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What is isopropanol used for?

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Quick Answer

Isopropanol is a clear, flammable liquid used in biology and chemistry labs. It is a toxic alcohol when ingested and is used as a solvent. Isopropanol is commonly known as rubbing alcohol.

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Full Answer

Isopropanol dissolves many substances, including cellulose, oil and certain gums. It does not dissolve in salt solutions, so it is easily separated from water-based solutions by adding salt to the solution. Isopropanol is an effective solvent for cleaning oils from surfaces as it doesn't leave an oily residue and evaporates quickly. Computers and electronic devices are easily cleaned using isopropanol. It is also useful in removing adhesives from labels and tape, and it can be effective in removing paint.

There are several medical uses for isopropanol, as well. Disinfecting pads contain a solution of 60 to 70 percent isopropanol dissolved in water, and it is also used in the treatment of swimmer's ear. In the past, it has been used as an anesthetic, but respiratory and bleeding side effects have caused this practice to be discontinued.

Isopropanol depresses central nervous system function and may be toxic if ingested. Side effects of isopropanol toxicity include nausea, vomiting, headache, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, unconsciousness and even coma.

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