Does rubbing alcohol expire? If you’re wanted to clean or disinfect some surface and remembered the isopropyl alcohol you bought last year, it is a good idea to check its shelf life before using it.
In this article, I provide a simple answer to the question and explain why rubbing alcohol expires.
What is Rubbing Alcohol?
Rubbing alcohol, also called isopropyl alcohol, is a type of colorless chemical disinfectant used to clean and disinfect surfaces. Its chemical structure is C3H8O and it is a highly flammable compound known for its strong smell.
What is Rubbing Alcohol Made Of?
Rubbing alcohol is mainly made of isopropanol (an isopropyl alcohol), which makes up 60% of it while the rest is water.
- Rubbing alcohol can be in 70% concentration.
- It can also be 99% concentration.
A higher concentration does not mean it is more effective. Experts agree that 70% rubbing alcohol is more effective for disinfecting surfaces than higher concentration level.
At 70% concentration, it has more water which increases its ability to dissolve and penetrate cells of microorganisms.
Some Uses of Rubbing Alcohol
- Reducing smelly shoes
- Deodorizing the body
- Disinfecting tick bites
- Keeping pierced ears infection-free
- Cleaning hard surfaces that could have bacteria
- Cleaning electronic devices
Does Rubbing Alcohol Expire?
Rubbing alcohol expires after 2-3 years from the date of manufacture because it is a stable chemical. Rubbing alcohol, also called isopropyl alcohol usually has its shelf life labeled on the packaging. After 3 years, it begins to evaporate, especially the water component, leaving it less effective at killing germs.
If it is unopened, isopropyl alcohol expires after about 3 years. It is important to throw it away if it has been on your shelf for longer than that.
Also, packaging and storage conditions play an important role in whether rubbing alcohol lasts for all those years.
Why Does Rubbing Alcohol Expire?
Rubbing alcohol expires because its alcohol component (isopropanol) evaporates quickly when exposed to air leaving behind water. This means that the new solution will be a diluted and less effective version of the rubbing alcohol.
Some alcohol-metabolizing microorganisms may also degrade rubbing alcohol leading to reduced efficacy.
How to tell if rubbing alcohol is expired
First, check the expiry date labelled on the bottle.
Second, to tell whether rubbing alcohol has expired or not, try smelling it to determine whether it has the alcohol smell in it.
If there is no smell, the isopropanol (the active component) has probably evaporated and it is now ineffective.
Can I Use Expired Rubbing Alcohol?
It is not safe to use rubbing alcohol that has passed its expiration date because it will not kill bacteria and other germs. This reduced efficacy means that you could be exposed to those germs lying in dirty surfaces.
This risk is even higher when expired rubbing alcohol is used for medical purposes, such as cleaning the skin before injection.
To prevent expiry, you may need to store it properly.
How to Store Rubbing Alcohol
- Keep rubbing alcohol away from fire because it is flammable.
- Do not leave the cap open for long when using it.
- Store in a cool place to reduce evaporation.
Rubbing alcohol alternatives
- Using soap and water is CDC’s recommended option.
- Use diluted bleach.