Humbly-disguised in boring, unattractive packaging, the numerous alternative uses of rubbing alcohol are easy to miss. Sure, it'll ease a sore muscle and cool a fever, but did you know it can also be used to create a nifty ice pack? With more than 20 ah-HAH! uses, rubbing alcohol is an inexpensive, drugstore wallflower worth a second look.
Priced to sell between $1.99 (CVS for 70% Isopropyl) and $3.95 for (90% Isopropyl at Amazon.com) a 16-ounce bottle is generally recommended for use in "decreasing germs in minor cuts and scrapes ... and relieving minor muscular aches due to over exertion." But don't stop there.
The ThriftyFun website suggests using rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth or paper towel to clean old mirrors that have developed a patina or stubborn spots and streaks. The site also notes the same treatment can be given to bathroom mirrors, faucets and counters. "It eliminates germs on many surfaces and cleans them for little cost," enthuses the site.Disinfectant
Be aware, however, that although rubbing alcohol does disinfect skin, it doesn't promise to sterilize all surfaces. Designated as "the gold standard against which all other skin disinfectants should be measured," by the World Health Organization, it earns an "intermediate level disinfectant" classification by the APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) because it won't sterilize surgical instruments (when used alone) or kill hydrophilic viruses (as opposed to the more common and easily-sterilized lipophilic viruses, but you already knew that!).
Consider it a friendly warning for do-it-yourselfers looking to practice at-home surgeries. However, if you're at a point where you need to perform your own operations, you've got bigger fish to fry than finding multiple uses for rubbing alcohol, but I digress.
Dry Erase Board Build-Up
The super solution easily removes build up from dry erase boards, and can be swiped over dirty computer keyboards, cell phones and MP3 players. The surfaces will be cleaner and home to fewer germs. A good thing.
Reported to moonlight as a cheap and easy de-greaser, I poured some onto a cloth and wiped down my stove, vent and teapot. It worked great, and cost much less than products marketed to do the same thing. Several websites suggest wiping down all kitchen appliances including chrome to clean and shine. One notes, there is no need to rinse afterwards because the rubbing alcohol dries almost immediately. This technique also scores points for reducing the number of chemicals sprayed around the kitchen and bathroom, similar to using baking soda or vinegar as previously discussed in a WalletPop article entitled, Toothpaste to polish silver? One mom cleans green and finds big savings.
Easy Ice Pack
Handy rubbing alcohol ice packs can be made by combining one part rubbing alcohol with two parts water in a zip lock freezer bag. Voila! The rubbing alcohol prevents the bag from freezing solid. Ready for emergencies or maybe just the morning after the big office party. Good to be prepared!
Health and Beauty
Helping out in the beauty and fashion department, rubbing alcohol can substitute for nail polish remover and clean the backs of pierced earrings as well. In a pinch, you can use rubbing alcohol instead of deodorant. Melissa Howard writes on eHow that by adding 15 drops of essential oil to a fine-mist spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol you will have an instant grooming staple. She cautions to avoid applying immediately after shaving the arm pits.
No More Ring Around the Collar
Reader's Digest also suggests eliminating ring around the collar by swiping your neck with a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or cloth. They claim it's refreshing, but be warned it's also drying to the skin. Don't over-do this one.
eHow notes, however, in the case of mosquito bites and cold sores, dabbing a little rubbing alcohol onto affected areas will dry out the areas (in a good way!), relieve itchiness and reduce the cold sore.
But wait, there's more. You know those candles that haven't been lit since last holiday season and might have accumulated just the teensiest bit of dust and grime? Dampen a cleaning rag with rubbing alcohol and swipe away the dust -before you light them! Like new. This tip gets two thumbs way up.
Speaking of fire, be sure to keep your rubbing alcohol away from heat and flame since it is extremely flammable. Unless of course, you're trying to start a fire -- which I don't recommend as there are far safer methods available.
Getting back to tips I do recommend, rubbing alcohol can be used to blot away fresh ink stains on carpet or clothing. For tougher stains, soak the spot in rubbing alcohol for several minutes, then wash.
This winter, several sites, including Reader's Digest, suggest keeping windows frost free by washing them with a solution of one quart water and a half-cup of rubbing alcohol. Could be worth a try on car windows especially. In fact, simply pouring rubbing alcohol onto frosted car windows will dissolve it immediately. Another item to put in the trunk.
Fight Fruit Flies
The book, Extraordinary Uses For Ordinary Things reports putting rubbing alcohol in a fine-mist spray bottle can be used to get rid of fruit flies. Be careful when spraying to avoid getting it in your eyes. Another helpful hint, toss the over-ripe fruit.
Rubbing alcohol has long been a popular choice for removing sticky residue left behind from price tags, band aids and stickers. Soak the area for a few minutes, or dab onto skin, and wipe clean.
In The Garden
Lauren Wise advises on the Garden Guides website that rubbing alcohol can also be used to clean garden tools that have been used to remove dead, diseased and rotting plants. "Gardeners don't always consider the fact that this harmful bacteria will be transferred to their garden tools and needs to be removed so it doesn't transfer to healthy plants .... there are many sanitizers that you can use to do this, but rubbing alcohol is something almost everyone has around." Wise advises cleaning off the tools with soap and water and then letting each tool soak individually in rubbing alcohol for about a minute. Wipe the tools with a clean rag that has also been soaked in rubbing alcohol. The tools should dry quickly.
Not A Cocktail
Whatever you do, don't drink it. Although there is alcohol in the name, rubbing alcohols are mixed with poison (often Methanol) and bitter-tasting additives to prevent human consumption -- and avoid the taxes and fees of a party beverage. As such, it is considered a "denatured" alcoholic product. In fact, it can cause death or permanent injury (think: coma, blindness, seizures, vomiting, confusion, slow breathing, pale or bluish skin) if consumed, which is sobering indeed.
25 Alternative Uses for Rubbing Alcohol