Bacteria, viruses, fungi – different types of pathogens, all spreading infection and disease among humans. Our immune system is a bio shield against bacterial and viral infections, however, we should also take preventive measures to reduce the spread of viruses.

For decades now, hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol have been widely used as disinfectants against an array of viruses and other pathogens. But how do they actually work? Which is better for disinfection? Let’s find out together.

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So if you:

  • Strive to find the best way to disinfect your home
  • Wonder whether to opt for hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol
  • Want to learn more about both solutions’ disinfecting properties

Then read on, because this post is for you.

Understanding Hydrogen peroxide

3% hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has always been among the commonly used disinfectants and antiseptics worldwide. It is a chemical compound of hydrogen and oxygen seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to harsh chlorine-based bleaches, causing no skin irritations or toxicity.

Hydrogen peroxide is commercially available in many strengths, indicated by the percentage of concentration after its dilution with water, and the various potencies have different purposes.

The 3% solution is used as a multi-purpose cleaner in households., while 10% of hydrogen peroxide is popular as a bleaching agent in the hair industry. The 35% dilution is called “food grade” and it’s used by food producers for a range of purposes – from cheese processing to bleaching wheat flour.

Commercial grades from 70% to 90% H2O2, also known as high-test peroxide, are used by industries for bleaching textiles, manufacturing foam rubber, and producing rocket fuel, for example.

What makes Hydrogen peroxide a powerful disinfectant

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hydrogen peroxide is effective against a wide range of microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses, and spores. But what actually makes the chemical compound a strong bacteria killer?

Hydrogen peroxide produces destructive hydroxyl free radicals, which later attack and destroy bacteria’s essential cell components, such as membrane lipids and DNA. In other words, it destroys the bacteria’s cell wall, causing the microorganism to break apart.

The CDC points out that a 0,5% accelerated H2O2 demonstrates bacterial and virucidal activity in just a single minute.

Dilutions of hydrogen peroxide from 6% to 25%, CDC continues, show promise as chemical sterilants. Premixed, ready-to-use sterilants that contain 7.5% hydrogen peroxide from this category, can be found on the market. Meanwhile, commercially available 3% hydrogen peroxide is considered by The Centers an effective disinfectant when used on inanimate surfaces.

Moreover, studies by The National Center for Biotechnology Information show that hydrogen peroxide in a 3 per cent concentration inactivates a whole army of viruses, including coronavirus strains, within 1 to 30 minutes.

How to disinfect your house with Hydrogen peroxide?

As mentioned, hydrogen peroxide is sold in concentrations of about 3%, which is efficient enough to kill viruses on hard, non-porous surfaces. The solution can be used as-is or diluted to 0.5% concentration.

Let the solution work on the surface for five minutes before wiping.

A word of caution: Always protect your hands from the chemical and wear rubber gloves.

Find out which are the high-touch points in your home how to disinfect them with hydrogen peroxide in our helpful blog post.

Isopropyl alcohol explained

Isopropyl alcohol (CH3CHOHCH3), also known as rubbing alcohol, is a water-soluble chemical compound with well-proven disinfecting qualities. It is a colourless and highly flammable liquid with a strong odour.

Used in the manufacture of a variety of industrial and household chemicals, rubbing alcohol is the main ingredient in most store-bought hand sanitisers, antiseptics, and cleaning products.

Rubbing alcohol in action

Commonly used as an antiseptic solution, isopropyl alcohol is effective at eliminating different types of microbes. Its action mode, also called denaturation, is simple: the rubbing alcohol unfolds and inactivates microbe’s proteins.

The optimal isopropyl bactericidal (i.e.the capacity of killing bacteria) concentration is between 70% and 90% solutions in water. Hence, if diluted below 50% concentration, alcohol’s bactericidal activity drops sharply.

In short, isopropyl alcohol is a harsh disinfectant, effective against many pathogens, as long as the alcohol concentration is 70%. Pure (100%) alcohol is not an option since it evaporates too quickly to be effective.

Disinfecting with Isopropyl alcohol

Spray or wipe surfaces with 70% rubbing alcohol and make sure it remains wet for no less than 30 seconds.

Always wear protective gloves when disinfecting your home with 70% rubbing alcohol.

A 70% alcohol solution could be harsh on your skin and should not be used as a substitute for hand washing or sanitising.

13+ Sanitisation and Disinfection Tips: 13+ Sanitisation and Disinfection Tips

Hydrogen peroxide vs Isopropyl alcohol: What to use for disinfection?

We hate to say it, but it depends.

Isopropyl alcohol is more effective against lipid viruses including hepatitis B and C, HIV, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, whereas hydrogen peroxide – against non-enveloped viruses, like rotavirus, coxsackieviruses, or poliovirus.

What’s worth knowing is that both chemical compounds are considered powerful disinfectants when applied at the right concentration and for the proper period of time.

Alcohol, on the other hand, evaporates quickly and often this a problem when contact time with the surface is important.

However, if you want to disinfect non-porous surfaces, such as- metal, porcelain, glass, and plastic. your go-to choice should be 3% hydrogen peroxide, according to the CDC.

Also, bear in mind that prolonged and repeated use of isopropyl alcohol as a disinfectant can cause discolouration, hardening and cracking of rubber and certain plastics, as stated by the US Center for Biotechnology Information.

Need help disinfecting your house?

Keeping your place safe from harmful bacteria is a hurdle, indeed. Do you struggle to find the best way to protect your family’s health from germs and viruses, too? For your peace of mind, Fantastic Services comes to the rescue, now offering specialised antiviral sanitisation across the UK. With certified non-toxic virucidal solutions, the sanitisation technicians will treat your home from top to bottom.

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Takeaways:

  • 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide is a stable and effective disinfectant against a wide range of viruses, including different strains of coronavirus
  • Isopropyl alcohol kills a number of bacteria and viruses, as long as it has the right percentage of alcohol (from 70% to 90% according to the CDC)
  • Always have protective gloves on while disinfecting your home

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We hope that you found this article helpful. Stay safe and alert. Share the information with your friends, family and co-workers so that everyone knows how to protect themselves.

Image source: Shutterstock / Rachanee Angsupasirikul

  • Last update: June 11, 2020

Posted in Cleaning Guides, Life Under Lockdown

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