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Question. Where to get isopropyl alcohol in the UK?

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I wish to remove some wood planking from my ship which is fixed using PVA. I understand isopropyl alcohol aka rubbing alcohol does the trick.


Can anyone in the UK suggest a way of getting small supplies of this liquid locally?


For such items in the past I always went to a well known High Street chemist chain but latterly they only seem to be interested in selling aromatic liquids sold under the brand name of brain dead "celebrities". I tried last week to buy Iso but was meet with looks from the staff that suggested that they believed I was either i) planning some sort of terrorist atrocity, ii) a certifiable alcoholic or iii) both. So they all moved away from me......


Actually I suspect some of their aromatic products could strip the paint and glue off a battleship at 50 paces.


(I hope I have submitted this thread in the right category).

Edited by ianmajor
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If you can't get isopropyl alcohol, might you consider surgical spirit, instead?  I've always understood it to be made of much the same primary ingredient, but with added extras (ie to make it smell less pleasant, and also to make it undrinkable, etc.).  I've bought it in the past from chemists quite easily for such as modelling and cleaning purposes.

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Checking on Google, Surgical Spirit may work in place of Isopropyl for dissolving white glue, they have many commonalities, but do a test before using it on the good ship HMS Afterguard.


I don't know if it is significant to your not being able to find it, but one of the first commercial uses for Isopropyl was as a step in the production of cordite.

Edited by jbshan
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Try a paint supplier.  Denatured alcohol will work and it is used as a solvent for some paints.

You really want denatured alcohol, %99. Rubbing alcohol is not the same thing. Pharmacies have it.


Edit: Isopropyl is good too. I went back and reread Ian's post. Rubbing alcohol is too weak.

Edited by PAnderson
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Isopropyl alcohol is 2-propanol -  it does not need to be "denatured" - it will make you quite sick all by itself.

Here in the US, it comes as 70% and 91% - in any pharmacy in the first aid section.   By tradition, 70% is the optimal concentration for killing 'bugs',  but in all likelyhood, it is the physical cleaning that does the most good, not the chemical killing. I am guessing that 91% would evaporate more quickly,  so it is for cooling. --  Having a higher concentration of the organic solvent, it would be better for dissolving PVA.  I had a pharmacy order in a gallon of 100% isopropyl to use as shellac solvent.  It was not too expensive back then,  I would not bet on that being the case now.  My thinking being that isopropyl would evaporate more slowly than ethanol and give longer working time.


Denatured alcohol is ethanol - ethyl alcohol  - booze  -  that has something added to make it not drinkable.  The denaturant is added to avoid having to pay a Federal tax that was $30/gal.  It is also likely to be the solvent in shellac thinner - but methanol is also used for this.  It is more water-like in its solvent properties and is not listed as a PVA solvent.  It may work for Titebond I and "white" PVA - as would water.  The best you can do with it is 95%.  Even if you get 100% - distilled from benzene - as soon as it is exposed to air, it pulls water from the air until it get to 95%.

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Thanks Spyglass.


I have not come across them. There are none around north east Cheshire or south Manchester that I am aware of. I searched for them on line but only found a rapper, a printer and a single independent chemist in Swansea. Perhaps they are shy! :) Thinks - I should ask my wife - she will know.

Edited by ianmajor
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I did some research on surgical spirt. I found an electronic discussion group where the use surgical spirits to clean CDs, read heads etc was not recommended on the basis that it can leave greasy deposits when the alcohol has evaporated. Looking further on the Superdrug web site I found a description of their surgical spirit. The text included:



Surgical Spirit acts to tighten, harden and disinfect the outer layer of the skin. It also contains castor oil to help prevent dryness and cracking." (my italics). <source>
This suggests that using surgical spirits on a wooden ship model would leave a caster oil residue which would probably make further gluing difficult and also affect the finish.
So I decided between Amazon and Maplin. The Maplin offering was slightly more expensive but is local. When postage was taken in to account they came out about the same. From Maplin Isopropyl can be bought in a spray can which comes with a fine nozzle to direct it accurately to where you want it. I am now in business.
Having Isopropyl in a spray can took me back nearly 50 years to when I worked on some of the early disc drives. One wonderful machine weighing in at a ton and a half held the staggering amount of 30 Megabytes of storage. The active part of the read heads were pads an inch in diameter and the disc platters were 3 feet in diameter and about quarter inch thick. Periodically we had to clean these things using 4 feet long rods sheathed in lint free cloth soaked in "Iso". It was quite exhilarating pushing these rods back and forth, slightly drunk on the "Iso" fumes with the large platters whizzing around at 2400 rpm a couple of inches from our ears.
Ah - those were the days! :o   .........    :)
Once again guys, thanks for your help.
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