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Ethanol vs. Isopropanol: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 25, 2023
Ethanol is a two-carbon alcohol (C2H5OH), commonly found in beverages; isopropanol is a three-carbon alcohol (C3H8O), used as a disinfectant.

Key Differences

Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is a primary alcohol with two carbon atoms and a characteristic intoxicating effect, widely used in alcoholic beverages. Isopropanol, or isopropyl alcohol, is a secondary alcohol with three carbon atoms, primarily used as an antiseptic and solvent.
In chemical structure, ethanol has a simple linear chain, whereas isopropanol has a branched structure. This structural difference affects their physical and chemical properties, such as boiling points and reactivity.
Ethanol is produced by fermentation of sugars by yeast, making it a key component in wine, beer, and spirits. Isopropanol is synthesized through chemical processes, typically by hydrating propene.
In terms of usage, ethanol is utilized in the food and beverage industry, as well as a biofuel. Isopropanol is used in cleaning agents, disinfectants, and in the manufacture of certain chemicals.
When it comes to safety, ethanol is safe for consumption in regulated amounts, whereas isopropanol is toxic if ingested and is used for external applications only.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Structure

Two carbon atoms, linear chain
Three carbon atoms, branched structure

Common Use

Alcoholic beverages, biofuel
Disinfectant, solvent

Production Method

Fermentation of sugars
Hydration of propene

Boiling Point

Lower boiling point
Higher boiling point


Consumable in moderation
Toxic and not for ingestion

Ethanol and Isopropanol Definitions


A colorless, volatile liquid used in alcoholic beverages.
Ethanol is the alcohol found in beer and wine.


A common ingredient in antiseptics and disinfectants.
Isopropanol is used in rubbing alcohol for its sterilizing properties.


A byproduct of sugar fermentation.
Yeast produces ethanol during the brewing process.


Produced by the hydration of propene.
Isopropanol is manufactured through a chemical reaction involving propene.


A biofuel alternative to gasoline.
Ethanol is blended with gasoline to make E10 fuel.


A cleaning agent for electronic devices.
Isopropanol effectively cleans electronic screens without leaving residues.


A solvent used in the pharmaceutical industry.
Ethanol is used to dissolve substances in medication.


A secondary alcohol with three carbon atoms.
The chemical structure of isopropanol includes a branched carbon chain.


A disinfectant in lower concentrations.
Ethanol is used in hand sanitizers for its antibacterial properties.


A solvent used in the manufacturing of cosmetics.
Isopropanol dissolves other substances in nail polish removers.


See alcohol.


(organic compound) The aliphatic alcohol 2-propanol; isopropyl alcohol


(organic compound) A simple aliphatic alcohol formally derived from ethane by replacing one hydrogen atom with a hydroxyl group: CH3-CH2-OH.


Alcohol used as antifreeze or a solvent


Specifically, this alcohol as a fuel.


The organic compound C2H5.OH, the common alcohol which is the intoxicating agent in beer, wine, and other fermented and distilled liquors; called also ethyl alcohol. It is used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions, or mixed in gasoline as a fuel for automobiles, and as a rocket fuel (as in the V-2 rocket).


The intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors; used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions and rocket fuel; proposed as a renewable clean-burning additive to gasoline


What is the main industrial use of isopropanol?

As a disinfectant and solvent.

Can ethanol be used as a disinfectant?

Yes, in lower concentrations.

Is isopropanol found in alcoholic beverages?

No, it's not suitable for consumption.

What is the chemical formula of ethanol?


Can ethanol be used in pharmaceuticals?

Yes, as a solvent and preservative.

How is isopropanol produced?

Typically by hydrating propene.

How is ethanol produced?

By fermenting sugars with yeast.

What is ethanol commonly used for?

In alcoholic beverages and as a biofuel.

Is isopropanol safe for consumption?

No, it is toxic if ingested.

What is the chemical formula of isopropanol?


Is ethanol toxic?

It can be in high doses but is safe in moderation.

Is isopropanol used in the cosmetics industry?

Yes, as a solvent in products like nail polish remover.

What is the boiling point of ethanol?

Around 78°C (172°F).

Are there any safety concerns with isopropanol?

Yes, it should not be ingested and should be used in well-ventilated areas.

Is ethanol renewable?

Yes, it can be produced from biomass.

What is a common use of isopropanol in homes?

As rubbing alcohol for first aid.

What are the physical properties of isopropanol?

A colorless, flammable liquid with a strong odor.

Can ethanol be used in food?

Yes, it's found in alcoholic beverages.

What is the boiling point of isopropanol?

About 82.5°C (180.5°F).

Can ethanol be used in hand sanitizers?

Yes, for its antibacterial properties.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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