Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA, aka 'ISO') Shortage: How Labs Dilute 99% IPA with Water, For a More Efficient & Conservative Cleaning Experience

Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA, aka 'ISO') Shortage: How Labs Dilute 99% IPA with Water, For a More Efficient & Conservative Cleaning Experience

 

Onsen Labs is in the business of manufacturing and marketing dry herb vaporizers and accessories. Our research provided herein is for the benefit of our customers in the cleaning of their Onsen Labs equipment.  

by Gaurav Dubey (MS Biotechnology)

The recent spike in demand for isopropyl alcohol brings about the question, can I dilute my high-concentration IPA? While we will let you decide if you are qualified to handle the chemistry, the process is quite simple. Did you know that cleaning your herbal vaporizer with 70% IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) is actually more efficient than 99% IPA? While the science behind this phenomenon is discussed and dissected in detail in a separate blog post (that can be found here), this premise does, however, give rise to a novel solution to the IPA shortage. Since 70% IPA has been determined to be the most optimal concentration of IPA to effectively clean your herbal vaporizer (with concentrations as low as 50% still demonstrating good efficacy), this blog post will explore the science behind how laboratories dilute high-concentrations of IPA down for a more efficient and conservative cleaning experience. Ultimately, routine and conscious maintenance will lead to a more flavorful, pleasant, and smoother herbal vaporization experience for the consumer. 

 

What is IPA & Why Is It The Best Agent for Cleaning Dry Herb Vaporizers 

“Different solutions, purity grades, concentrations, and alcohol types yield beneficial cleaning and disinfection properties when applied correctly; or dangerous consequences when used improperly”

source: https://blog.gotopac.com/2017/05/15/why-is-70-isopropyl-alcohol-ipa-a-better-disinfectant-than-99-isopropanol-and-what-is-ipa-used-for/

The term IPA represents a very specific type of alcohol, also called 2-propanol, that is the “most common and widely used disinfectant within pharmaceutics, hospitals, cleanrooms, and electronics or medical device manufacturing.” (source: https://blog.gotopac.com/2017/05/15/why-is-70-isopropyl-alcohol-ipa-a-better-disinfectant-than-99-isopropanol-and-what-is-ipa-used-for/). 

It’s briefly necessary to make the distinction between the acronym for 2-propanol (isopropyl alcohol) and ‘ISO’. Culturally our community refers to isopropyl alcohol as “ISO”, however, the prefix “iso” refers to the molecular structure of various different types of alcohol, not just isopropyl alcohol. As a result, for the sake of accuracy, we will refer to isopropyl alcohol as IPA in this blog. 

isopropyl-alcohol-ipa-aka-iso-shortage-how-labs-dilute-99-ipa-with-water-for-a-more-efficient-conservative-cleaning-experience

 

Diluting 99% IPA down to 50-70% for a more efficient and conservative cleaning experience

If you read our previous blog post that delves into the science detailing why 70% IPA is more effective at cleaning your dry herb vaporizer, then you likely gained an understanding of the science behind why this phenomenon occurs. In this blog, we will help explain some basic volumetric calculations which laboratories use to dilute highly concentrated (99%) IPA into the right concentration for cleaning a herbal vaporizer, to maximize its effects, optimize its function, and truly amplify the unique taste of the dry herbs. Luckily, the math is pretty simple, and we’ve included a couple tables with examples.

 

A Brief Note Regarding Safety

Before we delve into the math, it’s worth stating what is likely obvious yet important advice: alcohol should be handled with caution, as it is an extremely flammable substance. The higher the alcohol concentration of IPA, the more flammable it is. While handling lower concentration formulations of IPA decreases the risk of combustion, there are other key factors to remember when utilizing IPA as your disinfectant:

  • Always handle IPA in a well-ventilated area
  • Thoroughly rinse and dry your herbal vaporizer’s IPA-cleanable parts before operating the unit or taking a heat source to it.
  • Open stored bottles of IPA away from excess light
  • Always handle IPA with caution
  • Read and follow all IPA manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Read and follow Onsen Labs’ vaporizer cleaning instructions.

Onsen_Labs_isopropyl-alcohol-ipa-aka-iso-shortage-how-labs-dilute-99-ipa-with-water-for-a-more-efficient-conservative-cleaning-experience

Diluting Down 99% IPA to the desired concentration: A Lesson in Math & Chemistry

First, it is always important to understand the basics, along with the operating definitions as defined by scientists and experts in the current field. To that effect, a dilution consists of reducing the concentration of one liquid by adding another liquid to it. Logically speaking, to create a 70% concentrated IPA solution, a laboratory would add a calculated amount of distilled water to dilute an IPA solution that is more concentrated than the desired 70% IPA concentration. 

C1V1=C2V2

This simple equation can be used to calculate the necessary concentrations and volumes needed to perform dilutions. In short, the equation means initial concentration (C1) multiplied by initial volume (V1) equals final concentration (C2) multiplied by final volume (V1). So long as three of the four variables are known, the fourth can be calculated. This will become more clear by using a couple examples. 

 

Example 1:

Suppose a scientist has a bottle of 99% IPA (C1) that they want to dilute down to 70% (C2). To end with 50mL of 70% IPA (V2), how much volume of 99% IPA should they use and dilute with distilled water to create the final solution? 

99% x V1 =  70% x 50mL = 35.35mL

Thus, adding 35.35mL of 99% IPA to 14.65mL of distilled water creates a 50mL solution of 70% IPA.

 

Example 2:

Alternatively, let’s say they want to mix a whole bottle of 99% IPA (C1) that they want to dilute down to 70% (C2). To calculate how much water to add, then: 

Step 1:

V2 = (C1 x V1) / C2

Step 2:

V2 - V1 = Quantity of distilled water to add with available bottle supply.

Here are a couple of tables with other examples calculated out:

Diluting Isopropyl Alcohol (99/1 to 70/30)

Bottle Size (V1)

% Of Starting Isopropyl Alcohol Concentration (C1)

Desired IPA % (C2)

How much (Distilled) water to add?

Total Volume of New Mixture (V2)

8 ounces

99%

70%

3.31 ounces

11.31 ounces

12 ounces

99%

70%

4.97 ounces

16.97 ounces

16 ounces

99%

70%

6.63 ounces

22.63 ounces

22 ounces

99%

70%

9.11 ounces

31.11 ounces

32 ounces

99%

70%

13.26 ounces

45.26 ounces

64 ounces

99%

70%

26.51 ounces

90.51 ounces

128 ounces

99%

70%

53.03 ounces

181.03 ounces

(Reading the first example, from left to right) Let’s say the scientist has an 8 oz (V1) bottle of 99% (C1) IPA and they want to dilute it to 70% (C2). By using the above equation, we find that they would need to add 3.31 ounces of (distilled) water with 8 ounces of 99% IPA, inside an 11.31 ounce (V2) bottle or larger.

Diluting Isopropyl Alcohol (91/9 to 70/30)

Bottle Size (V1)

% Of Starting Isopropyl Alcohol Concentration (C1)

Desired IPA % (C2)

How much (Distilled) water to add?

Total Volume of New Mixture (V2)

8 ounces

91%

70%

2.40 ounces

10.40 ounces

12 ounces

91%

70%

3.60 ounces

15.60 ounces

16 ounces

91%

70%

4.80 ounces

20.80 ounces

22 ounces

91%

70%

6.60 ounces

28.60 ounces

32 ounces

91%

70%

9.60 ounces

41.60 ounces

64 ounces

91%

70%

19.20 ounces

83.20 ounces

128 ounces

91%

70%

38.40 ounces

166.40 ounces

(Reading the first example, from left to right) This time let’s say the scientist has an 8 oz (V1) bottle of 91% (C1) IPA and they want to dilute it to 70% (C2). By using the above equation, we find that they would need to add 2.4 ounces of (distilled) water with 8 ounces of 91% IPA, inside a 10.4 ounce (V2) bottle or larger.

 

What does the remaining percentage of IPA consist of?

The remaining portion of an IPA concentration is generally assumed to be water, however, since the manufacturing process is not 100% perfect, IPA manufacturers sometimes include in that remaining percentage, impurity particulate. Check with the IPA manufacturer and their label for information about their specific contents. In our calculations above, we accounted for the remaining percentage as only water. With that said, the reason laboratories use distilled water to dilute, is to minimize the additional impurities typically found in tap water. 

 

A brief note on advanced physical chemistry in our mixtures

One factor we don’t account for in our calculations above, is hydrogen bonding. Hydrogen bonding occurs with molecules that have a nose with a negative charge and a tail with a positive charge. The tail of one molecule is attracted to the nose of another and they stick to each other like a string of magnets. Molecules in a mixture with this polar trait become denser than mixtures without, and thus, this changes the total volume of a mixture from its individual starting volumes. If we applied this effect to our calculations, it would make our results more accurate, however, the effect is minimal in our case and the additional complex calculations are unnecessary for our purposes. For example, we mixed 50mL of 99.8% IPA and 50mL of water and the result was 98 mL of mixture, demonstrating the hydrogen bonding effect is only in the 2% error range.

 

Closing Thoughts on IPA Dilution Science & Vaporizer Maintenance

This blog post explores the basic scientific process behind diluting down a high concentration IPA to a more dilute 50-70% solution, thus making it more effective for proper vaporizer maintenance and cleaning. Be sure to always follow the aforementioned safety protocols if you choose to handle IPA. For the best and most optimal dry herb vaporizer performance, be sure to clean your dry herb vaporizer regularly with IPA! If stores are running low on your desired concentration of IPA this time of year, you’re now equipped with the knowledge on how laboratories circumvent this issue. To learn more about the Onsen Labs Desktop Pro vaporizer, the science behind its creation and much more, visit our blog here!

Edited

7/16/2020: Appended hydrogen bonding exclusion and corrected Example 1 labeling typo.


7 comments


  • Steven Gough

    Hi ‘Sarasa’, yes, you are correct and we have edited the blog post typo. Thank you for your question!


  • Steven Gough

    Hey ‘Noxis’, thanks for your comment regarding hydrogen bonding! And while minimal (2% margin of error in our example) and unnecessary in our case, you are correct and we have updated the blog post to include the exclusion. Thank you for your peer review!


  • Steven Gough

    Hi ‘Realized’, we do not use treated tap water, as we have not inspected our town’s water quality reports to see how impurity particulates would react to the solution.


  • Sarasa

    Hello!
    I think you may have mixed the variable around in your example.

    To quote:
    “99% x V1 = 70% x 50mL = 35.35mL

    Thus, adding 35.35mL of distilled water to 14.65mL of 99% IPA creates a 50mL solution of 70% IPA. "

    Shouldn’t it be 35.35mL of 99% IPA to 14.65mL of distilled water to create a 50mL solution of 70% IPA?


  • Lacey

    Thank you so much for this. Very timely, important information. Thank you for breaking it down!


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