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Cleanroom Alcohol

What is Cleanroom Grade Alcohol?

Cleanroom grade alcohol needs to have a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity, rapid antimicrobial action, rapid evaporation to minimise surface wet times, and extremely low residues.

To clean a surface the cleaner must be able to remove soiling, evaporate quickly, and without leaving a residue when evaporating. To disinfect surfaces the solution must be highly antimicrobial: killing bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It is important to note that alcohols are not effective against spore-forming bacteria and therefore a sporicidal solution must also be used alongside alcohol disinfectants.



Why is 70% alcohol used and not 100%?

Alcohol acts on bacteria by denaturing the proteins of the cell membrane, making the bacterial cell prone to leakage causing cell death. Water improves this process in two ways: acting as a catalyst and playing a key role in protein denaturing; slowing down the rate of evaporation of the alcohol to increase the wet contact time the alcohol has to act as a disinfectant. 70% alcohol solutions, like ours, produce less vapor and odour than products with higher alcohol concentration, making them safer for use in confined areas such as cleanrooms.

What sort of alcohol can I use in a Cleanroom?

Two of the most common alcohols used in cleanrooms are IPA and IMS. Both are effective antimicrobial agents and at cleaning residue left by other disinfectants, leaving little to no residue themselves. IPA is more effective as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent, and due to its purity, IPA is commonly used to clean electronics. IMS is a more effective anti-viral agent, and it is more effective at dissolving tough grease stains. IMS is more toxic than IPA due to the denaturation of the alcohol which may require more careful handling and may not be safe to use in certain applications.

What does IPA stand for?

IPA stands for isopropyl alcohol also known by its full chemical name as propan-2-ol. It belongs to the chemical family known as alcohols. Ethanol is the most used alcohol in daily life which consists of a 2-carbon chain and an alcohol group on the end. IPA differs by having a 3-carbon chain with the alcohol group in the middle of the chain. Due to this difference, IPA evaporates more quickly and leaves behind no oily residue compared to ethanol making it an ideal cleaning product for cleanrooms.

What does IMS stand for?

IMS stands for industrial methylated spirits also known as denatured alcohol. IMS is a mixture of ethanol and other components (usually methanol but other additives may include isopropyl alcohol, benzene and pyridine) which also makes the IMS toxic, flammable, and volatile - which makes it quick to dry which is a core feature of cleanroom alcohols. 

Is IMS the same as IPA?

IMS and IPA are both part of the same group of chemicals known as alcohols. The key difference between the two is that IMS is a mixture and IPA is a pure singular chemical (before mixing with water to make a 70% alcohol/30% water solution). IMS is a mixture of ethanol, and other components such as methanol, which also makes the IMS toxic, flammable and volatile - which makes it quick to dry. IMS is considered a more effective virucidal disinfectant, however, IPA is more effective as a bactericide and a fungicide due to its higher molecular weight.

How long should the surface be wet for?

How long a surface should be wet for is called the contact time. For alcohol products such as IPA, efficacy data is determined at a wet contact time of 60 seconds. This is the time needed for the disinfectant to be wet for to be effective and this varies on the disinfectant being used. For cleanrooms, there needs to be a balance struck between the wet contact time and the rapid evaporation of the disinfectant.