Overview

People at the AA say alcohol is never the solution, but they couldn’t be more wrong. It is a solution, just not the solution to your problems. What we mean by solution here is the scientific and chemical term solution; which is a term used to denote that a particular item of interest is a product of two or more chemicals or products. 

What is Alcohol

Which is what prefaces the question ‘is alcohol a solution?’ Similarly, many people also ask whether alcohol is a compound or an elementary substance, which frankly bewilders us over the range of questions people pose for the simple alcohol.

And we bring answers to such questions. For instance, is rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol also a compound? Is it a pure substance? And many more, which is what we’ll be addressing today. 

Is Alcohol a Solution?

Depends on the type of alcohol in question. If you are talking about the consumable alcohol, in the form of various alcoholic drinks, like brandy, gin and whatnot, then yes, they are a solution. Because they are made with not just pure alcohol (ethanol),

But also a variety of other fermented materials (made from fructose, sucrose and other carbs). This means that hard spirits or hard liquor, in the form of the more popular alcoholic beverages are in fact, solutions. However, it is to be noted here that pure alcohol, named beforehand as ethanol, is a compound, not a solution. The primary difference there being the presence of a hydroxyl group bonded to a saturated carbon atom.

This fact makes it a compound (because of the presence of different elements) but not a solution (because it isn’t the molecular mixture of two separate substances). So, yes and no. Drinking alcohol in the form of any one of the many drinks people consume is a solution, whereas pure alcohol or ethanol is not a solution but a compound. 

Is Alcohol a Compound?

Again, take the same points expounded on beforehand, and you will have a pretty good idea of how to classify the many types of alcohol. For instance, before we get into classifying both ethanol and drinking alcohol, lets take a look at isopropyl alcohol, which is more commonly used as rubbing alcohol, the ones found in alcohol pads or disinfecting pads or in your hand sanitizers and whatnot.

Is Rubbing Alcohol a Compound

In the case of rubbing alcohol, the totality of the bottle is considered a solution, because isopropyl alcohol generally includes both ethanol and water, making it a solution rather than a compound. The basic difference between the two being that rubbing alcohol is a solution because it is the mix of two compounds (water and ethanol). 

Now onto whether alcohol is a compound. And the answer is that drinking alcohol, like any sort of rum, vodka, whiskey, wine or any drink, really is a solution, not a compound. Again, this is because drinking alcohol not only contains ethanol (pure alcohol, itself a compound), but also the fermented products of fructose, sucrose or other derivatives from a variety of fruits, vegetables or grains.

For instance, beer, one of the most popular forms of drinking alcohol, is fermented from grains of rye, wheat or barley. So with that in mind, drinking alcohol is a solution of two or more substances. Whereas for pure alcohol, also called ethanol, it is not a solution, but a compound, as ethanol is not a mix of two or more substances, but rather a product of two or more elements or molecules or different elements. So, there lies the basic difference between the two, and whether they are solutions or compounds. 

Is Alcohol An Element Then?

Certainly not. Even chemistry at the most basic level teaches us that elements are the ones listed on the periodic table, and are either naturally found in the earth’s core or in the atmosphere, or can be synthesised in the case of a few of the elements listed as such.

Whereas alcohol’s basic formula is C2H5OH; meaning that alcohol is a compound composed of three elements, which are the basic building blocks of what we perceive as reality; carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O). Now, in this case, the C, H and O are elements; they can be found in the atmosphere naturally and are composed of their own chemical compositions (like hydrogen has only one electron, giving it a periodic number of 1), as does carbon and hydrogen. These are again elements. 

Alcohol, on the other hand is a compound, meaning that is a substance formed by the bonds between several elements (in this case, three). So, no, alcohol is not an element. An easy way to determine whether something is an element is to look it up on the periodic table; if you cant find it on there, it is not an element, automatically making it a compound of different elements.

Alcohol: Mixture Or Pure Substance?

Again, consider the two different types of alcohol most commonly found; pure alcohol (or ethanol) and the various alcoholic drinks. As evident from the naming convention used here, ethanol is a pure substance because it is composed almost entirely of ethanol itself; whereas many alcohol-based drinks are mixtures as they use a percentage of alcohol alongside a majority of fermented material, making it a mixture rather than a pure substance.

As for isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol, it also cannot be considered a pure substance as it is a mixture of ethanol and water; these two separately can be considered pure substances but once they are compounded together, you get a mixture, which is pretty self-explanatory. 

Alcohol: Solution Suspension Or Colloid?

Alcohol, as a general rule of chemistry, is neither a suspension nor a colloid; it is however a solution, but only in the form of drinking alcohol (like the many drinks colloquially known as hard spirits or liquors). A suspension is any heterogenous mix in which particles freely flow owing to their non-suspension.

The secondary or primary substance (in this case, alcohol). Since both pure and solution alcohol do not have freely flowing particles in it, it cannot be called a suspension. And neither is it a colloid; several scientific sources do not believe it to be so.