Blame It on the Alcohol: Why 70% Alcohol Is a Better Disinfectant Than 95% Alcohol

why 70% alcohol is better disinfectant than 95% alcohol

Keeping areas clean and disinfected is vital to stopping the spread of harmful germs. According to the Virginia Department of Health, microorganisms are everywhere in the environment. Surrounding surfaces are a breeding ground for bacteria, fungus, and viruses. Moreover, a germ-filled atmosphere causes infections.

Thankfully, disinfecting helps to reduce the spread of harmful organisms between people. It's challenging to decide which disinfectant is the most potent. Especially, when choosing isopropyl disinfectants. The different concentration percentages are a bit confusing also.

If you can't figure it out, don't worry. This guide will give you a better understanding. Is low concentration alcohol more effective against germs? Keep reading to find out.


What is Isopropyl Disinfectant?

Isopropyl alcohol, also known as isopropanol, is generally used as a disinfectant. Places like hospitals, pharmaceutics, and medical device manufacturing companies benefit most from it. There are different types of isopropyl disinfectants. Purity grades, concentration, and the solution in isopropyl determine each one's effectiveness.

Isopropyl was the first commercial synthetic alcohol and was produced in 1920. The reaction of propylene and sulfuric acid followed by hydrolysis creates synthesized isopropyl.


Why is 70% Isopropyl Better for Disinfection?

High concentration isopropyl assumingly works better for killing germs. However, that's not the case. Isopropyl alcohol solutions with 60 to 90% concentration fight germs faster. It kills fungus, bacteria, and viruses. Alcohol solutions with less than 50% have a lower potency. Yet, those with higher concentrations don't have stronger virucidal, bactericidal, or fungicidal properties.

The water within isopropyl disinfectant helps to stop the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. It acts as a catalyst and alters the proteins of vegetative cell membranes. IPA solutions with 70% concentration completely penetrate the cell wall. Plus, it permeates the entire cell, coagulates the proteins, and causes the organism to die. More water content minimizes evaporation. Because of that, it increases surface contact time and boosts the effectiveness.

On the other hand, IPA alcohol with over 91% concentration coagulates proteins immediately. It produces a protective layer that shields other proteins from more coagulation. Although high concentration isopropyl kills bacteria, it requires longer contact time.

For instance, a 50% IPA concentration kills staphylococcus aureus in under 10 seconds. But a 90% solution with a contact time of more than two hours is not effective. It's a smart idea to disinfect with a ready to use disinfectant to ensure proper disinfection.



Does Isopropyl Kill Fungus and Bacterial Spores?

Some bacteria turn into spore cells. This transformation causes reduced metabolic activity and higher resistance against alcohol-based disinfectants. It also creates tougher immunity.

The spores lie dormant for a short period. Then once conditions are back to normal, the microbes return to a vegetative state. After reactivating they continue to grow.

With that said, disinfection is not the same as sterilization. Disinfectants don't have sporicidal abilities.


Isopropyl vs Rubbing Alcohol: What's the Difference? 

Rubbing alcohol is an antiseptic and it only contains between 68 to 72% of isopropyl. The rest of the solution consists of water. The primary difference between rubbing alcohol and isopropyl alcohol is the ingredients. Rubbing alcohol contains denaturants that make it harmful for human consumption.

IPA concentrations with more than 91% have minimal bactericidal effects. So, it doesn't work well for antiseptic use.


How Effective is Vinegar as a Disinfectant?

When you don't have disinfectant spray vinegar is generally considered a good substitute. Not to mention, some people prefer to use natural products to clean their environment. Vinegar consists of acidic acid, which helps to break down dirt and kills certain types of germs. 

However, it's not registered with the environmental protection agency. According to the EPA, vinegar isn't an effective household disinfectant. It also shouldn't be used to replace commercial cleaning products. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest an alternative. Using diluted bleach or alcohol solution with at least 70% concentration is best.


The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?

Cleaning removes dirt, germs, and other impurities from surfaces and objects. Yet, using soap or detergent with water only physically removes germs.  It doesn't kill them. Nonetheless, removing germs reduces their numbers and minimizes the risk of spreading infection. 

Applying a disinfectant on surfaces helps to kill germs by using chemicals. It does not discard dirt or remove the germs. But, killing the pathogens after cleaning lowers the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing reduces the bacteria and viruses on surfaces down to a safe level. The safety requirements are set by public health standards. Sanitation works by disinfecting the environment to lower the risk of spreading infection.


Places and Areas That Have the Most Germs

Now that you know more about isopropyl disinfectant, it's important to be aware of polluted surfaces. By understanding where most germs are, you can disinfect in the right areas. The list below will make your home safer and keep your hands clean while in public.

  • Kitchen Sinks
  • Bathroom Faucet Handles
  • Kitchen Countertops
  • Toothbrush Holders
  • Public Bathrooms
  • Gas Pumps
  • Fitness Centers
  • Grocery Stores
  • Hotel Rooms
  • Doctor's Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Restaurants 

Creating a Healthier Environment is Possible

We live amongst organisms that can make us sick, but disinfecting helps to keep everyone safe. Hopefully, this information helps you choose the right isopropyl disinfectant. It only takes a little effort to make the environment a healthier place for us all.

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