Isopropyl Alcohol and Rubbing Alcohol: Similarities and Differences

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the word ‘safety has been taken up a notch. Notably, in this case, protection against a microorganism. People have been advised to do the bare minimum to keep safe; wear a mask, stand six feet away from the next guy, and use hand sanitizers. 

With regards to the latter most, hand sanitizer sales have skyrocketed. People are heeding expert advice and trying to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. However, for the more sceptic consumers, there are a few things left unanswered. 

For example, which type of hand sanitizer should they use? Or specifically, which ingredient is the main component? 

Isopropyl Alcohol Vs Rubbing Alcohol

You might have seen these two names being used interchangeably in text, which is why many people often confuse the two and take them for being the same. While there are quite a few similarities, there are just as many differences between the two.

If they are the same – what makes them the same? And what makes them different?


Disinfectant and Antiseptic

A disinfectant is a product or a chemical that can kill surface microorganisms but not spores. They fall short just behind sterilizing equipment. However, sterilizing processes often require machines and plants – not pocket sanitizers. 

Both Isopropyl Alcohol and Rubbing Alcohol are disinfectants and antiseptics. An antiseptic is a chemical or a product applied to living tissues with the same capacity as a disinfectant. Which makes them ideal for use in hand sanitizers.


Alcohol is a chemical compound with a long chain ending in a hydroxyl (-OH) bond. They’ve commonly been seen as beverages. However, that’s only one kind of alcohol with the rest being unsafe for human consumption. 

Both Isopropyl Alcohol and Rubbing Alcohol are alcohols, and Rubbing alcohol is a type of Isopropyl Alcohol. The chemical nature of which is similar to ethanol or ethyl alcohol (beverages).


Drying Out

You might find two bottles of hand sanitizers with the same quantity and label, but you could feel a difference once you applied them onto your skin. Isopropyl Alcohol and Rubbing Alcohol (under their alcoholic nature) evaporate. 

Rubbing alcohol, however, evaporates and leaves the skin drier than Isopropyl Alcohol.


Common surface micororganisms at hospitals include:

  • Staphylococcus 
  • E.coli
  • Pseudomonas
  • Enterobacter

Rubbing Alcohol or Ethanol can kill these microbes except Staphylococcus and E.coli. At the same time, Isopropyl Alcohol killed all four.

Amount of Water

As aforementioned, Rubbing Alcohol is a type of Isopropyl Alcohol. The difference lies in the brand product’s composition with isopropyl alcohol, primarily in the water content. Rubbing alcohol contains a higher amount of water in the ratio of 70:30.


Isopropyl Alcohol is usually used in hospital settings where a greater efficacy level is required from the product. They’re also a lot more expensive than rubbing alcohol solutions that can be found easily at your local grocery stores.


In conclusion, there are several similarities between isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol. However, since the question’s on your health and well-being (especially in these times), you need to be aware of what makes them different and how it would affect you.

About Andre Matthew

Internet Entrepreneur | Digital Marketing Expert | Marketing Consultant | Stock Market Enthusiast|| Founder & CEO at Andre Matthew, based in California. andrematthew209533{@}

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