If you’re like me, you may hardly use that bottle of isopropyl alcohol in your medicine cabinet. However, every now and then a need arises for alcohol. If you just reached for the old isopropyl alcohol in your medicine cabinet and noticed that it was past the printed expiration date, you may be wondering if it really expires or if it is still safe to use. So, does isopropyl alcohol expire? Let’s explore this question in the next few sections.
Table of Contents
- What Is Isopropyl Alcohol?
- Does Rubbing Alcohol Expire?
- Can You Use Expired Isopropyl Alcohol?
- Using Expired Isopropyl Alcohol
What Is Isopropyl Alcohol?
Isopropyl alcohol is an undiluted and colorless alcohol. It is very strong and can be hazardous if applied to the skin, so it is primarily used in industrial settings.
Rubbing alcohol, which is often referred to as isopropyl alcohol, is made using isopropyl alcohol and water. Diluting the alcohol with water makes it safe for use around the home or on the skin for cleaning wounds. Most rubbing alcohol has a 70% concentration of isopropyl alcohol.
Rubbing alcohol is an effective antiseptic. It helps kill germs and bacteria it cuts, which helps decrease the chances of getting an infection. Some rubbing alcohol also contains methyl salicylate or wintergreen, in addition to the isopropyl alcohol. The addition of these ingredients allows the alcohol to be used to help alleviate muscle tension or aches.
Does Rubbing Alcohol Expire?
So, does rubbing alcohol expire? Yes, there is a printed expiration date on rubbing alcohol, and it is there for a reason.
You may be asking, “how does isopropyl alcohol expire?” As shared above, isopropyl alcohol is the important component of rubbing alcohol that makes it effective at cleaning wounds. However, as the rubbing alcohol sits around and gets exposed to their air, the isopropyl alcohol begins to evaporate.
As it evaporates, the percentage of water in the solution increases. With a decreased alcohol content, the rubbing alcohol will lose its effectiveness at killing bacteria and germs.
When does isopropyl alcohol expire? The exact date will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and may depend on when and where you purchased the alcohol from. However, generally speaking, rubbing alcohol should last between 2 and 3 years.
The same is true of hand sanitizer, which is often made using isopropyl alcohol. As the alcohol expires, the hand sanitizer’s effectiveness at keeping your hands clean will decrease.
Can You Use Expired Isopropyl Alcohol?
While you can technically use isopropyl alcohol, doing so isn’t the best idea. It is unlikely that the alcohol will have a negative reaction with your skin or increase the risk of infection, which can be true with other expired creams and medications, but it also won’t properly do its job.
Remember, you’re likely looking to use rubbing alcohol to kill germs and bacteria on a wound. As mentioned above, the alcohol content in expired isopropyl alcohol is much lower than that of a new bottle. This means that the rubbing alcohol won’t do a thorough job and could leave bacteria on the wound, leaving you susceptible to an infection.
The risk of not thoroughly cleaning your wound and ending up with an infection should be reason enough to avoid using expired isopropyl alcohol if possible. However, if you have no alternatives or time to grab a new bottle, it could be better than nothing.
What to Do With Expired Rubbing Alcohol?
If you have expired rubbing alcohol, the best solution is to properly dispose of it. Even expired rubbing alcohol with its lower alcohol content is technically considered hazardous household waste, so it should not simply be poured down the drain.
To properly dispose of rubbing alcohol, seal the container and make sure that it is properly labeled, then bring it to a local household hazardous waste disposal facility.
Using Expired Isopropyl Alcohol
While using expired isopropyl alcohol probably isn’t going to cause you any harm, it is also less likely to perform as intended. Rubbing alcohol has expiration dates for a reason. Over time, the alcohol content evaporates. With a lower alcohol content, it won’t be as effective at killing germs and bacteria.
Since you’re probably reaching for that bottle of isopropyl alcohol to treat a wound or clean something, is it really worth the risk of using an expired product that won’t actually do the job you want? Fortunately, isopropyl alcohol is inexpensive and easy to acquire online or at a local pharmacy or grocery store.
Learn more about using expired products with this related post on our blog:
Why does isopropyl alcohol expire?
Isopropyl alcohol is made by combining isopropanol with water. Over time, as the isopropanol is exposed to the air, some of it will evaporate. This leaves water with a lower concentration of alcohol. If the concentration of alcohol is not high enough, it will not be effective at eliminating germs and bacteria.
How long does it take for isopropyl alcohol to expire?
The alcohol expiration date can vary based on the specific product you purchase. Keep in mind that when you buy a new bottle of isopropyl alcohol at one store, it could be slightly older or new than a bottler at another store. For this reason, is it best to go by the manufacturer’s printed expiration date, rather than based on when you purchased the bottle. However, generally speaking, the shelf life of 70% isopropyl alcohol once opened is typically between 2 and 3 years.
Are expired alcohol wipes ok to use?
Using an expired alcohol wipe isn’t going to be dangerous to your skin; however, it may not be as effective as an unexpired alcohol wipe at killing bacteria or germs. This is because the alcohol on the wipes can evaporate, which lowers the percentage of isopropanol on the wipe. Because the isopropanol is what makes the wipes effective at killing bacteria, expired wipes may not perform as expected. For this reason, it is safest to purchase new alcohol wipes if the ones you have are expired. However, if they’re all you have, and you need to sanitize your hands, they’d be better than nothing.