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Almost all of us have a bottle of isopropyl alcohol in the cupboard, but relatively few are aware that this seemingly everlasting solution does in fact expire. The expiration of your isopropyl alcohol will affect how it works, so it’s worth checking the date on your bottle to ensure you’re using it effectively. Read on to learn more about isopropyl alcohol, what it does and what happens when it expires.
What is Isopropyl Alcohol?
Isopropyl alcohol, also commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is a chemical compound that’s widely used in both commercial and domestic settings. The liquid comes in varying degrees of strength, with differing percentages of alcohol used to make up rubbing alcohol that’s specifically designed for different jobs.
Some of the most common uses of this solution include disinfectants, hand sanitisers, antifreeze and cleaning products. There are also many industrial applications of isopropyl alcohol, with numerous industries relying on the solution to carry out all kinds of different processes.
How Long Does Isopropyl Alcohol Last?
It might surprise you to hear that isopropyl alcohol does expire, and therefore it is always labelled with an expiration date. While the solution does last a fairly long time, usually ranging between two and three years, it will eventually deteriorate.
The expiration of isopropyl alcohol can happen faster if the container is frequently opened, and the solution is exposed to the air regularly. But even if the bottle is sealed and has never been used, it will still expire after a long period of time. Check your bottle of isopropyl alcohol and you should see an expiration date listed; it’ll usually be on the neck of the bottle or on the label of the bottle itself.
What Happens When Isopropyl Alcohol Expires?
Isopropyl alcohol expires because the isopropanol in the solution will start to evaporate every time the liquid is exposed to air. Unfortunately, even closing the bottle won’t completely halt this process - though it will slow it down.
After a number of years, the percentage of alcohol in the liquid will decrease, lowering the concentration of the solution. As a result, the solution will become weaker and therefore less reliable when it comes to carrying out the tasks it was designed to do.
If the solution has been purchased as a disinfectant, for example, it might be less likely to kill all germs and bacteria on a surface if it’s being used past its expiration date. Similarly, it may become ineffective as a cleaning solution, and it may not be as good at sanitising hands as it would have been straight after production.
The strength of isopropyl alcohol can decline quite significantly in the months and years that follow its expiration date. We therefore don’t recommend that you continue to use isopropyl alcohol after it has expired. It’s possible that the solution won’t be strong enough to carry out its intended function. This can be particularly risky if the liquid is being relied upon to kill germs or harmful bacteria in homes and businesses.
If isopropyl alcohol is being used in particularly high-risk areas, such as healthcare settings for example, it’s even more important that the liquid is carefully disposed of once it has reached its expiration date.
How to Dispose of Expired Isopropyl Alcohol Safely?
If you’ve found a bottle of expired isopropyl alcohol in your cupboard, your first thought might be to throw it straight in the bin. But the solution is still hazardous, even if it has expired. So it’s important that any solutions containing isopropyl alcohol are disposed of safely, in a way that doesn’t cause any damage to the local environment.
Before disposing of isopropyl alcohol, you’ll need to check that it is in a sealed container and that its contents are carefully labelled. Then, it’s just a case of checking where your nearest household hazardous waste site is.
Once you’ve found a household hazardous waste site that’s conveniently located, you’ll be able to check its opening times and then pay the team a visit to dispose of your expired isopropyl alcohol. Staff at the site will incinerate expired isopropyl alcohol solutions in a safe and controlled way.
If you are disposing of a solution containing a far lower concentration of isopropanol, then it might be possible to simply flush the liquid down the drain. For solutions containing less than 5% isopropanol, this is perfectly fine, but you may want to dilute the solution further to be on the safe side.
Once you’ve poured the solution down the drain, you should flush it through with approximately ten times the amount of water. A word of warning, though, rubbing alcohol must never be poured into storm sewers, and it must not be poured away if the concentration of isopropanol is higher than 5%. For most rubbing alcohol products, this concentration is well over 50%, so a household hazardous waste site would be needed.
How to Use Up Isopropyl Alcohol That’s Nearing its Expiration Date?
If you’ve found a bottle of isopropyl alcohol lurking in a cupboard and you’ve just realised it's nearing its expiration date - don’t worry. There are so many different ways that you can make use of the solution before it needs to be disposed of.
First things first, check the concentration of the solution. If it has a concentration between 70% and 90%, then it’ll make a fantastic cleaning product. Use the rubbing alcohol to disinfect surfaces in your home, paying careful attention to high traffic areas. This is a great product to use on door handles, taps, kitchen surfaces, and it can be used to keep bathrooms germ-free.
If your solution is even higher in concentration (over 90%) then it’ll be great at cleaning electronic devices. Give your TV remote and mobile devices a wipe over and quickly remove any germs that might be lurking there.
Rubbing alcohol products with lower concentrations are still incredibly useful. You could dilute the liquid further and spray it inside your shoes to remove unpleasant odours, for example. You could also use the solution to clean jewellery. It’s great when used in homemade ice packs too.
If your last bottle of isopropyl alcohol has just expired, get in touch with us to order new supplies. We stock a wide range of different isopropyl alcohol products, with a number of concentrations for you to choose from. Contact our team and we’ll be happy to help you.