10 Ways to Clean with Rubbing Alcohol!

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In my opinion, rubbing alcohol is one of the most underrated cleaning products in the world. But don’t look for it in the cleaning aisle—it’s usually kept in the first-aid section of stores, because isopropyl alcohol also acts as an effective disinfectant for cuts.

Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol are commonly used as the primary ingredient in rubbing alcohol (the other ingredient being denatured alcohol). But to keep things simple, let’s just call it rubbing alcohol (surgical spirit in the UK and Ireland). Before we get down to its cleaning capabilities, a few cautions: First, its fumes are quite powerful, so always use it in a well-ventilated area. Second, both alcohol and its fumes are flammable, so keep it far from heat sources—don’t use it on your oven or toaster. Oh, and despite its name, this stuff isn’t a party in a bottle, so don’t add it to your cocktails!

Alcohol is a solvent, meaning it dissolves dirt and oil. It also dries almost instantly, which does come in handy, as you’re about to see. It has many, many uses around the home, and today, I’m going to share my 10 favorite with you.

10 Great Uses for Rubbing Alcohol

Homemade Disinfectant

Mix up one part rubbing alcohol to one part water in a spray bottle, and use it to disinfect points of contact and other germy areas. You can even use it directly on a cotton pad to clean your earring posts, thermometers, and any other personal items.

Stainless Steel Cleaner

Add some rubbing alcohol to a soft, non-scratching cloth and wipe down your stainless steel appliances with it, going with the grain. It’s a great way to remove fingerprints, and it dries streak-free.

Remove Hair Spray from Mirrors and Tiles

It’s amazing how much hairspray can end up on the bathroom mirror or walls after a quick spritz. To get rid of build-up, dampen a cotton pad or cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe away that sticky mess with ease.

Remove Frost from Car Windows

This one is genius for those of us in cold climates. Rather than dealing with frost and ice on the car, mix one part rubbing alcohol to 5 parts water and spray the solution onto your exterior car windows and mirrors. Wipe with a cloth, and allow to dry. Repeat once every two weeks to keep up its efficacy. (Anything that keeps me from having to scrape ice off my windshield in the cold Canadian winter is worth the effort, in my book.)

Refresh Sponges and Cloths

If I wanted to make you really uncomfortable right now, I’d ask you to put your sponge under a microscope. Instead, I’ll spare you, since cleaning a sponge or kitchen cloth is really easy! Completely saturate the sponge or cloth with rubbing alcohol in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse out completely, and it will be ready to go. For quick cleaning of your previously unwashed cleaning tools, spray them with rubbing alcohol before use.

Clean Sinks and Chrome

Once you’ve cleared out your stainless steel or porcelain sink, spray rubbing alcohol in the sink to not only clean and disinfect it, but to shine it up as well. Use a dry cloth to buff the sink basin as well as the chrome finishes. (It’s also safe to use on brass.)

Really, Truly, Clean a Dry Erase Board

When you’ve left dry-erase marker on a whiteboard for too long, you know what happens—it converts to permanent marker! Rather than purchasing dry-erase board cleaner, just spray rubbing alcohol on the board and easily wipe away the marks with a paper towel.

Remove Ink and Permanent Marker Stains

Yes, even permanent marker! If you get ballpoint ink, gel ink, or permanent ink on a garment, soak the area with rubbing alcohol for a few minutes, then blot the stain up with a clean paper towel. Launder according to the garment’s care instructions and repeat as needed.

Microfiber Sofa Stains

Unlike water, which will itself stain the microfiber, rubbing alcohol won’t penetrate the fabric and evaporates quickly, making it a stain-fighting ally. Spray some rubbing alcohol over the stained area and wipe with a clean sponge or cloth (ideally white to avoid colour transfer). Allow to dry. If the microfiber feels matted, brush the spot in a circular motion using a soft bristle brush.

Disinfect your Mouse and Keyboard

Use rubbing alcohol to as a disinfectant and as a degreaser!  It dries almost instantly, so you don’t need to worry about water damage. Watch our videos on how to clean electronics.

Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

71 COMMENTS

    • Hi Vonnie,

      Rubbing alcohol can be used to get out ink stains in clothing, but washing clothes in it might risk damaging them, depending on the fabric.

  1. I am amazed at how many people hear that you use rubbing alcohol to disinfect items from stemware to keyboards and they freak out. Sometimes I wonder if they think we are drinking it instead of spraying and wiping.

  2. Wondering how the disinfectant properties of rubbing alcohol are different from vinegar? Also as a comparison for polishing items like sinks and stainless? Are the comparable?

    • You probably could if it’s not oil based, or if you only use a tiny bit of essential oil and shake well before you spray. You don’t want oil spots on upholstery. The alcohol evaporates so quickly that it would most likely leave behind whatever fragrance you used which would be nice

  3. I use rubbing alcohol all over my home. I love the way it smells, and cleans and disinfects, especially in my kitchen and bathroom. It’s cheap, and it works amazingly, better then any other cleaner. I spray my kitchen sponge after every use, and wipe down the surface of my kitchen. I love using it in my bathrooms. I really like the smell of it. I bought a spray bottle and just refill it . I get my alcohol at the dollar store, and stock up on it. It’s one cleaner that you can use in your entire bathroom, it doesn’t streak. It’s great on floors, and any surface. I haven’t found a surface yet that I can’t use it on. 🙂

  4. I’m going t o try the alcohol and water to defrost my car.what is the ratio? And his w long can I store it in a plastic bottle to be ready for use?

      • Oh yay I finally found the answer I was looking for. So the tap water and alcohol solution can keep for months? That is good news.

        If anyone knows, Melissa also recommends a tap water and dishwashing detergent solution as an all purpose cleaner. Can this also keep for a while?

        Thanks!

  5. Hi Mellisa for all of your great & amazing tipps. I have a little question: there are many types of rub. alcohol like ethil, etanol etc. Because I live in Israel I can’t order the thing you use from Amazon. And also there are obviously couple of kinds of hydrogen peroxide. I don’t know what kinds of alcohol can I use in order to make your home made cleaners and what kind of hydrogen peroxide. Thanks in advance
    Roman

  6. Thanks for the video – I hate to clean but this will make life a lot easier!!!! I also put it in my floor washing solution of water, vinegar, a tsp. of dawn besides a table spoon of the rubbing alcohol and works like a champ

  7. Methylated spirits or denatured alcohol as the americans call it is also excellent for cleaning cooking oil spatter from stove tops . Just make sure that the stove ( cooker) is switched off and cooled right down first.

  8. Keep up the great work! Can you tell us where you got your spray bottle? Looks like it’s a good one and I always seem to buy the ones that leak. :/

  9. good work. should be more of it.

    It is absurd that the market shelves and our cupboards are crammed with cleaners for this and cleaners for that when cheap omni cleaners are conveniently kept quiet.

    Reminds me of mum. She had a big notebook of what combos of the basics like; methylated spirits, bicarb, washing soda etc. etc. worked for various jobs.

  10. RE: 8) Remove Ink and Permanent Marker Stains

    “Place in the wash, per the garment’s care instructions and repeat as needed. This will avoid that hysterical outburst of ‘I just can’t have nice things!’.”

    Got a loud chuckle out of that one…Thanks for the LOL!

  11. I now use 91% isopropyl alcohol to clean my hot rollers. Since I have to use hairspray after rolling my hair (I have seriously straight hair and this is the only thing that works to hold the curl) after a few months, the hairspray builds up on my rollers. I picked up a new bottle of alcohol last weekend, not realizing it was 91% when I had always used 70%. Wow! What a difference! I only had to soak and rinse my rollers instead of soaking them and then scrubbing off the loosened gunk with 70% alcohol. My vanity was quickly cleaned using the 91%, as well! And the BEST thing? I used the 91% alcohol on my shower tiles to remove a layer of soap & lime scale…with a paper towel!! It took a whole bottle of CLR and scrubbing with a dish scrubber to get it off last time! I am in cleaning heaven!

  12. Excellent stuff. I am going to try it out.
    Is there any risk if corrosion, rust or weakening in fabrics and fibres.

  13. I just happened tobspill a little hand sanitizer (62% alcohol) on thevglass counter protectors I have in my kitchen and the “germ” of an idea happened…why not use rubbing alcohol when cleaning! So I googled your site and was delighted to find your suggestions. Thanks so very much for the tips on cleaning with alcohol!!

  14. I am hard of hearing. Any chance you could include a page of highlights in numerical order for each of your presentations. This way I can print the highlights and avoid carpal tunnel (kidding). I try to write down what you say but you talk very fast, and I sometimes cannot hear what you say even though I backup the presentation numerous times. You have wonderful suggestions.

  15. tried on my mirror awesome, is the alcohol a cleaner and disinfectant that you don’t have to wait ten min? Could this be considered a one-step process?

  16. I love all of your tips. I have a lung disease and I was searching for an alternative to harsh cleaning chemicals. I’ll remember to have proper ventilation. Thanks so much

  17. How long is the alcohol and the fumes flammable. I just started using a mixture of rubbing alcohol, castile soap, and tea tree oil for cleaning my granite counters next to my gas stove.

  18. Hi Melissa.. Question I found two variations of rubbing alcohol and I’m wondering which you feel is best or does it matter. One is 50% isopropyl and already in a spray bottle and the other is 91% isopropyl. I’m looking specifically at cleaning my microfiber sofa and stainless steel appliances. Also do I need to dilute the one already in the spray bottle? Love your ideas and thank you

  19. Actually, windows whether they have frost or not. It cleans glass better than anything I’ve seen, including actual window cleaner. Makes it look new. And doesn’t streak.

  20. Hi Melissa, LOVE your videos! I managed to track down a source for rubbing alcohol and have just read your piece above that it’s also known as Surgical spirit!!! The stuff we nurses 50 years ago used to rub on Pressure points of a body – taboo today! Thank you for your help with the cleaning it will make my pension go further by saving money when not buying commercial products. Mary

  21. Kudos to you. You have built, by all appearances, an excellent business. I love your videos for their fun but educational and to the point nature. Your website is also very nice and extremely informative. Thank you so much, you are definitely doing what you are very good at.

  22. Is isopropyl alcohol dangerous to use? Bottle says use in well ventilated area, fumes may be
    harmful. Would like to use as a disinfectant. Thank you for your time.

  23. Hi ! I have Isopropyl Alcohol with me around 25 MTS, I have to sell it as it contains a moisture content of 2% which is useless for my factory, please advise if some one is interested to buy, I can offer some cheap price…

    Rohaan

  24. I truly love your videos! I am very sensitive to commercial cleaners but I am an obsessive cleaner and also thought bleach was the only way to disinfect my home. I also forgot to tell you I have Lupus and my immune system is in crash zone. So I was so happy to come across your videos. My husband says I’m just in a trance with your ides and now he finds spray bottles all under the sink and most of the store cleaners are gone. My husband also doesn’t believe that they can really get the job done especially when I’m OCD when it comes to cleaning. I enjoy watching more videos and I will keep using your ideas while he is working.

    • I would use “Lysol” or whatever u use… Then the alcohol… It will disinfect your floors .. But I wouldn’t do it to wood.

  25. Hello Clean my space tandem! Your vlog and blog is infotainment at its best! Thanks for doing this and sharing us tips & tricks!

    Where can we read replies in the comments? I am curious when to use alcohol as is without water mixture and when it’s best to dilute 1:1?

    Thanks,
    e

  26. I love this! Thanks. Always have used it as a topical/surface disinfectant and a clothes/garment and space/energy spray cleanser. Lately been using it on mirrors and just on my sink! Love the affirmations and new usages! Thanks again!

  27. You saved my life! Rubbin Alcohol worked like a CHARM when a cat peed on my Microfiber couch!! I was Freaking out ‘cuz it was a brand new couch… I searched online and some people was talking about vinegar and blah blah and all I was worried about was the smell and the fcking stain!! Then after watching this video I decided to use rubbin alcohol on my couch, it took almost 1/2 litre to remove all the smell but it really really worked and there is not a single stain not the minimum change of color and I am the happiest person and you are my heroine 🙂

  28. Hello,

    I also heard that Hydrogen peroxide can be a good cleaner as well. What are your thoughts on this, and do you prefer one over the other?

  29. Thanks for all your tips! Would love a section where I can submit questions. 1. How do you get grease stain out of clothes. 2. Any car carpet cleaning tips?

  30. Your videos are AWESOMELY entertaining and useful. Thank you for making cleaning fun again! 🙂
    Do you use hydrogen peroxide to clean your toilet? I would prefer not to buy my usual Ecover, which I love, in lieu of one of the other cleaning staples I keep on hand in bulk. Thanks again!

  31. After 66 years finally I now know how to get a streak free mirror on a time! Thanks for all our ‘how to’ tips! QGordon – SC

  32. Thanks for this article. Many off the shelf household products contain ethanol and I was wondering how I would determine the % of ethanol in a particular product. In the few cleaners I’ve seen, they list the ingredients, but not the concentration. Would a company be required to divulge that information?

  33. when you say make a disinfectant spreay using one part alcohol and one part water do you mean half bottle alcohol and half water?

  34. Hi Melissa and Chad 🙂
    Love your videos and tips, you’re a true motivator. My home has never been cleaner since I started watching your channel and I already got various compliments. I also started to tackle areas I successfully had ignored for quite some time. Well, there is three of us and I’m the one doing the main household work, so the journey is the destination. 🙂
    Keep it up and thank you very much.
    Love, Nadia

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