– Antiseptic and disinfectant
– Antisepsis of intact skin prior to injections and venopunctures
– Disinfection of latex stopper of infusion bottles and drug vials (except vaccines), latex injection sites of infusion sets
Forms and strengths
– Mixtures of alcohol (ethanol) and water in different concentrations (e.g. 95% v/v ethanol), sometimes containing additives to avoid their ingestion.
– Alcoholic strength is expressed:
• preferably as a percentage by volume of alcohol (% v/v); e.g. 1000 ml of 95% v/v alcohol contains 950 ml of absolute alcohol.
• sometimes as a percentage by weight of alcohol (% w/w). The % w/w is not equal to the % v/v because the mixture of water and alcohol produces a reduction in volume.
• sometimes in degrees (°) but this should be discouraged as it is a source of error. There are at least 3 different definitions of degrees: the old UK definition (° British proof), the American (° proof) and the one used in French speaking countries (1° = 1% v/v). For example: 40% v/v = 70° proof (British system) = 80° proof (American system) = 40° in French speaking countries.
– Use 70% v/v ethanol, which is more effective than higher concentrations.
To obtain 1 litre of 70% v/v ethanol:
• take 785 ml of 90% v/v ethanol, or 730 ml of 95% v/v ethanol, or 707 ml of 99% v/v ethanol;
• add distilled or filtered water to make up a volume of 1 litre;
• leave to cool and top up with water again to bring the volume back to 1 litre (mixing water and ethanol together produces a reaction whereby volume is reduced).
– Do not apply to mucous membranes, wounds or burns: it is painful, irritating and slows the healing process.
– Do not apply on neonatal skin.
– Ethanol can be used for disinfection of non-critical medical items (items that are in contact with intact skin only) that are not soiled by blood or other body fluids.
– Critical medical items (surgical instruments, etc.) cannot, under any circumstances, be “sterilized” by alcohol flaming, immersion in ethanol or wiping with ethanol.
– Storage: below 25 °C -
Close bottles tightly to avoid evaporation. Keep away from sources of ignition (flame, spark, incandescent material).