Why 75% Ethanol Is The Most Effective Disinfectant That You Need Right Now

Ethanol in hand sanitizing gel is widely used not only in health care settings but also in other areas that involve hand hygiene. In a lot of hand sanitizers that you find in store right now, ethanol is one of the active ingredients. Ethanol is considered an effective substance against a large spectrum of microorganisms that can linger on the skin.

Different Types of Cleaning Agents

There are several types of cleaning agents that are effective at disinfecting that is used to remove dirt, including dust, stains, bad smells, and clutter on surfaces. This includes bleach, isopropyl, and methanol. However, ethanol is the only of these that is food grade and safe to use on food-grade surfaces.

A recent recall of hand sanitizer gel from Costco due to the potential presence of methanol. 

Ethanol has a quick drying time and does not leave a residual solvent. It is the safest method of sanitizing in any food or pharma setting.

CDC recommends hand rub products with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol as active ingredients.

How does Ethanol kill Bacteria?

The mechanism of ethanol sterilization is: its fat solubility can destroy the biological membrane composed of biological phospholipid biomolecules, causing the structure and function of the biological membrane. Higher concentrations of ethanol can destroy the "layers" of the membrane structure, thereby destroying the function of the membrane, leading to the death of "membrane" microorganisms.

Is the Concentration the higher the better? 

The effectiveness of alcohol in disinfectants and disinfectants depends on the concentration of ethanol. To achieve the effect of killing 99.99% of bacteria, the ethanol content is usually more than 60%, which is also recommended by the CDC.

Studies have found that ethanol solutions with a concentration higher than 60% have the killing effect; when the concentration reaches 75% to 80%, most bacteria and enveloped viruses can be killed in a few seconds, but it is not effective on bacterial spores. Among them, 75% ethanol is a commonly used concentration, and it is most widely used in hospital systems, scientific research laboratories, and other occasions that require disinfection.

However, the disinfection and sterilization effect of 95% high-concentration ethanol is not as good as dilute ethanol, so 70% to 75% is the best. This is because the high concentration of ethanol will cause the protein on the surface of the bacteria to condense to form a dura mater, which changes its direction to protect the bacteria and prevent further penetration of alcohol. At this point, the cell will become inactive, but will not die. Therefore, 75% of ethanol is a more ideal choice.

So, is ethanol useful for the new coronavirus? The new type of coronavirus belongs to the new type of coronavirus of the genus β. It has a viral envelope and can, therefore, be killed by ethanol.


  1. Artzt, Catherine. “Why 70% Ethanol Is The Most Effective Disinfectant for Any Food or Pharma Facility.” Compliance Naturally, Compliance Naturally, 8 June 2018, www.compliancenaturally.com/blog-page/2018/4/15/why-70-ethanol-is-the-most-effective-disinfectant-for-any-food-or-pharma-facility.
  2. Huynh-Delerme, Céline, et al. “Short Communication: Is Ethanol-Based Hand Sanitizer Involved in Acute Pancreatitis after Excessive Disinfection?-An Evaluation with the Use of PBPK Model.” Journal of Toxicology, Hindawi, 17 Apr. 2012, www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2012/959070/.
  3. “Show Me the Science – When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer in Community Settings.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published