Ethyl alcohol Vs. Isopropyl for Hand Sanitizer

Ethyl alcohol Vs. Isopropyl for Hand Sanitizer

Amid this pandemic, The World Health organization suggested disinfecting doors, knobs, tables, and hands with alcohol to avoid the potential spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

It also advised people to maintain a thorough hand and respiratory hygiene to stay safe from this contagious disease. We can save ourselves from this viral disease by regularly washing our hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer.

The significance of sanitizer has increased massively in the last year. It is studied that in 2019 the value of sanitizers was 2.7 billion dollars. However, due to Covid 19, it is expected that by 2021 it will have 25% more weight. The sharp increase in the demand for sanitizers has opened debates over its materials. Ethyl alcohol vs. Isopropyl for hand sanitizer is in the hot discussion.

Why should You Choose Alcoholic Sanitizers?

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sanitizers must be alcoholic. Sanitizers that do not contain alcohol can damage the body. A good sanitizer contains 60% ethyl alcohol and 70% isopropyl alcohol. The problem with other sanitizers is that they contain hydrogen peroxide or distilled water that can seriously impact health. Similarly, one should be careful using methanol that can harm health—the health institutions like WHO warn people about using methanol sanitizer as it can be toxic. Usually, people talk about choosing ethyl alcohol vs. Isopropyl for hand sanitizer, but the objective study favors both hand sanitizers as they include alcohol in the ingredients.

Ethyl Sanitizer

Ethyl alcohol is a colorless compound that is found in many hand sanitizers. Alcohol in it is a very effective ingredient that kills germs significantly. Every alcoholic hand sanitizer contains 60% of ethyl alcohol. This amount of ethyl proves substantial in making the sanitizer 99% effective against all types of germs. In addition, ethyl has antimicrobial characteristics that make it highly efficient against influenza, typhoid, and coronavirus.

All the major health institutions do not support any hand sanitizer that does not include 60 percent of ethyl alcohol. The prime reason behind this is the inefficiency of non-alcoholic sanitizers. In addition, a small amount of alcohol can be useless in combating the virus or germs. Therefore, a standard is set to make sanitizers very effective.

What to consider when buying a hand sanitizer?

While buying hand sanitizer, keep in mind that it must contain at least 70% of alcohol.


Ethanol is mainly used in 70% of concentrations as at higher concentrations, it evaporates too quickly. At lower concentrations, it is way less effective. 
On the other side, Isopropyl constantly evaporates, meaning that we can use it in higher concentrations. Therefore, it is mainly used as a component of antiseptic products.

Solution types

Studies show that Isopropyl is the more suitable compound for liquid sanitizing solutions, whereas ethanol’s composition renders it a better combination for more viscous hand rubs.
Similarities Between Ethanol and Isopropyl Alcohol
World Health Organization suggests using disinfectants on hard surfaces and sanitizers for hands in this pandemic. Both of the compounds mentioned above are good against bacteria or viruses. But which one serves the best purpose? When it comes to killing bacteria, both are equally good, but there are differences too. 
One integral part of a suitable hand sanitizer formulation is the alcohol that both of these compounds contain. This composition effectively destroys microorganisms like viruses and bacteria.

Ethanol works best in surface cleaning applications. But isopropyl alcohol doubles the antiseptic effect and is widely used in hospitals.

Both are effective at 70% of concentration. You can use these to clean out small tools, for instance, medical equipment, if they are immersed for at least 10 minutes.

Both compounds evaporate quickly and do not leave a residue. They are very effective at cleaning computer components, for example, optic drives. 

Both dissolve lipids and fats making them very effective against lipid wrapping of the viral cell, for example, hepatitis and HIV.

Both are inexpensive and very easy to handle. Be cautious as vapors can catch fire.

Both Are Enemies of Germs

If a tiny amount of alcohol is serving the purpose of killing the germs, why should we stop at 65% or 70% when we can go for 100%? We have to! Because more concentration renders these compounds ineffective making them unable to kill pathogens.

When the alcohol starts to work on bacteria, the first line of attack is on the bacterial cell wall. So the lesser time alcohol stays on their surface, the more they can recover. That isn’t good! On the other hand, viruses don’t form such protective coverings, but high alcohol concentrations don’t let sanitizers stay for more time. Consequently, it evaporates even before entering viral outer walls and adding water slowdowns the evaporation process, giving alcohol more time to stay on your hands, giving more time to react.

The evaporation rate affects our skin too. Ethanol is a more dehydrating compound, and we can feel it evaporating out of our hands quickly. As a result, it makes our skin dry and tight. 

On the other side, although Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly, it doesn’t dry our hands so badly.

What Is Better, Ethanol Or Isopropyl Alcohol?

When it comes to choosing hand sanitizers, two names come to mind, Ethyl alcohol or Isopropyl alcohol. Regarding their disinfectant property, both sanitizers are good and serve the purpose quite well. But few differences are discussed below.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that either of these solutions that contains 65-95% of alcohol can do the job as hand sanitizer. 

Although both of these alcohols have the same structures, their chemical variations make them different enough that you can drink one, and at the same time, the other one is dangerous to ingest.

Again, when it comes to hand sanitizing properties, both work well. They kill germs, bacteria, and viruses by destroying proteins and lipids in these infectious bodies.

Uses of isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is often found in cosmetic products, hand lotions, and other lotions mixed with water. It usually comes as a rubbing alcohol antiseptic.

Ethanol or ethyl alcohol can be an excellent alternative to these products, but IPA is preferable as it is more concentrated. One of the significant uses of ethanol is to use it as an intoxicating agent to make alcoholic beverages such as whiskey, wine, beer, and distilled spirits.
So, it is evident that ethanol is majorly used in industry and not for direct consumption. 


The above discussion ultimately settles the question of choosing ethyl alcohol vs. Isopropyl for hand sanitizer. Washing our hands with water and soap to kill and remove bacteria and viruses is our priority when hanging around a sink. Therefore, selecting a good sanitizer and proper use make sense of having this crucial safety equipment in this Covid Affected time.