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Solvent Alternatives Guide
Alcohol

Overview

Alcohols commonly used in cleaning include methanol, ethanol, and isopropanol (IPA). IPA is the most widely used. They are all volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with vapor pressures ranging from 33 to 92 mmHg at 68F (44 to 122 mbar at 20C). They are also flammable and must be handled accordingly.

Alcohols are often used to dry parts after water-based cleaning and as cleaners in precision applications. IPA is common in semiconductor and optics cleaning and is a very common solvent for wiping in cleanrooms.

Alcohols are used for removal of rosin fluxes, fingerprints, light oils, and plasticizers. They are often blended with other solvents to increase cleaning effectiveness. Alcohols are not effective on nonpolar soils such as waxes and heavy oils.

Alcohols can be used with hand-wipe processes and cold dip tanks, and with heated tanks if proper safety precautions are taken. Alcohols should not be sprayed unless extensive safety equipment is provided, such as inert gas blanketing and explosion-proof pumps.

Alcohols can be distilled for reuse. Consult the local publicly owned treatment works (POTW) for disposal requirements. Some POTWs allow small amounts of certain alcohols to be flushed down the drain with water. Otherwise, alcohols must be shipped to an approved incineration facility.


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Last Update: 14 March 1995
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