Isopropyl alcohol 99% storage and use in workplaces - advice please!

My wife bought 3 x litre bottles of isopropyl alcohol plus dozens of wipes to use in an office space. It’s a samaritans and they take calls and email messages - many people can use the area over a week. She wants to make sure areas are given a good clean. The wipes are fine but I’m a bit concerned about these large bottles. Should they be stored in a separate metal cupboard and is it a bad idea to have them anywhere near a building. Advice would be much appreciated.

Sounds dangerous!

The suppliers should supply a COSHH* sheet for the product on request that will give all sorts of advice on storage, use, what to do in an emergency etc.

Someone should be responsible for risk assessments in any place of work, and really should have risk-assessed this before use.

*Control of Substances Hazardous to Health

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At least they are not the usual 5L bottles. to put it into perspective prior to corvid-19 you could typically by isoproal alcohol in chemists in retail quantities of 125, 250 and 500ml.

here is a MSDS from fisher science

This is a volatile flammable liquid that can create toxic and explosive atmospheres. The explosion risk range is between 2% and 12% in air, this is not ignition this is detention.

For this reason its important to store the bottles in a tray that will hold a leak from the bottle, even in fire. this limits the surface area of spill, limiting both the speed at which an explosive mix can occur and the size of the fire should it start burning.

I would recommend not keeping the 3l in a building that people live/work in or is not well ventilated. A metal box designed to hold flammable liquids would limit the size of any fire the stuff could cause, but it needs to be grounded to reduce the risk of a spark triggering an explosive mix that could build up inside the box.

The wicking of wipes is very efficient at volatilising the alcohol, and this is why iso alcohol wipes for computers etc are usually sold, individually sealed whips which are irritatingly small.

I would suggest that you look at using the isopal in small 50ml spray bottles with small wipes less than 10cmx10cm. Limit its use to cleaning stuff that cannot be cleaned with soapy water. remember, detergents destroy the outer shell of the virus and inactivate it; arguably more effective than iso propyl.


Rich - many thanks. Peter

Matthew - much appreciated (they are not 3 litre bottles) - I can see my post was confusing. I am going to suggest strongly they just use the wipes! Peter

I was going to say hey, it’s a flammable liquid so it must be treated with care. Forward planning whenever you use your flammable liquid will give you the opportunity to minimise the level of risk. Don’t cut corners with your and others safety. As already suggested keeping the container sitting upon a leak proof tray with the capacity to hold sufficient liquid is a great way to go. A metal cupboard is great if you are going to have sufficient quantities to make it a viable option. Completely spurious factoid coming down the line. Quick somebody write a blues song.
Isopropyl alcohol is my favourite solvent. It’s versatile, as a cleaner, degreaser and can be used in the application of wood finishes and colourant. In stark contrast to white spirits, I find, I am not bothered by the odour of the isopropyl alcohol. I actually consider the scent pleasing.

Don’t worry I did release they were 1 l bottles, think of it as 1l of petrol and you will probably treat it right.

A tip for storing anything liquid thats a bit nasty. get an old and clean paint tin put your glass bottle into the tin and fill the rest of the tin with vermiculite. This is a decent absorber of liquid, limits the surface area for evaporation, is chemically inert and stops the glass bottle being broken. This is more or less how chemical nasties are transported to chemistry labs, with the exception of insatinly nasty stuff like chlorine trifluoride which burns glass, sand, asbestos, concrete… everything.