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I just have a safety question. I work in a clerical position at an outpatient office located in a hospital. Since mid-March when the pandemic began to hit our state, we’ve been wiping things down in our work area, but regular cleaning products are in short supply, so each morning until recently, I'd used a bottle of 70% isopropyl alcohol to wipe the desk, keyboard, phone, and I also sprayed my fabric chair with it. Not thinking, I’d also used the small alcohol pads on occasion to wipe off small areas of my clothing or the bottom of my shoes, and have used it to wipe off my car seat, steering wheel and floor mat a handful of times, too. Once I mistakenly washed a load of laundry that contained a sealed alcohol pad hidden in a pocket; the package did not seem to leak into the load as when I discovered it and opened the package, the outside packaging did not smell of alcohol but the intact inside smelled strongly as is typical. At this point, do I need to discard clothes (which have been washed multiple times already), my desk chair (which I've wiped down instead with soap and water in recent weeks) and car seats/floor mats (again, I've wiped these with soap and water)? Would any clothing which I'd slightly wiped with an alcohol pad (small area) affect my laundry machines or loads of clothing that were washed after that load? Thanks so much for any thoughts!

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    $\begingroup$ First, this is not the forum for medical advice. Second, why would you be concerned about ordinary "rubbing" alcohol? $\endgroup$ – DrMoishe Pippik Jul 13 '20 at 0:36
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    $\begingroup$ Isopropyl alcohol is volatile. It would quickly evaporate from any clothing to which you've applied it. By the time it goes in the washer, the alcohol should have long ago dissipated. $\endgroup$ – theorist Jul 13 '20 at 1:11
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    $\begingroup$ @DrMoishe Pippik It doesn't sound as if they want medical advice, just handling/disposal advice. The OP probably read up on the stuff, and all the dire warnings about spillage handling such as recommendations to evacuate everyone in an 800m radius of the spill in the standard MSDS scared them. While rubbing alcohol isn't really an issue in small amounts, municipalities also really don't want it in the sewage works, which is why in many countries factory workers' overalls have to be laundered on site in case of contamination. $\endgroup$ – Gwyn Jul 13 '20 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ I would try to avoid in general mixing of organic compounds with chlorine bleach. In small amounts, no immediate issue, but possible long term exposure to chloro-organics is likely not healthy. $\endgroup$ – AJKOER Jul 13 '20 at 1:50
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    $\begingroup$ As noted isopropyl alcohol evaporates very quickly. It is also completely miscible with water so washing clothes would effectively remove it completely from the wet clothes making the clothes safe to put in the dryer. // The only thing that would make me very nervous would be using a spray bottle of the solution around any sort of ignition source (cigarette, space heater etc.) since isopropyl alcohol is flammable. $\endgroup$ – MaxW Jul 13 '20 at 9:09
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Always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet of any substance if you are unsure about handling.

In the case of isopropyl alcohol and the 70% aqueous solution, unless you can still smell it on the clothing or other fabric it should be fine. It is not dangerous on contact with skin although it tends to dry out your skin with frequent use (e.g. in hand sanitizers). With larger spills, you would have flammability worries and of course fish and other aquatic life don't like it and neither does the bio-processes at the sewage works, but a swab or a few drops from a spray bottle is not going to do much harm.

You should be more worried about using it inside your car before driving than about small spills on clothes. The stuff will evaporate reasonably fast, so if you air out the vehicle well before driving you should be fine, however if you use it inside a closed up vehicle (or other confined space) the vapour may irritate your eyes and upper respiratory tract and could contribute to drowsiness.

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    $\begingroup$ In the US at least Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) have been replaced with Safety Data Sheets (SDS). $\endgroup$ – MaxW Jul 13 '20 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ I want to point out that SDS most of the time are so that a person without chemical or technical knowledge will dismiss the use of many things, perhaps even NaCl. This state, I also promote the use of the maximum precautions. $\endgroup$ – Alchimista Jul 13 '20 at 9:24

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