Is white spirit rubbing alcohol?

So you are doing some cleaning and you have been told to use rubbing alcohol, but what does that mean exactly. You have gone to the shed and found a bottle of white spirit, is white spirit rubbing alcohol? Or if not can it be used in its place? Well, let’s have a little look together and find out!

Is white spirit rubbing alcohol?

No, it is not. White spirit is a mixture of chemicals which are petroleum hydrocarbons. Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol. So white spirit is petroleum-based and rubbing alcohol is ethanol based, they are definitely not the same thing.

Can I use one instead of the other?

Well, this depends on what you are planning on using them on. They can be used interchangeably for a lot of things, but not always.

Rubbing alcohol can be used for any of the following, and much more besides:

  • A general cleaner. It is excellent for cleaning glass & lenses.
  • Used to remove light grease, oils, dirt and food stains.
  • Used as a solvent for diluting lacquers, PVC adhesives, dyes and printing inks.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol is used as a graffiti remover for removing inks and markers.
  • Used for the final preparation, cleaning and degreasing of all substrates prior to adhesive bonding.
  • In addition, it is utilised for the removal of fluxes, light oils, polar soils and oxides.
  • Safe to use on plastic and in the preparation of metal and composite surfaces prior to painting.

White spirit on the other hand is usually used for the following:

  • Cleaning paintbrushes and hands after painting
  • Thining paints and varnishes
  • Used as a cleaner and degreaser
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Daniel Berry

Hey, I'm Dan, I studied computer science with artificial intelligence at Loughborough University. I try to bring my tech knowledge to the posts where it is needed while also offering a DIY view to go with Sam's professional view on tools. I am a very keen DIY'er and have experience of doing everything the completely wrong way.

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