Hydrogen Peroxide Vs Rubbing Alcohol – A Comprehensive GuideFaizan Khan
You may not notice, but we are surrounded by bacteria and pathogens. Every day, our bodies are exposed to millions of pathogens which would be extremely harmful if it weren’t for our body’s mechanisms. However, in many cases, they penetrate our bodies to make us extremely ill.
So how can we prevent them from entering our bodies? The answer is the use of disinfectants. Disinfectants are a class of chemicals with bactericidal properties and kill pathogens after coming into contact with them.
Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol are some of the most popular disinfectants used since the 19th century. Both of them are very readily available and easy to use. But both of them have very different mechanisms to kill bacteria.
So the question arises, how do they pile against each other? Is one better than the other? These are some of the questions we will be answering in the subsequent sections, along with how you can incorporate them into your daily life.
So further ado, let’s begin!
What is Rubbing Alcohol and Why is it Compared With Hydrogen Peroxide?
Before, when people were not aware of the benefits of regularly cleaning their hands, infections were much more prevalent. As your skin holds millions of bacteria and germs, a small scar or scrape is enough for them to enter your body and cause adverse illnesses.
Therefore, doctors recommend cleaning your wounds with certain disinfectants to stop the entry of bacteria and pathogens into your body. The most popular of them were hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol.
The rubbing alcohol is primarily composed of isopropanol (C3H8O) which is a subclass of organic alcohols. Alcohols are some of the best solvents of organic matter, and so is their function. In addition, they are proficient in killing many bacteria and viruses that lie over your skin.
Similarly, hydrogen peroxide too can eliminate countless germs by reacting them with oxygen. So what makes one better than the other? Sadly, it is a bit more complicated than a single-lined answer.
In this article, we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of both compounds over each other and left the judgment for you. So without further ado, let’s begin!
Similarities Between Hydrogen Peroxide and Rubbing Alcohol
Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol both have been considered amazing disinfectants and cleaning agents since the 1800s. Even though their mechanism of killing bacteria is quite different from each other, the outcome remains the same: giving you an immaculate and pathogen-free surface!
When rubbing alcohol is applied over a wound, it starts killing bacteria by dissolving the lipids of the bacteria cell membrane, which denatures the bacteria. Rubbing alcohols are particularly effective in killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, they become rather useless when treating bacterial spores.
On the other hand, hydrogen peroxide is composed of water bonded to additional oxygen. This oxygen is responsible for a myriad of cleaning and oxidizing functions. For example, when applied over a wound, hydrogen peroxide gives the same result as rubbing alcohol by killing all the bacteria over the skin.
Moreover, hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are natural compounds found in your body in trace amounts. Therefore, their use is much safer when compared to other synthetic disinfectants like bleach and chlorine.
Considering their ease of use, both hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are readily available in pharmacies and do not require a prescription to be purchased. As they are pretty cheap and commonly found, it makes hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol much easier!
In addition to being excellent disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohols can be used for various household procedures like cleaning and bleaching. We will cover how you can use hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohols in the subsequent sections.
Hydrogen Peroxide Vs Rubbing Alcohol for Cleaning Wounds(Antiseptic)
The significant difference between hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol is the ingredients rather than the function. Both of the antiseptics have proved to be very effective in killing and neutralizing bacteria and various germs. However, even though their outcome is the same, the mechanism of their action is a bit different.
The primary difference between the two is the agent of killing. On one side, rubbing alcohols have the killing action of alcohol due to the presence of isopropanol. On the other side, hydrogen peroxide depends on its reactive oxygen during its bactericidal action!
Alcohols primarily kill the bacteria by dissolving the lipids present in their cell membrane. At the same time, the hydrogen peroxide action is more so based on neutralizing the pathogens by oxidizing their cell wall.
Moreover, as the hydrogen peroxide mechanism is based on the oxidation of the liberated oxygen, it requires more time to disinfect your wound than the rubbing alcohol. However, rubbing alcohol is associated with the burning sensation after applying because of chemicals like ethanol which reacts with air.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Cleaning Wounds – How to Use
So now that we know the pros and cons of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol let’s see how you can clean your wounds using hydrogen peroxide.
The procedure is quite simple. However, you should follow a system nonetheless. Cleaning your wound using hydrogen peroxide goes about like:
- Take a cotton swab and gently dip it in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
- Take the swab and methodologically slide it across the site of the wound
- Be careful about not over drenching hydrogen peroxide on the wound
- About 10-15 seconds later, you will start to notice bubbling at the site of the wound. That’s hydrogen peroxide action!
- Time the wound, and wash it off with clean water after about 15 minutes
That should give you an idea of cleaning your wound by using a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide. However, be mindful about the last step. It is essential to not let hydrogen peroxide sit over your skin for a long period as it may lead to skin irritation.
Rubbing Alcohol for Cleaning Wounds – How to Use
The procedure to clean a wound using rubbing alcohol is very similar to the one using hydrogen peroxide. However, you should take some precautions while using alcohol too.
The general outline to clean a wound using rubbing alcohol goes like this:
- Take a cotton swab and dip some alcohol on it
- Be careful to close the lid of the alcohol bottle as it is quite volatile
- Take the cotton swab and slide it across your skin once
- You will instantly feel a burning sensation on the site of the wound, that’s the characteristic burn of alcohol
- Resist the temptation to cover the wound with the other hand, as it will render the disinfectant useless
- After about 1 minute or so, the pain will go away leaving you a clean wound!
It is important to note alcohol is highly inflammable. So store the alcohol bottles away from fire and stay away from fires while using the alcohol swab.
Which One is Better for Cleaning Wounds?
Both hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol have their perks and side effects when used for cleaning wounds. However, for people with sensitive skin rubbing alcohol might be a better option. But it comes with the cost of harsh pain soon after it’s applied.
Although hydrogen peroxide can give you quicker results than rubbing alcohol, it can also start to react with your skin which may cause some irritation. However, people who enjoy the bubbling action of hydrogen peroxide and prefer a deeper clean can opt for it. Provided that they don’t have any underlying skin conditions.
Recent studies have shown that the best choice for cleaning wounds is neither hydrogen peroxide nor rubbing alcohol. It is the good old H2O! Water has excellent cleaning properties and it avoids the irritations some people face by the use of hydrogen peroxide or the pain from rubbing alcohol.
Essential Precautions You Must Take
Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol both provide an excellent tool to wash away bacteria and germs from your wound. However, they may cause some irritation to the skin.
The times have changed since the 1800s when people did not have access to soaps and washing your hands was not a norm. Nowadays, many doctors and clinicians recommend using just water and soap to clean your wounds.
As these compounds eliminate the pathogen by altering their cell structure, your skin cells could face the same fate. Therefore, restrict the use of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol for dirty cuts and scrapes. Moreover, avoid them if you have sensitive skin.
Hydrogen Peroxide Vs Rubbing Alcohol for Disinfecting Surfaces
The key difference between hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol is pretty much the same. Both of these compounds are used to disinfect, however, rubbing alcohols provide a quicker clean than hydrogen peroxide. On the other hand, if you have the time and are looking for a thorough clean, hydrogen peroxide is the way to go!
In addition, hydrogen peroxide is more prone to discoloration of the surface than rubbing alcohol. Therefore, always check before you use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect or clean any surface.
With that in mind, let’s see how you can use both of these products in your daily life!
Hydrogen Peroxide for Disinfecting Surface – How to Use
Now that we have a general idea for both alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, let’s see how you can use it to disinfect surfaces.
The procedure for cleaning your kitchen counters and various other surfaces with hydrogen peroxide is pretty simple! The procedure mentioned below uses 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is the ideal hydrogen peroxide concentration to use at homes.
- Before starting the procedure, wear a pair of gloves to make sure your hands are clean and unaffected from hydrogen peroxide
- Scrub the surface with soap and clean water before applying hydrogen peroxide to make sure it’s clean
- Take a cloth and wipe the surface off of all the water and soap
- Using a spray bottle or clean cloth, apply hydrogen peroxide over the surface
- Allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes at least
- The best part about hydrogen peroxide is you don’t need to wash it off!
And that’s all there is to it. However, be mindful of the surface you are using hydrogen peroxide on as the agent has bleaching abilities. Before applying hydrogen peroxide all over the surface, test with a few drops to see whether it shows any signs of smudging.
Rubbing Alcohol for Disinfecting Surface – How to Use
Using alcohol to clean your surfaces is pretty similar to hydrogen peroxide. However, you should know that alcohol is much more volatile and you have to go about the procedure rather quickly.
The rubbing alcohol we have used in the mentioned procedure is 70% isopropanol solution. The domestically available rubbing alcohol lies in the same range, and be careful when choosing one.
- Just like with hydrogen peroxide, clean your surface with soap and water before applying the solution
- With a clean cloth, rub the alcohol solution over the surface
- You will see alcohol evaporating at a much faster rate than hydrogen peroxide
- In about 30-40 seconds almost all of the applied alcohol would have evaporated
- Wash the surface off with water to make sure it doesn’t leave any stains!
With only these few simple steps you too can have a clean and odorless counter!
Which One is Better for Disinfecting Surface?
When it comes to disinfecting surfaces, both products have similar effects. However, when it comes to thorough cleaning, hydrogen peroxide gives a better option.
As hydrogen peroxide is partly water, it has excellent solvent abilities and can dissolve many products without altering their action. Rubbing alcohol on the other hand is better when used alone, without the addition of additional cleaning agents because it evaporates quickly.
Hence for cleaning tough tile stains, hydrogen peroxide emerges as a better cleaner. It can combine with baking soda and soap to give your tiles a thorough clean with a brand new look!
On the other hand, rubbing alcohol can be a better option if you are short on time. Studies have shown hydrogen peroxide gives the best results after 10 minutes. Hence if time is of the essence, rubbing alcohol would be a better pick!
Essential Precautions You Must Take
While hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohols both provide an excellent clean and strips the surface of all bacteria and germs, they have their cons.
Before applying any of them on a surface, make sure to check for any discolorations they might be causing. Hydrogen peroxide is known for its great bleaching properties, so there is a risk for it to smudge any synthetic dyes you may have on your surface.
Moreover, use gloves while cleaning the surface and avoid contacting your skin with any of these chemicals.
Hydrogen Peroxide Vs Rubbing Alcohol Other Uses
The key difference between hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol is the fundamental tool of cleaning. If we look objectively, the reactive oxygen of hydrogen peroxide has much wider applications than the isopropanol of hydrogen peroxide.
The uses of isopropanol are restricted to cleaning, disinfecting, and sometimes removing odor. However, the oxygen from hydrogen peroxide makes it much more versatile than rubbing alcohol. Not only can it do the same tasks as the rubbing alcohol but in addition, it can bleach and oxidize. It is extensively used, especially in the commercial industries where its oxidizing properties are widely utilized.
So let’s go over how you can go about using both of these in your daily life.
Other Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide – How to Use
Hydrogen peroxide can be used for a myriad of different procedures. The most highlighted of them are using it for bleaching your hair and for whitening your clothes.
Bleaching your hair using hydrogen peroxide is rather simple. All you have to do is apply hydrogen peroxide over your hair while making sure it doesn’t touch your skin. So we recommend applying vaseline jelly to your scalp before you go about dipping your head in the hydrogen peroxide solution!
Whitening your clothes using hydrogen peroxide is as simple as it gets! Just pour down a cup or so of hydrogen peroxide in the bleaching compartment of your washing machine, throw some white clothes in and see the magic happen! Hydrogen peroxide is particularly useful in removing the yellow tint from old white clothes which can’t be removed by detergents.
Other Uses of Rubbing Alcohol – How to Use
Alcohol is used widely to disinfect various household and surgical tools. You can also use it as a deodorant too!
Many hospitals sterilize their surgical tools using hydrogen peroxide and rightly so because the procedure is quite simple. Just leave the surgical tools in the alcohol solution for a few hours while it cleans all the nooks and crannies of the tools. The same procedure is followed while cleaning household tools like nail-cutters, make-up tools. The great part about rubbing alcohol is that it doesn’t smudge the dyes of the tools.
Another innovative way you can use hydrogen peroxide is by applying it directly over your armpits to remove odor. The chemicals present in the rubbing alcohol react with the chemicals causing the smell and change their composition!
Which Compound Comes Out on Top?
While rubbing alcohol is usable in a lot of different things, it doesn’t even come close to the versatility of hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide because of its loose oxygen is an amazing household as well as an industrial raw material. Where the use of rubbing alcohol is restricted to medicinal or cleansing action, hydrogen peroxide is used from bleaching your hairs to even mining ores!
Although both products are really cheap and commonly available, when it comes to cost vs use ratio, hydrogen peroxide provides you with a more worthwhile option.
Essential Precautions You Must Take
If you consider the plethora of uses from a single bottle of hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, it is very tempting to pick one up and start scrubbing. However, you should take the necessary precautions before doing so!
Both of these compounds are known irritators of the skin, so make sure to wear gloves while using them. If somehow it touches your skin, do not let it sit for more than 20 minutes, and wash it right away.
It goes without saying but, keep them away from your eyes and mouth. Moreover, keep hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol away from children as they might misjudge them for water and ingest them.
Can Hydrogen Peroxide and Rubbing Alcohol Kill the Novel Coronavirus?
While rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide both have numerous uses, the question that comes to mind is, if they are relevant with modern times? COVID-19 took the world by storm in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of families suffered the adverse effects of this virus, with hundreds of thousands losing their lives. It was due to a lack of treatment for the COVID-19 virus.
So how do rubbing alcohols and hydrogen peroxide spar against the COVID-19 virus? Recent studies have shown that rubbing alcohol having isopropanol concentrations of 70% higher can eliminate the new corona everyday causes of the COVID-19.
Moreover, encouraging studies and experiments have emerged which highlights hydrogen peroxide as n adjuvant therapy for COVID-19. This means people can use hydrogen peroxide in low concentrations as nasal sprays, and as a disinfectant for protection against the COVID-19 virus.
What Concentration of Both Compounds is Readily Available for General Use?
Now that we have gone over in what ways you can use hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol, the important question is what concentration is ideal for the mentioned tasks?
The most commonly available concentration of hydrogen peroxide is a 3% solution. This means in a solution of 100 ml, only 3 ml is pure hydrogen peroxide while the rest is water. This is an important demarcation to make while choosing the hydrogen peroxide.
On the other hand, the most commonly available rubbing alcohol has a concentration between 60 to 80 percent isopropanol. The concentration of rubbing alcohol we have chosen during our above procedures is the 70% isopropanol concentration of rubbing alcohol. You should NOT dilute the rubbing alcohol with water before using it!
General Precautions You Must Take While Handling Both These Compounds
As hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are available in low concentrations, they are fairly safe to use. However, they too can have their side effects if they are misused or used extensively.
Like all things, they too have a protocol to follow before to avoid side effects. Some of the important things to keep in mind while using hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are:
- Avoid ingesting rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide at all costs! Although in low amounts, they contain substances that can make you very sick.
- Keep them away from your eyes
- Store both products away from children, and in a cool, dry place
- As rubbing alcohol is flammable, keep it away from fire!
- Be mindful of the time you apply hydrogen peroxide over your skin, as it may cause irritation after 20 minutes or so
- Check the expiration date of both products before you use them. After expiring they lose their efficacy to kill pathogens
With these few key points in mind, you too can incorporate hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol in your first aid!
The Bottom Line
Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are some of the best disinfecting tools we have, especially for use on human skin. Both of them have their own pros and cons. Hydrogen peroxide is great for someone looking for a thorough clean while rubbing alcohol gives a quicker and faster clean.
However, when it comes to versatility, hydrogen peroxide is the better pick. As it has the additional property of oxidizing other than bleaching and disinfecting, it does so much more than alcohol.
Therefore, it is not only advantageous but essential for people to have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in their homes. So grab your pair of hydrogen peroxide bottles today! Every day