You have probably seen more hand sanitizer in the past six months than in all of the time leading up to it. The pandemic has turned it into an essential item, with doctors recommending its constant and repeated use. As a result, more companies than ever before (including ours) have started making sanitizer to keep up with the increased demand. But not all of them are created equal. One of the main differences between types of sanitizer is whether it is made with isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol, IPA) or ethanol (ethyl alcohol). So – which one is better?
IPA is the same type of alcohol that is found in rubbing alcohol. In order to kill viruses, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the CDC recommends having a concentration of at least 70% IPA. The World Health Organization recommends increasing the concentration to 75%. Our sanitizer is made with 75% IPA, which either meets or exceeds all recommended concentration levels to kill viruses and bacteria.
Ethyl alcohol on the other hand is a natural byproduct of plant fermentation. It serves multiple purposes: as an industrial chemical (used as a solvent and in the synthesis of other chemicals), as an additive to automotive gasoline, and as the intoxicating ingredient of alcoholic beverages like beer and distilled spirits. The CDC recommended concentration of ethyl alcohol is 80% or greater.
Here is a breakdown of IPA advantages over Ethanol:
- Ethanol is often denatured (made unfit for consumption) so that it cannot be consumed as a spirit – this is done by adding harsh chemicals (and, companies do not always list the denaturant on their ingredients.)
- Products with ethanol are more likely to fall below the recommended guidelines of the FDA, CDC, and WHO – with most having an ethyl alcohol concentration of only 62.5% vs the recommended 80%.
- Ethanol can have an off-putting smell; a byproduct of ethanol being made from natural sources.
- IPA is softer on your skin – ethanol can cause your skin to dry out and crack if it is not combined with a sufficient amount of moisturizer.
- IPA does not leave any traces of oils after it evaporates. One reason this matters is that oils can degrade some disposable gloves and compromise their protective function.
- The process of making IPA is quite different from ethanol, and much more uniform from one manufacturer to the next. The result is that each grade of IPA is the same no matter where you get it from – ethanol is not. This is why the FDA has a list of 103 companies and growing whose ethanol hand sanitizer is not safe – because the manufacturing process allowed traces of methanol (seriously poisonous) to slip into the final product. This will not happen with IPA.
- IPA is more commonly used in Hospitals. The IPA we use is called USP grade – meaning that it meets or exceeds the requirements of the United States Pharmacopeia (the “USP”).
While the majority of Ethanol based sanitizers are safe, and while most of them are better to use than nothing (even if they only have 62.5% alcohol) our research has led us to the conclusion that IPA was the right choice for Haruhome sanitizers. We hope this was insightful and will help you make a confident choice when making your next hand sanitizer purchase.
by Ben - August 4, 2020
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