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I heard there are some alcohols that are prohibited to be used when cleaning a computer or an electric device.

Apart from beverages, which ones are these?

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    \$\begingroup\$ rubbing alcohol can contain about 30% oil \$\endgroup\$
    – jsotola
    Mar 24, 2021 at 4:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jsotola My 91% isoprop (IPA) better not have 30% oil in it!! Is that a EU thing? \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Mar 24, 2021 at 4:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jonk I said rubbing alcohol... it is for application to skin ... sore muscles, I think ... it must have different names in different parts of the world \$\endgroup\$
    – jsotola
    Mar 24, 2021 at 4:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jsotola In the US, that's IPA. (In grocery stores, 70% or 91%. 99% is harder to get.) Is there a different definition elsewhere? \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Mar 24, 2021 at 4:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Arcatus: If I buy 70 percent IPA in the USA, it is 70 percent IPA and 30 percent water. Here's the description of a typical 70 percent IPA. Things can be different around the world. In the US, "rubbing alcohol" doesn't have oil. It is just IPA and water. \$\endgroup\$
    – JRE
    Mar 24, 2021 at 7:20

2 Answers 2

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You would want to use as clean alcohol as you can get hold of. It doesn't really matter if it is ethanol, methanol or isopropanol.

As mentioned in the comments low content alcohols may contain additives that will be left behind as impurities. Antisepctics and such are not suitable at all.

A nice test is to wipe some of the alcohol on a glass plate. Once the alcohol vaporizes you should see none or almost none impurities left behind. If there is oil present you will get that oily "rainbow" effect.

Several users have posted safety concerns on methanol, so don't use that. But: all of these are strong chemicals and should be treated as such. Use gloves, work in a ventilated area, and perhaps stating the obvious: They are all extremely flammable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a nice way to discuss the topic. +1. It appears that there are differing definitions of "rubbing alcohol" in different areas of the world. So the best way is to do as you say, test the alcohol to see how well it evaporates and leaves no visible residue. \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Mar 24, 2021 at 7:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Methanol is dangerous. You can inhale its fumes while cleaning. \$\endgroup\$
    – AlexVB
    Mar 24, 2021 at 7:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexVB There is that. IPA tends to be preferred these days. (Chlorofluorocarbons are certainly very safe to humans, but discouraged because of stratospheric ozone depletion and their impact as a global warming gas.) \$\endgroup\$
    – jonk
    Mar 24, 2021 at 7:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexVB All of these fumes are dangerous long-term. Using them in a well ventilated space is required for all of them. But yes, methanol is probably the worst of these. \$\endgroup\$
    – Arcatus
    Mar 24, 2021 at 8:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't use methanol. It can also be absorbed by your skin. When I was little I experimented by putting drops if 99% ispropyl alcohol or 99% methanol on crickets. Guess which one caused them to die very quickly and very dramatically? I did not know crickets could lurch left and right while walking like that, sticking their hind leg almost straight out out to the side to try and throw their balance back in that direction because they were toppling in the direction that leg had pushed them into. \$\endgroup\$
    – DKNguyen
    Mar 24, 2021 at 8:05
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The ''official'' cleaning solvent for electronics is IPA, isopropanol. At 70% is usually diluted in water (and in fact it has the best disinfecting power at that concentration, useful to know these days!). 99% is technical grade and above is probably only useful for doing chemistry.

For various reason it is almost always denaturated with something else, but that shouldn't give issues. The most important thing, as already commented, is that it shouldn't leave residues.

Common ethanol is also suitable for most purposed, and it's almost always denaturated too (otherwise people would drink it).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You can't even get denatured ethanol in Canada. The closest thing is methanol. Ugh. So I'm forced to just use isopropyl even though ethanol is superior for certain tasks, and has fumes that aren't as noxious as isopropyl. \$\endgroup\$
    – DKNguyen
    Mar 24, 2021 at 8:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DKNguyen: Alternative sources of ethanol in Canada. In Germany, I find it next to impossible to buy IPA. I can get denatured ethanol (over 90 percent pure) as "bio barbecue starter fluid" in one liter bottles for like 2 Euros in every hardware store and most grocery stores. \$\endgroup\$
    – JRE
    Mar 24, 2021 at 9:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JRE I've never seen bio-ethanol at hardware stores. Ever. It's always the stove fuel wood alcohol aka methyl hydrate. As far as I know, methyl hydrate is another name for methanol and isn't just denatured ethanol. \$\endgroup\$
    – DKNguyen
    Mar 24, 2021 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Different places, different stuff. The bottle of Flamax BioEthanol on my desk says it is 99.9% ethanol. \$\endgroup\$
    – JRE
    Mar 24, 2021 at 18:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ And, I cant't find IPA anywhere local. Even mail order is tough. Conrad Electronics sells it - for 20 Euros a liter, and you have to be a business to order it. \$\endgroup\$
    – JRE
    Mar 24, 2021 at 18:20

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