How to make rubbing alcohol

Written by allan robinson
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How to make rubbing alcohol
Use rubbing alcohol to disinfect small cuts and grazes. (LSaloni/iStock/Getty Images)

Rubbing alcohol can refer to a range of alcohol-based solutions that are used mainly for topical application. Some countries legally define it as a particular formula and medical organisations may also provide a specific preparation for rubbing alcohol. In addition, many different products labelled as "rubbing alcohol" are sold commercially. The primary reason for making rubbing alcohol is to have an undrinkable substance that retains many of the properties of alcohol, such as disinfecting wounds.

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  1. 1

    Ensure the formula for rubbing alcohol meets health and safety regulations. The manufacture and sale of ethanol is heavily regulated in the UK and must meet stringent regulations and licensing laws. However, you can probably rest easy if you're just producing a small quantity for home use.

  2. 2

    Examine the basic requirements for rubbing alcohol. Formula 23-H specifies a formula of 100 parts ethanol, 8 parts acetone and 1.5 parts methyl isobutyl ketone. These additives make it very difficult to extract the pure ethanol in a commercially feasible manner.

  3. 3

    Add additional ingredients to make the alcohol undrinkable. A minimum of 355 mg sucrose octaacetate and 1.40 mg denatonium benzoate must also be added to each millilitre of rubbing alcohol to give it an extremely bitter taste. Colour additives and stabilisers may also be added.

  4. 4

    Make rubbing alcohol from isopropyl alcohol (C3H7OH). This type of alcohol is commonly sold in a minimum concentration of 70 per cent and is frequently referred to as "rubbing alcohol" by the general public. This solution can be prepared by diluting seven parts pure isopropyl alcohol with three parts pure water, which is a straightforward job that you can do at home.

  5. 5

    Make rubbing alcohol, also known as surgical spirit, with a mixture of ethanol and methanol with methyl salicylate as an additive to give a strong menthol smell. You can prepare a typical formulation of surgical spirit by mixing 180 parts ethanol, ten parts methanol, five parts castor oil, four parts diethyl phthalate and one part methyl salicylate.

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