Antimicrobial Properties of Isopropyl Alcohol: What You Need to Know 

Antimicrobial Properties of Isopropyl Alcohol: What You Need to Know 

Isopropyl alcohol, abbreviated as IPA, is known for its antimicrobial properties and its effectiveness as an antiseptic solution. However, many people do not know what exactly makes IPA an effective antimicrobial. We will explore the various properties of IPA and why it is one of the most sought-after solvents in the chemical industry.  

What is IPA Effective Against?  

Before delving into the chemical properties of IPA, we need to first establish what kind of microbes the alcohol is effective against. It is able to kill and inhibit a wide range of microorganisms, some of which are listed below: 

  • Vegetative bacteria – These are bacteria that are actively growing and replicating. A common example of this bacteria is mycobacteria, which is known to cause tuberculosis and leprosy in humans.  
  • Fungi – The alcohol is effective against infection-causing fungi such as Aspergillus, a common mold that has the potential to cause lung infections.  
  • Enveloped viruses – IPA is very effective against enveloped viruses, which are viruses that possess a membrane bilayer. One common example of an enveloped virus is the COVID-19 virus, which is why hand sanitizers possessing IPA were extremely popular during the pandemic.  


Unfortunately, isopropyl alcohol does not possess sporicidal properties, meaning it is ineffective at killing bacterial or fungal spores. This means that isopropyl alcohol cannot be used for sterilization purposes. However, IPA does have the potential to inhibit the formation and development of spores.  

Antimicrobial Properties of IPA 

Because of its antimicrobial properties, IPA is very effective for the disinfection of hard surfaces and as an antiseptic for the skin. With an optimal concentration of 60% to 90%, IPA has a higher efficiency in killing bacteria than ethanol, another common alcohol.  

IPA is able to kill microorganisms by causing its proteins to denature and dissolve the cell’s lipids, which significantly damages the cell’s membrane, thereby killing it. Additionally, it is known that the antimicrobial properties of IPA are enhanced in the presence of water, which is why an isopropyl alcohol concentration of 70% is more ideal than a concentration of 99%.  

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