Does Acetone Kill Germs? Here’s What You Should Know about Acetone

Acetone is a popular substance for removing nail polish. Aside from removing nail polish, you can also use it to remove paint coats. With its strong ability to break down coatings, people cannot help to ask if it can kill germs.

Imagine how it can remove nail polish with a simple rubbing of acetone. You cannot help but compare it to isopropyl alcohol’s germ-killing action.

So to answer your question, yes. Acetone kills germs. However, using it to kill germs is different from the disinfectant you know. And using it as a disinfectant in the wrong way could pose risks or dangers to humans.

For this reason, we made a comprehensive guide to help you understand more about acetone’s capacity to kill germs.

What is Acetone?

Acetone, also known as dimethyl ketone or 2-propanone, is a chemical compound with a transparent or colorless appearance and a distinct pungent smell. It is the simplest fat-derived ketone with a formula of (CH3)2CO.

This liquid chemical is an organic compound naturally produced by our bodies. We can find it in our blood and urine. Aside from the human body, you can also find it in trees, plants, and gases from forest fires or volcanoes.

Acetone is an ingredient used in nail polish removers and manufacturing lacquers for furniture and automotive finishes.

What are the Properties of Acetone?

Acetone can have three main properties, which makes it a popular chemical in manufacturing.

1) Volatile

Even in liquid form, acetone is highly volatile. It can easily escape its liquid phase because of its small molecular form. With high vapor pressure, it can easily evaporate and convert into gas form. Acetone has a low boiling point– about 56°C or 132°F.

2) Flammable

With its high vapor pressure, the rapid evaporation increases the concentration of flammable vapors in the air. With its low flash point of -20°C or – 4°F, it can transform into vapor quickly and ignite even to a little spark.

3) Miscible with water

Acetone has a compatible and polar nature that bonds well with water. With its oxygen atom, it can bond easily with water’s O-H smooth bonding ability. Therefore, acetone can dissolve and mix easily with water.

4) Antibacterial

This property of acetone sparks debates while researchers study the chemical. First, acetone contains active antimicrobial activity with its capacity to dissolve different substances, including proteins and lipids. Second, its dehydrating effect can create an unfavorable environment for microorganisms.

Can Acetone Kill Germs?

Yes. A study shows that acetone is a potent anti-bacterial ingredient and can be used for routine disinfection of dirty surfaces. And this study shows that you can use it more effectively in its concentrated form, and using the diluted form weakens it.

On the other hand, a separate study shows that acetone can kill vegetative bacteria. Vegetative bacteria are actively growing. These bacteria can cause many infections and illnesses like urinary and skin infections.

Meanwhile, this study also shows that acetone cannot kill spore-bearing bacteria, even after 20 minutes of exposure. These types of bacteria have high survival rates in non-favorable conditions such as high temperatures and exposure to disinfectants.

How Does Acetone Kill Germs?

Here’s how acetone kills germs. First, acetone dissolves lipids. Lipids are barriers that are integral in bacteria’s cell membranes. Acetone dissolves them and breaks down the barriers of cell membranes, disrupting their structural integrity. When the lipids break down, it leads to the eventual death of the microorganism.

Second, acetone causes dehydration in bacteria. Because it evaporates abruptly, it extracts moisture from its environment, creating an unfavorable atmosphere. This situation impedes their ability to reproduce and thrive.

And lastly, acetone disrupts protein structures. Protein is integral for the survival of germs and bacteria and functioning as a microorganism. But acetone disrupts their three-dimensional structure, making them non-functional. It affects their cellular processes and metabolic activities as microorganisms, gradually leading to death.

Ways to Use Acetone to Kill Germs

1) As a Sterilizer

Emerging countries have been using acetone as a sterilizer for medical equipment. This effective sterilizing agent can kill vegetative bacteria within three to twenty minutes of exposure.

Professionals practice the use of sterilization on medical equipment at required conditions.

The process of liquid sterilization requires a full concentration of acetone at a specified time and washing of the equipment to remove chemical residue. But in general, medical professionals still prefer alcohol for this function.

For personal items such as grooming tools, you can use acetone. Simply soak your grooming tools in acetone for five to ten minutes and rinse them with water to remove residue.

The usual way of sterilizing household items like kitchen utensils is still best done by boiling water and submerging them into recently-boiled water or steaming.

2) As a Household Cleaner

When using acetone to clean surfaces around the house, ensure you work in a well-ventilated area. Acetone can easily ignite a fire. Do not use it while cooking because it can easily catch fire.

To use it on cleaning surfaces, remove stubborn dirt by brushing. Place a few drops of acetone on your cleaning cloth or sponge and rub it gently on the surface. Use light pressure and rub your applicator in a circular motion to dissolve the dirt.

You can use it on different surfaces. However, avoid using it on wood. It can dissolve your wood finish and ruin its protective coatings. You should not use it on bare wood as it can cause excessive dehydration.

Another cleaning tip is to use acetone to remove sticky marks and residues like those left by pulled-off stickers.

It is also effective in cleaning coffee stains in cups or mugs. These brown stains usually do not remove after regular dishwashing. So place a drop or two of acetone in the cup or mug and rub it with a cloth or sponge. It is worth noting that you must wear protective gloves when using acetone instead of exposing your skin longer. After removing the stain, wash the cup as you do to remove the residue of acetone.

Also, acetone is effective in removing build-up stains in bathtubs and sinks. Again, wear protective gloves and mix acetone with water in equal parts. Dip your rag into the solution, wipe stained parts, and scrub your bathtub. After you have removed the stain completely, rinse your bathtub with water. Wash your rag with gloves on or toss it to dry before washing.

Other Uses of Acetone

Aside from cleaning and disinfecting, you can use acetones for different cleaning actions.

  • Remove paint
  • Wood restoration
  • Degrease wool and degum silk
  • Remove permanent marker stains
  • Remove superglue
  • Remove melted plastic

Can you Use Acetone as a Hand Sanitizer?

No. It will dry, crack, and irritate your skin. For this reason, we advise you to use gloves when using it for cleaning household items. Although it has anti-microbial properties that can disinfect surfaces, it is not enough to sanitize the hands and can be harmful in contact.

The Risks of Acetone for Humans

  • Skin and Eye irritation

Prolonged usage of acetone can cause irritate the skin and even damage its tissues. It can cause eye redness and dryness.

  • Inhalation

When inhaled, acetone can cause coughing and sore throat. When exposed to high concentrations, it may cause shortness of breath. Acetone has a strong sweet odor that can be dangerous in high concentrations.

  • Flammability

As discussed earlier, acetone can easily catch and cause a fire. Be mindful of where you are working. Avoid places where there is constant metal-to-metal friction or flammable materials.

Alternatives For Killing Germs

1) Soap and water

Washing water is still the simplest way to clean our hands. And you can also clean household items and surfaces using detergent soap with water. It is effective in killing germs and bacteria and preventing the spread of infection.

2) Isopropyl and Ethyl Alcohol and Alcohol-based sanitizers

70 to 99% alcohol is effective in killing germs. And in sanitizers, look for ones that contain at least 60% alcohol. This is one way to protect yourself outside the home and prevent acquiring infection.

3) Disinfectant wipes and sprays

Disinfectant wipes and sprays have special formulations to kill germs. These items are helpful if you are always exposed to infectious environments like hospitals and community centers.

4) Hydrogen peroxide

A more appropriate disinfectant is hydrogen peroxide. You can use it for cleaning and disinfecting wounds and surfaces.

5) Hot or steam water for sterilization

If you will sterilize kitchen utensils, the best way you can do this is by using hot or steam water after washing.

Should You Use Acetone to Kill Germs?

If you have nothing else at hand except for acetone, you may use it. But remember that you must handle it carefully. Protect your eyes and skin, and ensure you work in a well-ventilated area. I’m sure that every household would have more soap than acetone at home.

But if you are looking for a strong chemical to dissolve stubborn dirt, grease, or grime, acetone is an inexpensive way to break and eliminate them. Acetone is so effective but should be used carefully. It poses risks to humans.

But according to USFDA, acetone is considered safe at allowable concentrations.

So when using acetone to kill germs, wear safety gloves and goggles. And avoid respiratory exposure to its vapors.