Rubbing alcohol is only used as a topical antiseptic. That’s probably because of its flammability characteristics. They create flame if an open flame, spark, or heat is nearby. But why does it happen? Is rubbing alcohol flammable?
YES! Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, with a flammability range of 2.3% to 12.7% in air. Protective clothing (safety gloves and goggles) should always be worn before utilizing this alcohol.
Because of its extreme flammability and associated health hazards, it’s critical to handle rubbing alcohol safely in any situation. Let’s look at why it’s combustible and some other features you should be aware of.
What is Rubbing Alcohol?
Rubbing alcohol is a highly effective disinfectant that is made from either isopropyl alcohol or an ethanol-based liquid. It’s a surgical spirit in which at least 70% of isopropyl alcohol products are most commonly found.
Because of the presence of high alcohol or ethanol substances, rubbing alcohol is defined as a natural bacteria killer.
It’s obtainable in a variety of strengths. But the most common are 70%, 90%, or 99% as well. In the home, rubbing alcohol can even be identified commonly in cleaning products such as Dettol.
This is prevalently used as an antiseptic in the cosmetics industry, such as aftershave moisturizers and hand lotions.
Is Rubbing Alcohol Flammable?
Rubbing alcohols are all flammable, volatile, and rapidly ignite. Vapors may combine with air to generate explosive mixes that travel to an ignition source then flashback. Thus the use of water spray to suppress fires may be ineffective.
What is Rubbing Alcohol’s Flammable Range?
The flammable range is very narrow, ranging from 2.3% to 12.7%. However, the lowest explosive threshold is easily achieved in a spill.
If the collapse occurs outside, and the liquid and the objects it contacts are both below 53°F, there’s no imminent danger of explosion since not enough vapors are released to reach 2.3% in air.
Dangerous possibilities emerge when it comes into contact with liquid substances, especially if the temperature is above 53°F. When lit, a fire can reach 1000°F. This is nearly seven times the temperature over which human skin begins to burn!
Why is it Essential to Eliminate all Potential Sources of Ignition from Rubbing Alcohol?
It’s definitely essential to maintain a distance between all common ignition sources with rubbing alcohol.
Because the ignition sources capable of elevating the temperature of even a tiny portion of the vapor to 750°F can readily attain its comparatively low ignition temperature of 750°F.
This means that simply touching a hot piece of metal (750°F or greater) can ignite the vapors. It’s critical to eliminate any potential ignition sources, not just in the immediate vicinity but in any region where the fumes might travel.
Also Read: What Is The Flashpoint Of Essential Oils?
Is Rubbing Alcohol Itself a Hazardous Substance?
Rubbing alcohol is a low-to-moderately hazardous substance. It has a TLVTWA (threshold limit value-time weighted average) of 400 parts per million in the air.
A STEL (short-term exposure limit) of 500 parts per million in the air, and an IDLH (immediately harmful to life and health) of 12,000 parts per million in the air.
If we explain more clearly, rubbing alcohol itself is a dangerous fire hazard, only because it contains 70% isopropyl alcohol which also causes dizziness, headache, loss of coordination, unconsciousness, confusion, and even death.
Can Rubbing Alcohol Spontaneously Combust Near the Fire?
Rubbing alcohol is an immensely flammable substance that can spontaneously combust near the fire because of the presence of isopropyl alcohol.
Vapors may generate explosive combinations with air as they travel to an ignition source and flashback, making water spray an ineffective firefighting tool. Alcohol dehydrogenases break down the rest of the substance into acetone.
[Isopropyl Alcohol has an ignition temperature of 750°F. Its flammable range is 2.3 percent to 12.7 percent in the air.]
What Other Risk Does Rubbing Alcohol Pose?
Poisoning is another risk of using rubbing alcohol. When the liver is unable to quantify the number of IPA in the body, IPA poisoning ensues. Isopropyl alcohol is safe for your body in modest amounts.
Here, your kidney eliminates 20% – 50% of the IPA in your body. Alcohol dehydrogenases break down the rest of the substance into acetone. This acetone is expelled from your body via the lungs or kidneys.
Things to Consider Before Using Rubbing Alcohol
Keeping rubbing alcohol on hand during the germ-infested winter months is a good idea. Using alcohol around the house, however, necessitates particular caution due to its unique chemical qualities.
Before you use rubbing alcohol, think about these core things:
1. Never use rubbing alcohol near a fire or a cloud of smoke
Because of its high alcohol level, rubbing alcohol is extremely flammable. Therefore it’s best to avoid using it near any open fires in your home.
2. Don’t use rubbing alcohol in a room that isn’t well-ventilated
Isopropyl alcohol, too, is a volatile chemical (a fancy way of saying it evaporates quickly), so it emits potentially dangerous vapors. When cleaning with alcohol, open your windows as much as possible to keep the space as well-ventilated as possible.
3. Never combine rubbing alcohol with bleach
Bleach and alcohol are some of those chemical combos that should be avoided at all costs. When rubbing alcohol is mixed with bleach, it produces chloroform, a poisonous chemical that releases toxic and corrosive vapors.
Inhaling chloroform can harm the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys, as well as irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes, and produce nausea and dizziness, according to the CDC.
4. Avoid using rubbing alcohol on wounds or skin issues
The antibacterial characteristics of rubbing alcohol allow doctors to disinfect medical equipment, and you can use it to treat a tiny cut or remove a splinter.
However, applying too much isopropyl alcohol or covering too much skin might cause serious injury. Applying rubbing alcohol to skin infections or other major injuries can slow healing and irritate the skin. So, avoid putting it on sunburned, dry, or irritated skin.
5. Prevent using to clean specific surfaces
While rubbing alcohol is a super-strong disinfectant that can kill E.coli germs and the flu virus on counters, toilets, and even your laptop or cell phone, there are some surfaces you should avoid sanitizing with it.
Certain Fabric Types
Isopropyl alcohol can be an excellent stain treatment on certain materials, removing all traces of tough stains such as ink, grease, grass, or sap. While your carpet will appreciate the isopropyl alcohol treatment, bear in mind that not all materials are compatible with alcohol. Avoid delicate or synthetic materials such as acetate, rayon, wool, and silk.
Because rubbing alcohol contains ethanol, it acts as a solvent, liquefying varnishes and finishes and causing significant damage to your furniture and other surfaces in your home. Avoid using rubbing alcohol on surfaces that have been painted, repainted, lacquered, shellacked, or varnished, including treated wood.
6. Avoid ingesting rubbing alcohol
Some first-aid staples, like hydrogen peroxide, are safe to use internally in small amounts. But not with rubbing alcohol. Toxic if consumed even in small amounts, according to the National Capital Poison Center.
Keep that stuff out of the children’s reach. Also, never put it in a glass or other container because it can be mistaken for water.
7. When Using Rubbing Alcohol, What Else Should You Avoid?
Heat, fire, flames, sparks, and other ignition sources, along with acetaldehyde, chlorine, strong oxidizers, acids, ethylene oxide, and isocyanates, should be advised to stay away from rubbing alcohol. The ideal storage solution is a flammable safety cabinet.
1. What happens if rubbing alcohol lights on fire?
Light the rubbing alcohol on fire while it is still wet. In theory, your face should not burn when the rubbing alcohol evaporates! However, keep a pail of ice water available in case of an emergency; too much rubbing alcohol can amplify the heat and fire your flesh.
2. How is isopropyl alcohol different from rubbing alcohol?
Rubbing alcohol is an antibacterial that includes between 68% and 72% isopropyl alcohol. Rubbing alcohol differs from more pure versions of isopropyl alcohol in that it comprises denaturants, which render the solutions unsuitable for human consumption.
3. Is it okay to pour rubbing alcohol down the drain?
While pouring Small quantities of rubbing alcohol down the drain is generally safe, it should be considered hazardous waste. Some counties offer a pickup service, which you can employ to leave your trash outside your home or office. So if you pour rubbing alcohol down the sink, you’re dumping infected IPA down the drain.
4. How can you safely light your hand on fire?
Soak your hand in the alcohol for up to a minute of soak time. Rubbing alcohol is somewhat explosive, but dissolving it with water and bathing your hands in it will keep you safe while the alcohol fumes burn out. Make sure your palm is submerged for the flame to burn uniformly.
5. Is rubbing alcohol safe on the skin?
However, when applied in high volumes, sufficient rubbing alcohol can permeate the skin and cause injury. In summary, cleaning or rubbing the face or skin with isopropyl alcohol in modest amounts is harmless.
6. What should you do if a rubbing alcohol container isn’t burning but is threatened by flames and fire?
If a container of rubbing alcohol is threatened by flames or heat from a fire, utilize unmanned devices to spray it with cold water. The size of the evacuated area depends on the container volume and rubbing alcohol used.
Given the product’s water solubility, treat an isopropyl alcohol spill like any other flammable liquid. This property of volatile alcohols but not flammable hydrocarbons can be used to put out fires.
I guess you have no doubts now regarding is rubbing alcohol flammable or not? So you’ll be stored in a firmly closed container in a cold, dry, well-ventilated environment.
Due to the chemical’s significant flammability, it must be maintained away from all probable ignition sources. Disposing of this rubbing alcohol is in line with federal, state, and municipal environmental management requirements.