What is the difference between chlorohexidine and alcohol?



What is the difference between chlorohexidine and alcohol?

In: Chemistry

Several of the atoms.
I’m kidding I’m not sure off the top of my head, but I assume chlorohexidine works differently than alcohol does to *pop* bacteria and kill them.

I know for sure Chlorohexadine is used in much lower concentrations than alcohol for disinfecting. A 4% Chloro solution won’t burn on a cut like a 70% isopropyl (or ethanol, or anything.) and of course you dont want to rinse your mouth with full concentration alcohols, and even so only ethanol goes in your mouth.

I apologize I’ve broken the rules, this is no answer. Im just hoping someone comes in and tells me how wrong I am.

So I had to look up the biological side a bit, because I assume you meant what’s the difference as a cleaning agent, so bear with me there, bit I can speak more confidently about the chemical side of things.

As chemicals, they’re pretty different.
Alcohols have one end that basically looks like water, an -OH group, while the rest of the molecule is just carbon and hydrogen (this is actually only true for simple alcohols, but those are what most people think of anyway). This means that they’ve got one side that likes water and one side that likes oily things. It’s not as strong an effect as with soap, but generally they’ll mix with most other liquids.
Chlorhexidine, on the other hand has a very [different structure.](https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorhexidine#/media/File%3AChlorhexidin.svg) It’s got a purely hydrogen and carbon chain in the middle, while each end is a chain of nitrogen-containing groups and something called a benzene ring with a chlorine atom stuck to it. I don’t know how well these like oily things, but looking at it I bet it loves water – all of those nitrogen groups can lose various numbers of hydrogen atoms to create a highly charged molecule, which is what water loves dissolving.

As for disinfecting, from my understanding they are actually similar at the broadest level. Both work by causing bacteria (and presumably viruses, but I couldn’t find as much on that) to essentially fall apart – they make the membrane holding them together stop working. Chlorhexidine seems to do this by sticking to the membrane strongly enough to disrupt it, while alcohol works by disrupting the proteins (big natural molecules that need to hold a certain shape), likely by messing with the charge environment so they can’t hold that shape anymore.

Hope that helps!