Rubbing Alcohol Vs Hydrogen Peroxide: What Germs Do They Kill?

Rubbing Alcohol Vs Hydrogen Peroxide What Germs Do They Kill

The two most popular chemicals for killing germs on surfaces are rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.

When it comes to household cleaners, these two ingredients work wonderfully. However, there are differences between them based on their mechanism of action, concentration and effectiveness.

Let’s compare rubbing alcohol vs hydrogen peroxide and know how to use them for maximum benefits.

Difference Between Rubbing Alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol contains isopropanol (around 60 to 80%) as an active ingredient (1). It is dissolved in water to make the household cleaner and disinfect germs on surfaces. Its effectiveness is high, making it suitable for the following-

  • Killing germs over surfaces
  • Disinfecting different areas from bacteria and viruses
  • Disinfecting hands

When isopropanol is present in 70% concentration it has the ability to kill most of the deadly microbes including coronavirus. It is the reason why most of the hand sanitizers contain rubbing alcohol.

Hydrogen Peroxide

hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another useful chemical that kills microbes; however, it is not an alcohol. Instead, it is an oxide (H2O2) with an extra oxygen atom compared to a water molecule (H2O), which makes it a stronger oxidizer and, thus, a great cleaner (2).

It is available in 3% concentration, dissolved in water, which is strong enough to kill germs such as

  • Bacteria
  • Virus
  • Fungi
  • Spores

While rubbing alcohol is used in hand sanitizers, hydrogen peroxide is not considered gentle for the skin. Therefore, its use is limited to disinfecting the surfaces.

Below is the table comparing rubbing alcohol vs. hydrogen peroxide under different categories-

FeatureRubbing AlcoholHydrogen Peroxide
Chemical FormulaEthanol (C2H5OH) or isopropyl alcohol (C3H8O)H2O2 (Hydrogen Peroxide)
Mechanism of ActionDenatures proteins, disrupts cell membranesReleases oxygen, which oxidizes and kills bacteria
EffectivenessEffective against a wide range of bacteria and virusesEffective against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores
ConcentrationTypically used in concentrations of 60% to 90%Typically used in concentrations of 3%
Contact TimeRapid action, usually within 30 seconds to 1 minuteLonger contact time needed, around 1 to 10 minutes
ResidueLeaves no residueMay leave residue of water after evaporation
FlammabilityHighly flammableNot flammable
IrritationCan be irritating to skin and mucous membranesCan cause irritation, especially at higher concentrations
Disinfection SurfacesCommonly used on surfaces, skin, and medical instrumentsCommonly used on surfaces, wounds, and oral hygiene
StabilityStable under normal conditionsDecomposes over time, especially when exposed to light or heat
AvailabilityWidely availableWidely available

Rubbing Alcohol Vs Hydrogen Peroxide- What’s better?

Both are chemicals equally effective; however, what’s better depends upon what surface you are working on with them. For instance, rubbing alcohol is effective on both skin and surfaces, while hydrogen peroxide is not suitable for skin.

Likewise, it depends on which germ you want to destroy. Rubbing alcohol can kill bacteria and viruses (3), but hydrogen peroxide is effective against fungi and spores (4).

At the same time, rubbing alcohol gives instant results due to less contact time, whereas hydrogen peroxide needs at least 1 to 10 minutes to show its effectiveness.

Rubbing Alcohol Vs Hydrogen Peroxide- What Germs Do They Kill?

Both the chemicals are effective against the following germs-

  • Acinetobacter baumannii
  • E. coli
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Salmonella
  • Staphylococcus aureus

How to use Rubbing Alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide?

Below are the steps taken to use rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting surfaces-

  • Take rubbing alcohol in at least 70% concentration or hydrogen peroxide in at least 3% concentration.
  • Do not dilute.
  • Wash the targeted areas with soap and water.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide evenly over the surface with wipes or a spray bottle.
  • Let rubbing alcohol sit for 30 seconds and hydrogen peroxide for at least 10 minutes.
  • Do not wipe them off.

Rubbing alcohol can also kill germs on the skin. Use a hand sanitizer and apply it evenly over the skin for disinfection.

Earlier, rubbing alcohol was also used over cuts and scrapes to free the wound from microbes. However, now, it is not recommended as rubbing alcohol could be too harsh on the wounds. Instead, washing with tap water removes dirt and debris from the wounded areas more effectively.

Safety Measures to Follow While Using Rubbing Alcohol and Hydrogen Peroxide

Both these chemicals are intended only for external use. Therefore, ingesting or putting in eyes, ears, etc., can be dangerous. While rubbing alcohol can be used over the skin, try to avoid hydrogen peroxide contact with the skin as much as possible.

Make sure you store them in a cool and dry place, away from the reach of children. At the same time, keeping the area ventilated after use is also essential. Do not forget, rubbing alcohol is flammable.


Now that we have compared rubbing alcohol vs. hydrogen peroxide under different heads, it would have become easy for you to decide which is better. If you are looking for an all-rounder who can disinfect your surfaces as well as skin, the go-to option is rubbing alcohol. Hydrogen peroxide could be too harsh for the skin; therefore, it is suitable only for surfaces.

Both the chemicals effectively kill microbes and disinfect the areas. While rubbing alcohol does it instantly, hydrogen peroxide takes a little more time.

Make sure you read all the instructions written on the label before using them to make the most out of them.

Image Source : canva

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