid used for cleaning cuts or treating injuries to the skin …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • rubbing alcohol — noun lotion consisting of a poisonous solution of isopropyl alcohol or denatured ethanol alcohol for external use • Hypernyms: ↑lotion, ↑application * * * noun [noncount] US : a liquid that contains alcohol and water and that is used to clean… …   Useful english dictionary

  • rubbing alcohol — N UNCOUNT Rubbing alcohol is a liquid which is used to clean wounds or surgical instruments. [AM] (in BRIT, use surgical spirit) …   English dictionary

  • rubbing alcohol — rub·bing alcohol rəb iŋ . n a cooling and soothing liquid for external application that contains approximately 70 percent denatured ethanol or isopropyl alcohol * * * [USP] a preparation of acetone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and 68.5 to 71.5 per… …   Medical dictionary

  • rubbing alcohol — a poisonous solution of about 70 percent isopropyl or denatured ethyl alcohol, usually containing a perfume oil, used chiefly in massaging. [1925 30] * * * …   Universalium

  • rubbing alcohol — noun N. Amer. denatured alcohol used as an antiseptic or in massage …   English new terms dictionary

  • rubbing alcohol — noun (U) AmE a type of alcohol used for cleaning wounds or skin; surgical spirit BrE …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • rubbing alcohol — rub′bing al cohol n. pha a poisonous solution of about 70 percent isopropyl or denatured ethyl alcohol, used in massaging • Etymology: 1925–30 …   From formal English to slang

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