Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Emergency substitutes for bleach and rubbing alcohol?

zwt2 - 4-3-2020 at 12:08

Recent panic buying and supply chain disruptions have led to local shortages of certain household products that are also commonly used for amateur chemistry, including sodium hypochlorite bleach and isopropyl rubbing alcohol. However, other products with nearly identical formulation remain available:
Iso-HEET - fuel line antifreeze, 99.9998% isopropyl alcohol, 0.0002 xylene SDS
Pool chlorinator - 10% sodium hypochlorite SDS
Is it safe to use Iso-HEET, diluted with water to 91% or 70%, as a substitute for medical-grade isopropyl rubbing alcohol in all applications? Or would the 0.0002% xylene (or other unlisted contaminants) pose some kind of hazard?
Is it safe to use liquid pool chlorinator (with sodium hypochlorite listed as the only active ingredient), diluted with water to 6% or 8.25%, as a substitute for household disinfectant/laundry bleach? Or are there likely to be hazardous contaminants not present in regular bleach (eg, heavy metals)?

macckone - 4-3-2020 at 12:41

Pool chlorinator liquid is unlikely to contain anything you wouldn't want to drink, lots of people swallow pool water and it can't be too toxic for that to be ok. At a reduced concentration of course.

[Edited on 4-3-2020 by macckone]

morganbw - 4-3-2020 at 12:43

I do not need to do as you are asking but I would have no problem using such items. Particularly with the sodium hypochlorite.
For a disinfectant I would go way below what you are stating on your dilution of the hypochlorite and I would keep the alcohol up near 70%

This is just me, others may have better suggestions.

Herr Haber - 4-3-2020 at 13:18

WHO has posted a "recipe" for a hand solution.

8333 ml somehow got interpreted by all newspapers I've seen to 8.333 ml for a 10 L solution.
Not good at maths or believers of omeopathy I dont know...

Morgan - 4-3-2020 at 15:05

Funny I had some 190 proof Everclear in my room in a screw top test tube with a finger pump sprayer screwed on top when this comedic video came on. I had been using it for jam jar jet experiments.
Scroll down to see without the app for this clever satire.

[Edited on 4-3-2020 by Morgan]

pneumatician - 6-3-2020 at 16:43

sodium chlorite?

clearly_not_atara - 6-3-2020 at 16:58

Actually, that's kind of an interesting question. Could chlorine dioxide (at suitably low concentration) be an effective hand sanitizer?

pneumatician - 6-3-2020 at 17:37

NaClO2 is used to kill "all" pathogens in blood donations, operating rooms, tap water... look the MMS board, these guys make CDS, CDH... :) the only problem is the concentration and how fast is in kill the shit you want to kill :D

Another and free is SEA WATER, maybe a bit concentrated for more fast action???

AJKOER - 10-4-2020 at 16:36

As a viricide per the CDC, rubbing alcohol (isopropyl plus additives) is very selective on which virus it will kill.

Better is Ethanol which can be purchased as 190 proof mixing alcohol, but more expensive.

Pool NaOCl is likely better than household bleach as now lots of additives (perfumes, anti-splash,...) versions are for sale that are not appropriate for other uses than doing laundry.

A workaround for H2O2 in a chemistry prep, try passing O2 (I use an aquarium air pump) into a mix of Fe2+ and Cu++ ions in the presence of a source of H+.

Basically (source, see references and comments at

Fe(II) -> Fe(III) + e-

Cu(I) -> Cu(II) + e-

Cu(I) [soluble complex] + Fe(III) (aq) <--> Cu(II) (aq)+ Fe(II) (aq) (a metal redox couple)

O2 (aq) + e- = *O2- (superoxide radical anion)

H+ + *O2- = *HO2 (pKa = 4.88)

*HO2 + *HO2 -> H2O2 + O2 (but a slow reaction/expect a low yield)

You may also be able to employ the transient *HO2 (Hydroperoxl radical) in your prep.

Photocatalysts are also sources of reactive oxygen species (superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical,..). Here is an example from :

ZnO + hv → e− + ZnO(h+) (5)

ZnO(h+) + H2O → ZnO + H+ + OH− (6)

ZnO(h+) + OH− → ZnO + ⋅OH

O2 + nZnO(e−) → nZnO + .O2− (8)

O2 + ZnO(e−) + 2 H2O → ZnO + H2O2 + 2 OH− (9)

H2O2 + ZnO(e−) → ZnO + OH− + ⋅OH (10)

A lot of oxidation reactions based on H2O2 can be performed better by NaOCl (or HOCl) using a variant of a bleach battery cell (see pictures and theory at ). This is electrosynthesis using a battery/electrochemical cell.

[Edited on 11-4-2020 by AJKOER]

arkoma - 10-4-2020 at 22:21

Bleach kills pretty much everything. I had to sit through (a rather informative) class in California department of Corrections where they taught us to clean our syringes with regular chlorine bleach. effective for both HIV and all varieties of Hepatitis. doesn't just kill, but oxidizes. Kaput.

Deathunter88 - 10-4-2020 at 22:35

Iso-heat contains additives not listed in the SDS that make it a dark yellow solution that smells sort of like petroleum and leaves a waxy residue after evaporating. Still works to disinfect, but less pleasant to spray on surfaces.

Bedlasky - 11-4-2020 at 01:44

Quote: Originally posted by clearly_not_atara  
Actually, that's kind of an interesting question. Could chlorine dioxide (at suitably low concentration) be an effective hand sanitizer?

I think that it could. ClO2 have better antimicrobial properties than NaClO. In some countries they use it for water disinfection instead of chlorine.

AJKOER - 11-4-2020 at 05:01

Quote: Originally posted by Bedlasky  
Quote: Originally posted by clearly_not_atara  
Actually, that's kind of an interesting question. Could chlorine dioxide (at suitably low concentration) be an effective hand sanitizer?

I think that it could. ClO2 have better antimicrobial properties than NaClO. In some countries they use it for water disinfection instead of chlorine.

Actually, incorrect, slightly acidified NaOCl (with a weak acid, even lemon juice, vinegar, carbonic, NaHCO3,..) creates HOCl which is nearly 100 times the disinfecting power of hypochlorite. However, hypochlorous acid is not stable (too reactive with metals,..., but does release potent, but transient hydroxyl radicals in a fenton-type reaction) so marketed as basic NaOCl.

NaOCl and HOCl will create chloro-organics, which are health issues in drinking water. ClO2, does not, it stays largely non-reactive in water searching for electrons and has some disinfecting power. So, longevity and some disinfecting power is good, but makes no sense if you are disinfecting an easy to wipe surface with freshly acidified bleach. Also, fumes of bleach/HOCl (which is Cl2O) is far less toxic than chlorine dioxide (ClO2).

Using ClO2 in a hand sanitizer is likely bad due to its toxic fumes and even much diluted bleach (NaOCl) would be still be more effective.

Quoting a source ( ):

"Hypochlorous acid vs chlorine dioxide
Chlorine dioxide is weak, it has a lower potential than hypochlorous acid or hypobromous acid. The oxidation capacity shows how many electrons are transferred at an oxidation or reduction reaction. The chlorine atom in chlorine dioxide has an oxidation number of +4."


"Watery solutions containing approximately 1% ClO2 (10 g/L) can safely be stored, under the condition that they are protected from light and heat interference. Chlorine dioxide is rarely transported, because of its explosiveness and instability. It is usually manufactured on site."

Also, some good qualities:

"Chlorine dioxide can be used as oxidizer or disinfectant. It is a very strong oxidizer and it effectively kills pathogenic microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. It also prevents and removes bio film. As a disinfectant and pesticide it is mainly used in liquid form. Chlorine dioxide can also be used against anthrax, because it is effective against spore-forming bacteria.

Chlorine dioxide as an oxidizer
As an oxidizer chlorine dioxide is very selective. It has this ability due to unique one-electron exchange mechanisms. Chlorine dioxide attacks the electron-rich centers of organic molecules. One electron is transferred and chlorine dioxide is reduced to chlorite (ClO2- )."

Interestingly, the photodecomposition of aqueous ClO2 in UV rich light is not precisely clear (see ) except for the problematic creation of chlorate, so I would not use any ClO2 product in combination with strong sunlight (like from a body of water, snow,..) rich in UV light for internal consumption.

However, in the presence of added CO2/HCO3-, I like possible speculated products:

ClO2 + hv --> .ClO + .O (see )

HCO3- + .ClO --? ?--> .HCO3 + ClO- (or, CO2 + .HO2 + Cl- or, CO2 + HO2- + .Cl )

where .HCO3 -> H+ + .CO3- so the adjusted product reaction is:

HCO3- + .ClO --?--> .CO3- + HOCl

creating hypochlorous acid and the powerful carbonate radical, or either .HO2 or HO2- leading to H2O2. The latter with UV light or any transition metal presence could introduce the powerful disinfecting hydroxyl radical!

Support for the products .CO3 + HOCl , from this source: where .ClO2 (and not .ClO) with Na2CO3 creates NaHCO3 and HClO2. Also support per Eq(14) in this 2017 work at :

HCO3- + .Cl --> .CO3- + H+ + Cl- (14)

where I am claiming that ClO2/CO2 (a common dilutant to reduce the explosion hazard of chlorine dioxide) in water subject to UV treatment may form disinfecting radicals (but still chlorates).


.ClO2 + .CO3- --> ClO2- + CO3(2-)

So, the carbonate radical (also the superoxide .O2-) transforms ClO2 into weak HClO2.

[Edited on 11-4-2020 by AJKOER]

rockyit98 - 11-4-2020 at 07:02

i know some salt water pools decontaminate by just electrolyzing the water so NaCl will turn in to NaOCl.
NaCl + H2O -------(Electrolysis)---->NaOCl + H2
same reaction can made by Electrolysis of dilute table salt ( Iodized or otherwise) using carbon or Pt anode at voltage of 3V to 4V. note that the higher voltage might generate toxic Cl2 gas. cathode can be nickle, copper or stainless steel.

AJKOER - 11-4-2020 at 09:48

For the record, I mention an ancient strategy on maintaining water quality, transporting river water in copper vessels. Assuming the water have some dissolved CO2, the amount of formed copper ions is very small, but apparently, copper can be toxic to many microbes in even micro concentrations!

Caution: higher than micro concentrations will kill fish and small animals. Only 2 mg daily is the recommended supplement level for adults, exceeding that can also lead to toxicity in people also!

Source: see and associated references.

Copper surfaces are a good idea per this source: .

[Edited on 11-4-2020 by AJKOER]


MadHatter - 12-4-2020 at 09:15

Some chlorine will inevitably escape so do this is
in a well ventilated area. Carbon anodes eventually
erode and chlorate is formed if the cell gets too
hot. Keep the cell temperature below 40C(104F)
when possible. I use ice in the brine for that
purpose. Keep the anode and cathode close together.
Preferably the anode under the cathode so that rising
chlorine gas bubbles up to the NaOH producing cathode.

S.C. Wack - 12-4-2020 at 12:44

Quote: Originally posted by AJKOER  
Copper surfaces are a good idea

AFAIK silver is more active against bacteria and viruses. Nanosilver derived from AgNO3 and hot trisodium citrate has been incorporated onto touch surfaces for study as antivirus hardware. It's not clear how easily it rubs off.