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.

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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.

69 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

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