The Dangers of Isopropyl Alcohol

Hazards of Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA)

As we’ve discussed in a previous post, there are many advantages of using isopropyl alcohol in the manufacturing process because of its low cost, but what we didn’t cover is some of the risks and dangers of isopropyl alcohol. Today we’ll cover some of those issues so that you can take full advantage of isopropyl alcohol benefits while mitigating the hazards of this potentially dangerous liquid.


Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable and can easily ignite. Vapors may form explosive mixtures with air, traveling to a source of ignition and flash back, and use of water spray to fight fires may be inefficient. Isopropyl alcohol should be kept away from heat, sparks, flames and other sources of ignition, as well as strong oxidizers, acetaldehyde, chlorine, ethylene oxide, acids, and isocyanates. A flammable safety cabinet is the best storage option.

Another danger of using isopropyl alcohol is poisoning. IPA poisoning occurs when the liver is no longer able to manage the amount of IPA in the body. Your body can handle small amounts of isopropyl alcohol. In fact, your kidneys remove approximately 20 to 50 percent of IPA from your body. The rest is broken down into acetone by enzymes known as alcohol dehydrogenases. This acetone is filtered out of your body through the lungs or kidneys.

What Happens if You Ingest Isopropyl Alcohol?

Isopropyl alcohol can enter the body three ways: ingestion, inhalation, and absorption.

The first way is most direct, and easiest to avoid. Since ingesting IPA causes rapid intoxication, people sometimes drink it when conventional alcohol is unavailable, or as a means of suicide. ingesting isopropyl alcohol has an immediate effect on the central nervous system, which controls the involuntary actions of the body, including heartbeat, breathing, and gag reflex. Isopropyl alcohol slows these functions and may shut them down altogether. IPA is so strong that it can induce hypothermia and subsequent cardiac arrest. The blood’s thinning also causes blood sugar levels to fall so sharply that seizures may result.

Limiting access to large amounts of IPA can deter people from misusing the product in this way. IPA should always be kept in a container clearly marked, preferably with a GHS label. It should never be kept anywhere or in anything that might be mistaken for consumption, for example in a water bottle, or near where food is prepared or consumed.

Isopropyl alcohol inhalation occurs anytime you are around an open container, although working with reasonable amounts of IPA is generally safe, it can cause headaches. Inhaling large amounts of isopropyl alcohol can cause nausea, vomiting, irritation of the nose and mucous membranes, throat irritations, and even difficulty with breathing as coughing can occur making it difficult for you to catch your breath.

Isopropyl alcohol IPA safety label
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If breathing is impaired for an extended period of time and there is trouble getting enough oxygen into the bloodstream, you can become dizzy and even lose consciousness and require resuscitation. Always use IPA in a well-ventilated area and utilize proper safety equipment in the event of a spill. If someone experiences breathing problems, the individual should immediately be removed and placed into fresh air. If the person’s breathing is still impeded, call 911 immediately.

Isopropyl alcohol is readily absorbed through the skin, so spilling large amounts of IPA on the skin may cause accidental poisoning. Small amounts of IPA on the skin is generally not dangerous, but repeated skin exposure can cause itching, redness, rash, drying, and cracking. Prolonged skin contact may cause corrosion. Always wash thoroughly with soap and water when contact with IPA occurs, and always use safety equipment when dealing with large amounts of IPA.

What Are the Side-Effects of Isopropyl Alcohol Poisoning?

Some of the effects of IPA poisoning are as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heart rate, or tachycardia
  • Low body temperature
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Unresponsive reflexes
  • Throat pain or burning
  • Seizure
  • Coma

If you experience any of these symptoms after exposure to IPA, or if you see symptoms in another, the first step is to remove yourself or the individual from further exposure and place them in a fresh air environment. If symptoms persist, immediately seek medical attention.

Further treatment depends on the extent of exposure and the type of exposure. When isopropyl alcohol has been ingested, individuals who are conscious and not convulsing should drink one to two glasses of water to dilute the chemical. Do not induce vomiting, as the chemical can be aspirated into the lungs causing further damage. A medical professional may use laxatives and activated charcoal to clear stomach contents.

In the event of inhalation exposure, the individual should be moved into the open air. If fresh air does not improve symptoms, medical help should be called to provide respiratory support, along with oxygen and fluids when high-level inhalation exposure has occurred.

When contact with the skin has occurred, the affected skin should be flooded with water and then gently and thoroughly washed with soap and water. In the event of a large spill in contact with skin, wash and monitor for signs of poisoning, seek medical treatment if symptoms appear.

If the affected individual is wearing contact lenses, they need to be removed. The eyes should then be flushed with water or normal saline solution for 20 to 30 minutes or longer if necessary, lifting the upper and lower lids occasionally.

The more informed users are of the dangers of products, the easier it is to maintain safety. When using IPA in a workplace, make sure all of the employees are trained in the proper use of isopropyl alcohol, have access to safety equipment, and understand the symptoms of poisoning so that they can recognize it in themselves or others.

Production Automation offers not only offer the IPA itself, but also the safety wear and products end users should be implemented when using isopropyl alcohol. Click any of the links below to find relevant products, or contact us at 888-903-0333 or [email protected] if you would like a quote, recommendations, or have questions.

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Mel Meadows

Mel Meadows

Mel Meadows is a product specialist with over 13 years of experience. She’s a central source of expertise for thousands of industrial and critical-class products featured on the Production Automation web store. By working directly with manufacturers, Mel deciphers technical documentation and outlines product use in real-world environments. View her profile to learn more about proper techniques, protocol, and product usage in both industrial and cleanroom facilities.

11 thoughts on “The Dangers of Isopropyl Alcohol”

  1. Hi Anonymous,

    As a proactive approach, one should always wear gloves when handling IPA. This will prevent skin irritation.

    We’re not physicians and are not comfortable making a recommendation for a treatment in the case that you’ve been exposed to isopropyl alcohol. We suggest consulting a Dr.

    What we can say is that everyone’s sensitivity to the chemical is different. Do you have eczema? See (2) below.

    For some, even repeated exposure only causes mild irritation. If you’ve only been mildly exposed, and are having an unusually difficult time, it’s possible that you are having an allergic reaction.

    See below:



  2. I use to use rubbing alcohol on my phone and my computer keys. Now I can only find IPA70 percent. Does it work the same??

  3. Hi Sally, thanks for asking.

    Here is an excerpt below from our post on the differences between 70% and 91%+ IPA.

    In summary, rubbing alcohol is just an IPA solution with between 68%-72% alcohol concentration. A key distinction would be that it almost always has some type of denaturation which makes it undrinkable.

    I hope that helps answer your question.

    Read more below….

    Is Isopropyl Alcohol the Same as Rubbing Alcohol?

    Rubbing alcohol is an antiseptic, which U.S. Pharmacopeia standards defines as containing not less than 68% and not more than 72% of isopropyl alcohol. The remaining volume consists of water, with or without suitable stabilizers, perfume oils, and color additives certified by the FDA for use in drugs. The difference between rubbing alcohol and more pure forms of isopropyl alcohol is that rubbing alcohol contains denaturants which make the solution unpalatable for human consumption. Technically, all grades of rubbing alcohol containing 68% -72% isopropyl alcohol fall under the “rubbing alcohol” namesake for household use. Isopropyl alcohol concentrations >91% volume fail to provide bactericidal efficiency and are less effective for antiseptic use, thus its distinction as “rubbing alcohol” is not warranted and may cause confusion.

  4. I am facing lot of mosquitoes problem in my house and had being doing some micro research on this. I had purchased Mosquito repellent oil viz. Citronella oil, Lemon Grass oil, Lavender oil and mixed 15-20 drops of either one of these in 20ml of IPA Iso-Propyl Alcohol 99.9% [(CH3)2-CH-OH] CAS: 67-63-0 as these oil got dissolved in this base in a refill bottle and put it in electric vapouriser. With this technique all the mosquitoes and related bugs had vanished. Sir/Madam my doubt is whether this method of vapourising this IPA is correct ? does its vapours(it is in small qty) harm ? I get the aroma of these oil and not the IPA solution. Is it safe ? if not any alternate base i can use instead of IPA ?

  5. Hi Manivannnan,

    We do not recommend vaporizing IPA in any capacity. Vaporization presents immediate and long-term risk for both toxicity and combustion. We are not aware of any application in which IPA is used as a pesticide. Pest control is not our area of expertise, we suggest you contact a dedicated specialist. They should be able to provide a suggestion for an alternative solution.

  6. I had a german cockroach infestation problem and used 70% rubbing alchalcohol to rid this problem over a 1yr period of time. And havent had any problems medically….

  7. I use a bottle of 91% alcohol to disinfect my hands because I’m in and out of my truck all the Time with my job. Now if I read correctly it doesn’t even kill a significant about of bacteria??and can be absorbed they the skin???? ‍♂️ So what do I use now?

  8. Hi Sally, I’ve been spraying rubbing alcohol around my house for months as a way to kill bed bugs. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve started spraying it on my body cause I feel like their crawling on me. What are the long term effects of inhaling and spraying rubbing alcohol on my body. There are times where I’m in a small area with very little ventilation. What effects can this have on small animals. I’ve started using the green rubbing alcohol because I’ve read that it kills bed bugs better than the clear.

  9. Hi Theresa,

    We’re sorry to hear about your troubles with critters. There are a couple things we’d like to mention which might give a better understanding of the problem and possible solutions.

    1. The color of IPA doesn’t necessarily represent its alcohol concentration. IPA with added color is generally a signal of added denaturants, which render the solution undrinkable. Some brands choose to use color denaturants with added fragrant, some do not. The only way to know what “type” alcohol you’re purchasing is by reading the label.
    2. Bedbugs do not live on your skin, so it’s unlikely that spraying rubbing alcohol on your body will have any meaningful effect. Because your linens will likely absorb the IPA immediately, it also unlikely that spraying your bed and sheets will have the intended effect.
    3. IPA will not kill eggs. The bedbug eggs will still hatch and likely lay more eggs, thus continuing the cycle.
    3B. “They [bed bugs] don’t like staying on the human body the way ticks and fleas do because they don’t like our body heat. They bite and then go hide somewhere else. If you have them in your home, a professional exterminator is the only way to get rid of them.” – Jerry Allen, Ph.D. Biological Chemistry
    4. Specific studies (see below) have been done on the use of IPA against bedbugs, unfortunately, the amount of IPA required for a full kill is based on them being nearly saturated in a petri dish. Bed bugs are generally soldiers a systemic army, living in places often unreachable by surface level solvents.
    4B. Studies conclude: “Although there was some mortality seen, this do-it-yourself method of bed bug treatment is not very effective. Treatment against adults and eggs had lower mortality rates, and nymph treatments, which showed the most potential, also had variable results. This shows that alcohol treatments are not foolproof and will not eradicate the problem entirely. In addition to its ineffectiveness, there is also little practicality in this method. The results showed that the heavy rates usually had higher mortality, but these high volumes lead to heavy saturation of the testing petri dish. When these heavy volumes were converted to real world application rates, it was found that they were too high to have a safe and practical use in a building. Dousing furniture at these rates could pose a potential fire hazard. Furthermore, directly handling such large volumes of alcohol at high concentrations pose health risks in the form of alcohol poisoning through skin absorption (Fergusun 2015).”
    5. Please, Theresa, contact a pest professional! You will thank yourself later!


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