I recently purchased a 500ml bottle of 99% isopropyl alcohol (aka isopropanol aka rubbing alcohol) for everyday use at home. The label for the bottle worryingly states:

Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection

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I'm surprised by this particular warning because I've always known of isopropanol being used for such everyday household appliances as cleaning and sterilising wounds, and have never known even the experts to wear or recommend wearing any sort of protective clothing while doing so.

The most I expect to handle the isopropanol is when pouring the solution from the 500ml bottle into smaller dropper bottles, and after that either using the 500ml bottle to wet cleaning cloths, or the dropper bottle pipettes to apply the solution directly to electronics.

Do I need to wear protective clothing for such applications? If not, at what volumes/for what applications would it be necessary to start wearing protective clothing?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well, that's rather opinion based, and as far as my opinion goes, if you won't drink it instead, you should be OK even if you won't use any protective gear. Label needs to warn, otherwise producer could be sued. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Apr 9, 2018 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ You don’t want it in your eyes, that is for absolute sure. It will irritate your skin. Read the MSDS and act accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 10, 2018 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, rubbing alcohol is 10% (maybe up to 20%) isopropanol, not 100%. Diluted isopropanol is less harmful (unless ingested) than pure isopropanol. If you are careful, one can even work with concentrated sulfuric acid without protective clothing (although I would not advise it). $\endgroup$
    – LDC3
    Apr 10, 2018 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @LDC3 You're right that 99% isopropanol technically isn't rubbing alcohol, but it's far higher than 10% - Wikipedia says 70%. Although 99% is still commonly used in the electronics and computing industries as well as for sterilising wounds. $\endgroup$
    – Prometheus
    Apr 10, 2018 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is quite usual with warning and material safety data sheets. A non chemist or a non professional handler can overestimate them. But that is by purpose according to a principle of high caution. A lab coat is anyway always fast removed as compared to pullover or shirts, when it comes to fire hazard. Think about Tabasco sauce. If it would be sold as a chemical it would surely have warnings on the label. Disclaimer: follow the bottle recommendations ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Alchimista
    Apr 10, 2018 at 9:43

1 Answer 1


You'd be surprised at what things you might not think of as "chemicals" can do. One of my co-workers got a spritz of oil in his eye while peeling an orange, and now he is afraid when I tell him that I eat orange rinds because they are rich in vitamin C. The moral of the story: your eyes are so sensitive that at the very least, eye protection is a must with just about anything in the lab, even oils. I second Jon Custer's suggestion of reading the MSDS.


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