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IPA vs Acetone: The Differences between Acetone and Isopropyl Alcohol’s (IPA) Properties and Applications


In industrial and semiconductor manufacturing processes, organic solvents are used to wipe, rinse, and steam rinse machines and components. Acetone and isopropyl alcohol (IPA) are the most commonly used solvents in relevant manufacturing processes.

What is acetone and what are its properties?

Acetone, also called dimethyl ketone, is the simplest and most important of the aliphatic (fat-derived) ketones with the formula (CH3)2CO.

At room temperature, it is a colorless, highly volatile and flammable liquid that is chemically reactive and exhibits typical ketone properties. In terms of smell, acetone is characterized by a pungent odor. If an excessive amount of acetone is inhaled, it can cause headache, bronchitis, etc., therefore, acetone must be properly handled and used in a well-ventilated area.

In addition, acetone is miscible in water, methanol, ethanol, ether and other organic solvents. It is capable of dissolving oil, fats and resin, as well as cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose, making it an important volatile organic solvent.

What are the Differences and Similarities between Acetone and IPA?

IPA, also known as 2-propanol, is the simplest example of a secondary alcohol. IPA is a colorless liquid with a strong alcoholic odor under room temperature and ordinary pressure, with the chemical formula C3H8O. To learn more about IPA Solvent, read the “What is the Difference Between Electronic Grade IPA and IPA?” article.

Acetone and IPA have very similar structures in their chemical formulas. The key difference between acetone and IPA is that acetone has a C=O bond in the middle of the chemical structure, whereas isopropyl alcohol has a C-OH group in the middle of the chemical structure.

Despite the differences in structures between acetone and IPA, both are highly soluble. They can dissolve non-polar compounds and are highly soluble in most organic solvents such as water, alcohols, ether and benzene. For this reason, IPA and acetone are widely used as solvents and cleaning agents for coating and industrial production processes.

Common Applications of Acetone and IPA

1.Daily Products

IPA is used to make disinfectant wipes, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer. In addition, it is also commonly added to skincare products as it helps dissolve liposoluble skincare ingredients, allowing them to be distributed evenly throughout the formulation. Another benefit of IPA is that it kills bacteria.

On the other hand, acetone is commonly used as a nail polish remover, paint thinner, and an organic solvent in the fiber, tanning, and photographic film industries.

2. Industrial Applications

Both acetone and IPA are primarily used as solvents with industrial applications in explosives, plastics, rubber, oils and fats industries and more. IPA is more volatile than acetone and dries quickly, making it suitable for rinsing. Acetone, on the other hand, usually used to wipe down machines and parts.

Even though both are used as solvent, their applications have differences depending on the industry. In the semiconductor, printed circuit and metal products’ industries, acetone is only used to wipe down black ink on copper tubes. For scrubbing, cold rinsing or steam rinsing, IPA solvent is a better option.

3.Other Usages

Acetone is a C3-synthon that is mostly used in organic synthesis. In addition to its application as a cleaning solvent used in laboratories, acetone functions as a protecting group, and is an important raw material that is used for the synthesis of polyisoprene rubber, methyl ester, chloroform, epoxy resin, and more. Among these, the most widely known application is to mix acetone and dry ice to create a cooling bath whose temperature can reach −50 °C.

In addition to a cleaning solvent and a disinfectant, IPA solvent is often used in industrial processes such as printing and dyeing, optical film coating production, essential oil production…etc. It is also used to manufacture acetone and its derivatives.

The Most Influential Green Materials Provider

LCY is Asia’s largest manufacturer of IPA and methyl isobutyl ketone, offering the highest quality products amongst its peers. We are also the only one manufacturer of acetaldehyde and long-time trusted partner for the nitrocellulose, coating, electronics, synthetic leather, pharmaceutical and ink industries in Taiwan.

In addition to IPA, acetone and methyl isobutyl ketone in the propylene series, LCY’s products also include acetaldehyde in the ethylene series for applications in the paint, ink and adhesive industries.


If you have questions about products’ application or additional inquiries, please contact us and someone from the LCY team will respond to your esteemed institution as soon as possible.