Chemical Properties and Common Uses of Isopropyl Alcohol

Common Industrial Uses and Products that Include Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is a versatile chemical that is widely used in various industries. Some of the common industrial uses and products that include isopropyl alcohol are:

  • Cleaning agents: Isopropyl alcohol is an effective cleaning agent and is used in the production of household cleaners, hand sanitizers, and disinfectants.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Isopropyl alcohol is used in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, including medicines and vaccines.
  • Electronics: Isopropyl alcohol is used in the production of electronic devices, such as computers, smartphones, and televisions, to clean and remove dirt and debris.
  • Automotive: Isopropyl alcohol is used in the automotive industry to clean and degrease engines, fuel injectors, and other parts.

How Isopropyl Alcohol is Produced

Isopropyl alcohol is produced by combining water and propene, a hydrocarbon gas derived from petroleum. The process involves two steps: hydration and distillation.

In the hydration step, propene is mixed with water and a catalyst, which causes the propene to react with water and produce isopropyl alcohol. The resulting mixture is then distilled to remove impurities and obtain pure isopropyl alcohol.

The purity of isopropyl alcohol is measured by its alcohol content, which is expressed as a percentage. The most common grades of isopropyl alcohol are 70%, 91%, and 99%, with the higher percentages being more pure.

When Isopropyl Alcohol was First Discovered and Made Commercially Available

Isopropyl alcohol was first discovered in 1920 by Standard Oil chemist John Clough Thresh. Thresh was attempting to synthesize isoprene, a chemical used in the production of synthetic rubber, when he accidentally produced isopropyl alcohol.

Isopropyl alcohol was first made commercially available in the 1920s and quickly became popular as a cleaning agent and solvent. Today, isopropyl alcohol is widely used in various industries and is an essential chemical for many manufacturing processes.


Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is a colorless and flammable chemical compound with a strong odor. It is commonly used as a disinfectant, solvent, and cleaning agent in various industries such as healthcare, electronics, and automotive.

Technical Properties

One of the most notable technical properties of isopropyl alcohol is its ability to dissolve a wide range of non-polar compounds. It is also highly volatile, meaning it evaporates quickly when exposed to air. This property makes it an effective cleaning agent for surfaces and electronic components. Additionally, isopropyl alcohol has a low surface tension, allowing it to penetrate small crevices and clean hard-to-reach areas.

Chemical Formula and Properties

The chemical formula for isopropyl alcohol is C3H8O, with a molecular weight of 60.1 g/mol. It has a boiling point of 82.6 °C and a density of 0.786 g/cm³ at room temperature. Isopropyl alcohol is miscible in water, meaning it can be mixed with water in any proportion.


  • Disinfectant: Isopropyl alcohol is commonly used as a disinfectant in healthcare settings due to its ability to kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces.
  • Solvent: It is used as a solvent for various compounds such as oils, resins, and waxes in the production of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and perfumes.
  • Cleaning agent: Isopropyl alcohol is an effective cleaning agent for electronic components, lenses, and other surfaces due to its ability to dissolve oils and dirt.
  • Fuel: Isopropyl alcohol is used as a fuel additive in some countries to reduce emissions and improve engine performance.


Isopropyl alcohol is a versatile chemical compound with a wide range of applications in various industries. Its ability to dissolve non-polar compounds and its low surface tension make it an effective cleaning agent and solvent. Additionally, its disinfectant properties make it a valuable tool in healthcare settings. Understanding the technical properties and chemical formula of isopropyl alcohol is essential for its safe and effective use in various