To prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) advised that it is imperative to sanitize surfaces that people routinely touch, with the use of alcohol.
Moreover, it was also advised to take extra measures to protect ourselves against the virus by following good personal hygiene habits.
However, when it comes to disinfecting, would you rather use – ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol?
So what’s the difference? In terms of disinfecting properties, Ethyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol are identical. Nevertheless, the difference lies when it is applied on the skin.
Ethyl alcohol, also known as Ethanol, is commonly used in liquor and wine, while Isopropyl alcohol, also known as Isopropanol, is commonly used in rubbing alcohol. Ethyl alcohol and Isopropyl alcohol are usually prepared at a concentration of 70 percent in water to function as disinfectants.
Ethyl alcohol disinfects by denaturing proteins and dissolving lipids, practically impairing several types of lipid-based viral and bacterial cells. Despite Ethanol’s effectiveness to lipid-based viral and bacterial cells, it is ineffective against spores due to the spore’s partitioned structure.
To add, Ethyl alcohol is used in 70 percent concentrations because using higher concentrations will cause the alcohol to evaporate too fast. Using Ethyl alcohol at lower concentrations, on the other hand, will render the solution less effective. Ethyl alcohol is present in some gel sanitizers and hand wipes which can help people disinfect themselves when needed. However, Ethyl alcohol also excessively dries out the skin tissue hence, it should not be applied directly without supplementary ingredients.
On the other hand, Isopropyl alcohol evaporates at an identical rate and denatures viral and bacterial cells by the same method. Contrary to Ethyl alcohol, Isopropyl alcohol does not cause excessive dehydration to skin tissue. This property of Isopropyl alcohol makes it a better alternative for skin disinfection than ethyl alcohol. For this reason, Isopropyl alcohol is frequently used as an antiseptic in hospitals and other medical settings.
In a comparative study on the effectiveness of ethanol-based cleanser vs. isopropyl alcohol pads in decreasing bacterial infection of stethoscope diaphragms, it was found that both ethanol-based cleanser and isopropyl pads significantly reduced the bacterial growth rate, but neither of the two was found to be statistically superior over the other .
We can say that, for disinfecting surfaces, both ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are almost equally effective. However, ethyl alcohol is ideally used purely for surface cleaning applications (non-living surfaces), while Isopropyl alcohol is suited for both surface-cleaning applications (non-living surfaces) and anti-septic applications (living tissues).
Whether it be Isopropyl alcohol or Ethyl alcohol, we advise you be an informed buyer and be on the look-out for counterfeit and scam alcohol products. See the links below to learn to spot these products.