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Alcohol: Difference and Usage

Ethyl vs. Isopropyl alcohol: Difference and Usage

As the pandemic never seems to cease, we need to be more vigilant when going out. Besides face masks, face shields, social distancing, and vaccination, we should also pay more attention to cleaning our surroundings. Even though viruses can survive outside a human host for hours or even days, there are still ways to destroy them with isopropyl alcohol and ethanol.

Many people have heard of the two types of alcohol: ethyl and isopropyl. But what are they, exactly? And why should you care about them? So let’s take a closer look at each type to find out.

Ethyl and Isopropyl: Which one is better?

Ethyl Alcohol, or Ethanol, is an organic chemical compound and alcohol for producing alcoholic beverages. Also known as grain or drinking alcohol. It is volatile or easy to evaporate at an average temperature, flammable and colorless liquid with a slight characteristic odor.

The fermentation of sugars is naturally produced by yeasts or via petrochemical processes such as ethylene hydration. The solution of Ethanol is at 70% and most effective if compared to pure ethanol. This is because ethanol relies on water molecules to obtain its antimicrobial activity.

There are three other types of Ethyl Alcohol: 

  • Methyl
  • Propyl 
  • Butyl 

If you consume this, it can lead to blindness and death, even in small doses.

Also, Alcohol or ethanol is the intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, distilled spirits, and liquor. It is also used for industrial chemicals and additives to automotive gasoline.

Typically, we applied ethanol alcohol as a hand disinfectant. It is safe to use on our bare skin, but if you try to put it on sensitive skin, especially kids, it will damage their skin. So it is also used in medical applications as an antiseptic and disinfectant but a fuel source.

Meanwhile, Isopropyl Alcohol or isopropanol is a colorless, flammable chemical compound with a strong odor. It is a secondary alcohol that we also know as rubbing alcohol.

This kind of alcohol typically contains a 60–70% solution of isopropyl alcohol or ethanol in water. Water is also required to open up membrane pores of bacteria, which serves as a gateway for isopropyl alcohol.

Isopropyl alcohol dissolves a wide range of non-polar compounds and evaporates immediately, indeed leaves nearly zero oil traces compared to ethanol, and is relatively non-toxic. Together with ethanol, n-butanol, and methanol, it belongs to the group of alcohol solvents.


  • It is commonly used in manufacturing a wide variety of industrial and household chemicals. It is a common ingredient in antiseptics, disinfectants, detergents, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting pads. 
  • Isopropyl Alcohol is also used to clean eyeglasses, electrical contacts, audio or videotape heads, DVDs, and other optical disc lenses, removing thermal paste from heatsinks on CPUs and other IC packages.
  • Isopropyl alcohol is used as a water-drying aid for the prevention of otitis externa, or also known as swimmer’s ear.
  • They are widely used as a solvent and as a cleaning fluid, especially for dissolving oils. 


  • Ethanol and Isopropyl are both used as a solvent. Still, unlike ethanol or methanol, isopropyl alcohol is not miscible with salt solutions. It can be separated by adding a salt such as sodium chloride through a salting process, which will cause it to concentrate separately into a distinct layer.
  • Isopropyl alcohol is also effective against viruses, such as 40% – 60% concentrations, but Ethanol is more effective at 70% – 90% concentration and both have a chemical effect in a short period. It can deactivate a virus or bacteria quickly in less than 30 seconds – 1 minute.
  • Also, as mentioned above. Compared to Ethanol, Isopropyl has a strong odor. They are both flammable, colorless, and effective but differ in their compositions and concentrations.
  • In terms of usage, Ethanol is more likely appropriate to use in the production of food such as beverages, unlike Isopropyl that is widely used for industrial and medical purposes.


Anyhow, Ethanol or Isopropyl Alcohol, whatever you use, is totally fine as long as you are protected. Pandemic is still around the corner, and it wouldn’t leave us alone, so we must be prepared and still cautious of what can happen anytime. Be safe, stay protected!