10 Ways to Clean with Rubbing Alcohol!


In my opinion, rubbing alcohol is one of the most underrated cleaning products in the world – and for good reason.  This humble miracle liquid works wonders all over your home – BUT – you normally don’t find it in the cleaning aisle..

You’ll probably find it in the first-aid section of your local drug store, or perhaps behind the counter depending on your local laws, because isopropyl alcohol also acts as an effective disinfectant after you cut yourself.

Along with ethanol, isopropyl alcohol is one of the types of alcohol commonly used as the primary ingredient of rubbing alcohol, the other ingredient being denatured alcohol.  But to keep things simple, let’s just call it rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is known as surgical spirit in some countries, including the UK and Ireland. Under both names, the solution is typically 70% isopropyl alcohol or ethanol and 30% distilled water.  Now, rubbing alcohol does come with a few cautions.  Firstly, it’s got quite the aroma, so always use it in a well-ventilated area, serious, this stuff is strong.  Also, it and its fumes are flammable, so please use with care, like don’t use it on your oven or toaster. Oh, and despite the name, this stuff isn’t a party in a bottle, so don’t add it to your cocktails!

Isopropyl alcohol is a solvent, meaning it is a dissolver of dirt and oil, and also is used as a disinfectant.  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.

For our friends in other parts of the world who have difficulty locating this product, here are some ideas you can try.

Rubbing alcohol has in past been used as a cheap form of alcohol, which is why it is banned in some places or has tight restrictions.  The additives in the product make it taste terrible and can cause unsavory reactions, so it is really not recommended to drink. That’s why some countries have actual bans in place, or price it high, or sell it through a  chemist or pharmacist.  You’ll have to investigate your local rules and regulations as they pertain to rubbing alcohol, surgical spirits or isopropyl alcohol.

With that, here are some ideas of where you can go to find rubbing alcohol in countries where it is not readily available.  Check your local hardware store, or a store where they sell items for home improvement (the North American equivalent is Home Depot).  Check your local pharmacy or drug store and speak the pharmacist or chemist to see if it is an item they keep behind the counter.  Large stores referred to as ‘big box’ or ‘hypermarkets’ may carry the product as well.  Check the first aid section to start.  Art supply shops may carry the product, as it has also been used to clean paint brushes.  Surprisingly, there are many forums online where people talk about where to find rubbing alcohol around the world, so maybe key “where to buy rubbing alcohol+country” in to your search bar and see what comes up.  If you still can’t find any, consider asking a friend or family member who can easily access it to bring you some the next time they visit. Ebay and Amazon also carry it, so you can investigate those options as well.

10 Great Uses for Rubbing Alcohol

1) Make your own disinfectant

You know how important disinfecting is, especially with cold season just around the corner!  Mix up one part rubbing alcohol to one part water, add in a spray bottle and do your disinfecting.  Then, use this to clean your points of contact and other germy areas.  You can even use it directly on a cotton pad to clean your earrings, thermometers and any other personal items that require disinfecting.

2) Stainless Steel Cleaner

You can add some rubbing alcohol to a soft, non-scratching cloth and clean your stainless steel appliances with it.  It’s a great way to remove fingerprints, and it dries streak-free.  It’s actually insanely impressive how well it works and how effortless it is. You are most welcome.

3) Remove Hair Spray from Mirrors and Tiles

I don’t always use hairspray, but when I do (ha ha ha)…it inevitably ends up on my mirror.  So, to get rid of hairspray build-up, use some rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad or cloth and wipe away that sticky mess with ease. You can also do this for mirrors and tiles.

4) Remove Frost from Windows

I’ll be giving this one a try sooner than I’d like to admit.  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.  You can repeat this about 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 books.

5) Re-fresh Your Sponges and Cloths

If I wanted to make you really uncomfortable right now, I’d ask you to put your sponge under a microscope.  But, I’ll spare you and instead, let you know that cleaning a sponge or kitchen cloth is really easy!  Soak the sponge or cloth with rubbing alcohol in a small bowl, you don’t need it to be overflowing, just enough to saturate the sponge or cloth.  Then, rinse it off after 10 minutes and voila, it’ll be clean as a whistle.  For quick cleaning of your previously unwashed cleaning tools, spray them with rubbing alcohol before use.

6) Clean Sinks and Chrome

If a shiny sink gets you excited, you are going to love this.  Once you’ve cleared out your sink (stainless steel or porcelain), 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.  I like this idea especially when I’ve finished preparing a meal with raw meat.

7) Really, truly, clean a dry erase board

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

8) Remove Ink and Permanent Marker Stains

Yeah, I said permanent marker. Ink stains are really, truly challenging.  If you do get ballpoint ink, gel ink or permanent ink on a garment, soak the area with rubbing alcohol for a few moments and then blot the stain up on a clean paper towel.  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!’.

9) Microfiber sofa stains

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

10) Disinfect your Mouse and Keyboard

Let’s not even get into how gross your keyboard and mouse can get.  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.

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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.


    • 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

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