Why Does Alcohol Evaporate Faster Than Water?

Aviva West/CC-BY-2.0

Alcohols, such as ethanol and methanol, evaporate at a rate similar to other compounds of their type, but water evaporates comparatively slowly because of its strong bonds. Water molecules easily form hydrogen bonds with one another, which creates a tangled network of attraction within the liquid.

Alcohol can also form hydrogen bonds, but the carbon atoms in its molecules are unable to form such strong connections with each other. This lack of cohesion between carbon atoms allows alcohol molecules to move past each other relatively easily, while water’s strong internal attraction creates a resistance to evaporation. This is why water remains liquid from 0 up to 100 degrees Celsius, while most compounds have a much narrower thermal range for their liquid phases.