- What is rubbing alcohol?
- Cleaning with rubbing alcohol
- How to use rubbing alcohol to tackle smells & stains
- Beauty & health uses
- Miscellaneous uses for around the home
Ever wondered what rubbing alcohol can be used for?
Caring for cuts aside, there are many other miscellaneous uses for rubbing alcohol too. Discover the mysterious ways to use this medical marvel in your cleaning routine, beauty regime and more today.
Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in June 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in March 2020.
What is rubbing alcohol?
Rubbing alcohol is an antiseptic solution that is commonly used in first aid to clean and disinfect minor scrapes. The bottle might read "Surgical Spirit B.P." or "Rubbing Alcohol" so, to find what you're looking for, it's important to be aware of the different name variations.
According to drugs.com, Rubbing alcohol is typically made up of 70% alcohol (absolute or isopropyl alcohol), with the other 30% made up of water, denaturants, and perfume oils.
It can be found in most pharmacies and is also available on Amazon for as little as £5.99 for a 2 pack.
WARNING: Always ensure that you're in a well-ventilated space when using rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is also highly flammable.
Cleaning with rubbing alcohol
1. Remove sticky residue
Ever wondered how to remove sticker residue? Price tags, plasters, and stickers will be easy to remove when you know this clever tip.
Soak the area with rubbing alcohol or dab lightly onto skin then wipe clean. There's nothing more frustrating than getting that shiny new item home and removing the sticker only to have a horrible layer of sticky stuff left on it.
2. Use rubbing alcohol to clean your eyeglasses
Did you know you can clean your glasses with rubbing alcohol? It will have a deep clean effect and get rid of any germs. Eyes are sensitive and susceptible to infection so ensure you're regularly getting rid of dirt.
Mix 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water and decant into a clean, travel-sized bottle for a handy glasses cleaning spray.
WARNING: If your glasses have a special coating on them, check the care instructions before using any DIY cleaning solutions.
3. Clean Venetian blinds
Want to learn how to dust like a pro? Secure some microfibre cleaning cloths to the end of a pair of tongs using a few elastic bands. Dip the tongs in rubbing alcohol then clean each slat. It works a treat!
4. Make your mirrors shine like they've never shined before!
Squirt some rubbing alcohol onto a clean cloth and buff your mirrors using circular movements. You can also use this solution to make your sink and taps super sparkly.
5. How to clean your gardening tools
Cleaning gardening tools couldn't be easier with rubbing alcohol. It'll remove any nasties from dead, diseased and rotting plants.
First, clean the tools with soap and water. Let some rubbing alcohol soak in for 1-2 minutes. Wipe clean with a clean rag and they'll be clean and ready to use.
How to use rubbing alcohol to tackle smells & stains
6. Get rid of cooking smells from your hands
Chopped onion and garlic can really make hands smell!
Banish lingering smells by rubbing surgical spirit onto your hands, much like a hand gel sanitiser.
7. Use rubbing alcohol to remove permanent marker
Remove marker from non-permeable materials like plastic laminate and marble by applying some rubbing alcohol onto the area. It will dissolve the marker back to its liquid state again making it easy to wipe off.
8. How to deodorise your shoes
You can deodorise your shoes by spraying rubbing alcohol into the inside of your footwear then leaving them to dry, preferably in a sunny spot. The rubbing alcohol will soak up any whiffs and will also have a deodorising effect on the material so your feet shouldn't be as stinky or wet on your next wear.
9. Rubbing alcohol can stretch your shoes
Another one of our top uses for rubbing alcohol is to stretch small shoes.
Use the same process for deodorising shoes, and it will cause the leather to give a little.
10. Keep dirty collars at bay
Wipe some rubbing alcohol on your neck each morning. It’ll help prevent your collar from staining and acts a mild antiperspirant, too. A heaven-sent tip during those sticky Summer days.
You can also use this little trick anywhere you get sweat stains - knees, underarms and inner elbows for example.
Beauty & health uses
11. The best way to clean makeup brushes
Our favourite way to clean makeup brushes and tools is by soaking them in rubbing alcohol for 30 minutes and allowing them to air dry. Do this every month to keep germs at bay and your brushes in tip-top condition.
12. A home remedy for cold sores
Cold sores are pretty common, so there's no need to fret. To help heal them quickly, dab a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol onto the area every night.
13. Fix a broken eyeshadow, blusher or bronzer
This is one of our favourite beauty hacks of all time!
Spray broken sections of makeup with rubbing alcohol and gently pushing the pieces together. Leave to set for a few hours and they'll be as good as new.
14. Remove nail polish
Run out of nail polish remover? No problem - rubbing alcohol is a great substitute. It will take a lot of rubbing but it will shift!
15. Make a home-made ice pack
Mix 1 part surgical spirit with 3 parts water in a sealable plastic bag. Next time you have a sore area or injury just get your ice pack out – it moulds to your body too!
16. Soothe a twisted ankle or similar minor injury
Applying some rubbing alcohol directly onto the area. It will help bring blood to the area and calm down the swelling.
17. Make your own hand sanitizer
Have the shops run out of hand sanitizer? Don't panic, you can make your own hand sanitizer very easily at home. All you need is some rubbing alcohol (the higher the percentage the better) and some aloe vera gel.
Mix together 2 parts rubbing alcohol to 1 part aloe vera gel. If your rubbing alcohol is under 70% alcohol, you'll need to increase the ratio of rubbing alcohol for it to be effective at killing bacteria.
If you would like, you can add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to give your hand sanitizer a fragrance. Once you've mixed the ingredients together, transfer your DIY hand sanitizer to a clean bottle. It's so simple!
Miscellaneous uses for around the home
18. Remove dog ticks
Dab a small amount of surgical spirit onto your dog’s tick. They hate the taste of rubbing alcohol and loosen their grip slightly making it easier for you to pull them off. Grab the critter as close to the skin as possible and pull it off then dab again with rubbing alcohol to disinfect the wound.
19. Get rid of fruit flies
Don't let fruit flies ruin your fun in the sun!
Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle and spray them. They'll soon drop so you can clean them away.
20. Keep your car windows frost-free
Mix a solution of 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol and 1/4 cup water. Take a sponge and wash your windows with this anti-frost solution and the next time the temperature drops you should have less frost to scrape away.
21. Remove frost quickly from car windows
Frosty windows? Surgical spirit will help speed things up.
Pour some into a mini spray bottle and give windows a good squirt. It helps dissolve frost so you should be able to remove it with just a quick wipe with the wiper blades.
22. Make your own air freshener
Mixing 1 cup of rubbing alcohol with 10-15 drops of your favourite essentials oils in a spray bottle. I love lemon and peppermint for the bathroom and relaxing lavender in the bedroom.
Where can I buy rubbing alcohol?
Rubbing Alcohol can be purchased from pharmacies and some supermarkets like Asda and Tesco. You can also buy it online from retailers like Amazon.
Are there any alternatives to rubbing alcohol?
When looking for a substitute for rubbing alcohol, you'll need to consider what you want to use it for. Saline solution works very well for cleaning wounds like new piercings. Other substitutes for rubbing alcohol can include vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, witch hazel, hand sanitiser, and unflavoured vodka, but it all depends on its intended use.
Is surgical spirit the same as rubbing alcohol?
Surgical spirit is the British equivalent of rubbing alcohol.
Are methylated spirits the same things as rubbing alcohol?
Unlike rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol, also known as "methylated spirits", contains methanol. This addition is toxic, which means that you can't use rubbing alcohol and denatured alcohol interchangeably. The website chemicals.co.uk has more information about the uses of methylated spirits.
Is rubbing alcohol safe?
Rubbing alcohol is safe to use as intended, but care should be taken. Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable so it should always be kept away from heat sources and open flames. Inhaling rubbing alcohol can cause nausea, vomiting and irritation.
Can surgical spirit be used on newborns?
Rubbing alcohol is great for cleaning your newborn's umbilical cord. Dip a piece of cotton wool in the alcohol and gently swab at the remaining cord. Your baby will not feel any pain and the cord should fall off within two weeks.
Thanks for reading! If you have any more rubbing alcohol uses, please let us know.
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