What is rubbing alcohol?

And how to use it

Q: What is rubbing alcohol in Australia?

A: Rubbing alcohol is a solution made from 70-95% isopropyl alcohol and water (sometimes other chemicals). It is also known in the UK as surgical spirit and in th US as an ethanol-based liquid. It is commonly used in households and medical facilities as a disinfectant to soothe and warm the skin and also as a cleaning solution. Isopropyl rubbing alcohol is different from ethyl alcohol and is most commonly used as a solvent or cleaner.

Warning: rubbing alcohol should not be ingested. If someone does consume rubbing alcohol please seek immediate medical attention. Store it out of reach of children as it is highly flammable and toxic. 

What is the difference between rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol?

Technically speaking rubbing alcohol is made of isopropyl alcohol to a concentration of around 70%. Isopropyl alcohol generally refers to concentrations higher than 90% which is why it is more commonly used in industrial and commercial situations. Denatured alcohol, known in Australia as methylated spirits is ethanol alcohol that has been denatured and has hundreds of additives added. Its uses include fuel for alcohol burners and camping stoves and as a solvent.

What is it used for?

There are many uses for rubbing alcohol, see some of the most common listed below.

Treating wounds

Rubbing alcohol is most commonly used to treat wounds by killing germs and cleaning the wound area.

All-purpose cleaner

Its antiseptic properties make it a great cleaner for germy surfaces like bathrooms and kitchens. Plus it will dry quicker than most other cleaners.

Nail polish removal

Simply wet an old rag with rubbing alcohol to remove nail polish.

Glass cleaner

Rubbing alcohol is perfect for cleaning all glass surfaces, from large windows to even your reading glasses. 

Where to buy?

You can purchase rubbing alcohol from most major supermarkets and hardware stores. ColesBunningsWoolworths Chemist WarehousePriceline

Substitutes for rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be harsh on your skin or if you’ve simply run out here are a couple of simple substitutes.

White vinegar

Also used as a household cleaner, vinegar’s core ingredient is acetic acid which has similar chemical properties to those found in rubbing alcohol. 

Witch Hazel extract

A natural alternative, witch hazel extract is derived from four flowering plants. It has numerous antibacterial properties and helps reduce sunburn and swelling. 

Hand sanitiser

With similar quick-drying and antibacterial properties hand sanitisers are a great alternative to rubbing alcohol. Plus, they’ll leave your skin feeling soft and supple.

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