Is Isopropyl Alcohol an effective disinfectant?

That is, the “rubbing alcohol” found in most supermarkets? (The bottle in my medicine cabinet is listed "70% by volume) Thanks, anyone who reads\posts!

Mainly, I believe it’s the disruption of bacterial cell membranes (IPA is a potent solvent). There’s also some dehydration going on. IPA is toxic to humans, but I don’t know about bacteria.

Very effective.

Use topically only, please.

Sure. If you look at the various disinfecting sprays sold on the market today, you’ll see their main active ingredient is isopropyl alchohol.

Good advice, and even more might be added.

Use alcohol only on intact skin, if at all. Wounds should not be treated with alcohol, since is very effective in disturbing living cells, including the cells exposed by cuts, or abrasions. Killing the cells along wound edges will delay healing, and promote scarring.

Use alcohol to disinfect tools, or objects used during first aid, and dry them off before touching the wound with them. Hands disinfected with alcohol would be included, although it would be better to use some other less toxic disinfectant on hands.

For wounds, antibiotic ointments, such as NeoSporin, or Triple Antibiotic Ointment are more conducive to rapid healing. Cover with dry sterile dressings.


“The word aerobics comes from two Greek words: aero, meaning ‘ability to,’ and bics, meaning ‘withstand tremendous boredom.’” ~ Dave Barry ~

OK, that’s weird. I could have sworn that the OP said “WHY is isopropyl alcohol an effective disinfectant?”

Moderator, could you please change the OP so everyone else looks stupid and not me? :smiley:

I am no expert but I want to post this so someone who is more knowledgeable might jump in with The Straight Dope. IIRC ISA is good for bacteria but not effective on viruses. Since I was 18 or so I have tried to take the American Red Cross CPR training every few years and back in the mid-late 80s they used ISA to wipe down the CPR dummies to disinfect them but then they switched to bleach (full strength Clorox no less) because it was more effective against viruses (AIDS was (is) the big concern).

Anyone know the real story on ISA vs. Viruses?

That’s IPA, to most people, and it’s generally acknowledged that bleach is more effective against viruses than IPA. However, IPA is more effective against bacteria, and is effective aginst some viruses.

The wise CPR student uses both (IPA first, then bleach).

Ok! Thanks again, all.

Whatever you do, DO NOT use isopropyl alcohol on your scrotum!

And why were you disinfecting your scrotum?

Wait a minute.

Never mind.


IPA is one of the main cleaning agents used where I work: In a pharmaceutical lab. HIGHLY effective on the formulation/production machinery.

Well, in my lab, we use bleach followed by ethanol. Which really has nothing to do with anything, but there you go.

Yup–it gives new meaning to that phrase,“the fire down below.”:eek: