Fiber Optic Cleaning Fluid vs IPA

Effective fiber splice and end face optic cleaning is essential for maintaining the performance and longevity of fiber optic networks. As the demand for faster and more reliable data transmission continues to grow, the cleanliness of optical fiber end-faces becomes paramount. Dust, fingerprint oils, and contamination can interfere with signal quality and cause network disruptions. Therefore, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of fiber optic cleaning solutions and their effectiveness in removing these contaminants.

This article will provide an overview of the different cleaning solutions available, focusing specifically on the comparison between engineered fiber optic cleaning fluid and Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA).

Fiber Optic Cleaning Fluid - Composition and Characteristics

Optical fiber cleaning solution is a specially formulated liquid that is used for cleaning fiber cable splices and fiber optic connectors. It is designed to effectively remove dirt, dust, oil, and other contaminants from the optical fiber surfaces.

One of the key characteristics of a good fiber connector cleaner is its fast-evaporating nature, which ensures that it dries quickly without leaving any residue behind. This is crucial for ensuring optimal optical performance and preventing signal loss or degradation. Additionally, the cleaning fluid is non-conductive and non-corrosive, making it safe to use on delicate fiber optic equipment.


Optical fiber cleaning fluid offers several benefits when it comes to cleaning and maintaining fiber optic cable connections.

  • Thoroughly and effectively removes particles and contaminants from surfaces

  • Compatible with various types of optical fiber connectors (single-mode and multi-mode)

  • Quick drying and leaves no residue behind

  • Non-conductive and non-corrosive for safe cleaning 

  • Helps maintain performance and longevity of fiber core connections

Isopropyl Alcohol or Engineered Fluids?

IPA has many names and can also be listed on safety data sheets as isopropanol, rubbing alcohol, propan-2-ol, and 2-propanol or dimethyl carbinol.

IPA Benefits

So, what are the benefits of IPA? Price and availability are the main advantages. It is inexpensive to make and easy to purchase from a variety of sources. Since IPA has been the ‘standard’ cleaning fluid for fiber technicians for decades, many companies still think of IPA as the ‘go-to’ fluid for cleaning fiber.

IPA Disadvantages

But does IPA clean effectively? Not really. IPA is hygroscopic, meaning it attracts water molecules from the air. As the IPA absorbs the water molecules, even at low relative humidity, it also picks up microscopic dust particles. This can include exhaust particles from traffic or pollen from plants, as well as all the absorbed minerals and salts. This contaminates the IPA and degrades its ability to clean.

Water trapped in the alcohol also slows the drying process. This means it evaporates slowly from the end faces, slowing cleaning time. To speed up the drying process, some technicians may use canned air on the fiber end face, but this is not recommended. Canned air, or air dusters, create a static or triboelectric charge on the end face which attracts dust. It also pushes the debris around the area on the end face being cleaned.

IPA is also highly flammable and has a high vapor pressure making it dangerous to use in areas where there are flames or sparks. It also requires special handling and storage. Most alcohol-based cleaning fluids are regulated as hazardous materials and cannot easily be shipped by air. This makes shipping or transporting IPA to a remote job site problematic and expensive.

Finally, IPA is difficult to keep clean and uncontaminated between uses. It is usually not stored in hermetically sealed containers. This means the fluid is exposed to dust and humidity in the work area which could draw in moisture and cross-contaminate the cleaning fluid. There is also the risk of accidental spillage, a dangerous hazard due to its extreme flammability, if the IPA isn’t in a sealed container.

Engineered Cleaning Fluids – What are the Benefits?

It is fair to say that the disadvantages of IPA far outweigh the benefits. Fortunately, there are alternative fluids that fill the fiber cleaning void. Unlike IPA, a high-quality ultra-pure optical-grade fiber optic cleaning fluid is engineered to clean better, dry quicker, are static dissipative, and will not leave a residue on the end face.

Unlike IPA engineered fiber optic cleaning fluids are not hygroscopic and do not absorb impurities through moisture in the air. This helps prevent cross-contamination and helps ensure a better clean.  Engineered fiber cleaning fluids are also static-dissipative which helps eliminate the surface static that attracts dust to end faces or fiber slices.

Engineered cleaning fluids are also fast drying. In fact, they are eight times faster at drying than IPA making the overall fiber cleaning process quicker to complete. Plus, they do not leave a haze behind that can cause possible insertion loss or faulty signal transmission as they dry.

Optical grade cleaning fluids are also non-flammable; a huge benefit over IPA. They can be transported with ease and stored and used without the hazards associated with IPA. Furthermore, they typically come in a hermetically sealed package. This not only keeps the fluid pure and free from any contaminant, but also helps ensure the cleaning fluid does not spill or leak if tipped over. The sealed can typically delivers the cleaning fluid in a metered dose via a dispenser cap. This also helps control fluid waste and limits installer exposure to the fluid.

Engineered Cleaning Fluids Drawbacks

Perhaps the one drawback of engineered fiber cleaning fluids when compared to IPA is the price. When compared to each other, IPA will always be the cheaper option. However, IPA does not clean as effectively or as quickly. If fiber networks are not cleaned thoroughly, and contamination is left on the fiber end faces, the network could be compromised causing intermittent signal interruption or a complete network shut down.  Cleaning-related network problems usually result in costly call backs and technicians spending more time cleaning and replacing fiber. So, IPA may be a cheaper alternative, but the long-term costs are substantial.

Which One Wins the Fiber Cleaning Battle?

Reliable fiber networks call for reliable cleaning with the most effective cleaning fluids. To achieve the best results, avoid IPA and select an engineered cleaning fluid instead. Choose one that is fast-drying to speed the cleaning process and that will not attract moisture, and the contaminants it harbors, to the end faces or splices. For safety and ease of transport, ensure the cleaning fluid is non-flammable and classified as non-regulated and non-hazardous. In addition, choose an engineered cleaning fluid that comes packaged in a hermetically-sealed container. It will keep the cleaning fluid fresh and pure between uses and prevent spills and fluid waste.

Key Differences Between Fiber Optic Cleaning Fluid and Isopropyl Alcohol

While both substances are effective in removing contaminants and ensuring proper signal transmission, there are key differences between them.

Firstly, optical fiber cleaning fluid is specifically designed for cleaning fiber cables, connectors, and other components. It is formulated with a blend of solvents that are optimized for cleaning delicate surfaces without causing damage or leaving residue.

On the other hand, IPA alcohol is a general-purpose solvent that is widely used for cleaning various electronic and optical components. It is readily available and cost-effective, making it a popular choice for many industries.

However, unlike fiber optic cleaning fluid, IPA does not provide the same level of precision and may leave residues if not handled properly. Optical fiber cleaning fluids are also non-flammable, making them safer to use in sensitive environments, whereas IPA alcohol is highly flammable and requires caution during handling.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Solution

When it comes to choosing the right cleaning solution for optical fiber components, here are several factors that must be considered:

  • The compatibility of the cleaning solution is crucial. Optical fiber cables and connectors are delicate and sensitive, requiring a cleaning solution that will effectively remove dirt, dust, and contaminants without causing damage or affecting their performance.

  • The cleaning solution should be safe to use on various optical fiber components, such as connectors, adapters, and jumpers. It is essential to select a cleaning solution specifically designed for fiber optics to ensure optimal cleaning results and prolong the lifespan of the component.

Our Recommended Fiber Optic Cleaning Fluid

Sticklers™ Fiber Optic Splice & Connector Cleaner Fluid


  • Excellent IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) alternative

  • Cleaning optical fiber end-faces

  • Use on ceramic and composite ferrule faces

  • Cleaning fiber during fusion splicing

  • Cleans glass and plastic lenses


  • Completely removes dust, dirt, fingerprints, moisture

  • Ultra-pure, leaves no residue

  • Does not absorb water or other impurities

  • Metered doses help control waste

  • Nonflammable for added safety

  • Dissipates electrostatic charge

  • Dries instantly for faster cleaning

  • Safe on all surfaces

  • TravelSafe™ bottle - ships as non-hazardous, non-regulated for easy storage and transport

  • Hermetically sealed and spill-proof

  • RoHS and REACH compliant

  • NSN: 6850-01-592-9391

Making the Right Choice

Choosing between fiber optic cleaning fluid and IPA alcohol requires careful consideration of several factors. While IPA alcohol is commonly used for general cleaning purposes, it may not be the ideal choice for cleaning fiber optic components. On the other hand, is specifically formulated to effectively remove contaminants without causing damage to delicate optical fiber components. It ensures compatibility, safety, and optimal cleaning results.

Therefore, when it comes to cleaning fiber optic components, it is recommended to choose a dedicated optical fiber cleaning fluid that meets the specific requirements of these sensitive components. This ensures the longevity and reliable performance of fiber optic networks.