Difference Between Hydrogen Peroxide and Rubbing Alcohol

Hydrogen Peroxide vs Rubbing Alcohol

Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol are commonly found in household. Both are used as sterilizers, to clean the wounds.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is the simplest form of peroxide, which is denoted as H2O2. It is a clear liquid with the boiling point 150 oC. It is completely miscible with water, however, can be completely separated by distillation because its boiling point is higher than that of water. Hydrogen peroxide is a strong oxidizing and reducing agent. Hydrogen peroxide is a non linear, non planar molecule. It has an open book structure.

Peroxides are produced as a by-product of various chemical reactions or as an intermediate. This type of reactions happens inside our bodies too. Peroxide has toxic effects inside our cells. Therefore, they have to be neutralized as soon as they are produced. Our cells have a special mechanism for that. There is an organelle called peroxisomes in our cells, which contain the catalase enzyme. This enzyme catalyses the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, thus do a detoxification function. Hydrogen peroxide has hazardous properties, like decomposition to oxygen and water with evolution of heat, or decomposes due to contamination or contact with active surfaces, due to the formation of oxygen pressure increases inside the containers and it also can form explosive mixtures. Bleaching action of hydrogen peroxide is due to oxidation and release of oxygen. This oxygen will react with coloring matter, to make it colorless.

H2O2   →    H2O + O

O + Coloring Matter      Colorless Matter

Other than for bleaching, H2O2 is used an oxidant for rocket fuel, for production of epoxides, pharmaceuticals and food products, as an antiseptic etc. Hydrogen peroxide is stored in paraffin wax coated glass, plastic or Teflon bottles.

Rubbing Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is ethanol with other additives, which makes it unfavorable for drink. This is also known as methylated spirits because earlier, the main additive for this was methanol which is about 10%. Other than methanol, other additives like isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and denatonium are also added to make denatured alcohol. Addition of these extra molecules doesn’t affect the chemical nature of the ethanol but makes it highly poisonous. Sometimes denatured alcohol may have a color due to the addition of dyes.

Rubbing alcohol is a type of denatured alcohol. It has 70-95% ethanol and some other additives. Therefore as stated above, it is highly poisonous and not suitable for consumption. It is mainly used as a disinfectant on human skin.  It is also used to clean medical equipment so that they will be free from bacteria and fungi. Other than normal rubbing alcohol, there is another type called isopropyl rubbing alcohol, which consists mainly of isopropyl alcohol. It is mainly used as a solvent or a cleaner.


What is the difference between Hydrogen Peroxide and Rubbing Alcohol?

• Rubbing alcohol has alcohols. Hydrogen peroxide is not an alcohol though it has O-H linkages.

• Hydrogen peroxide has the bleaching action which rubbing alcohol doesn’t have.

• Rubbing alcohol is a mixture of compounds.