15 Ways to Use Rubbing Alcohol

Updated: Jan. 25, 2024

Step away from the pricy cleaners and say hello to cost-effective rubbing alcohol.

If there’s one household cleaner you’re underutilizing, it’s definitely rubbing alcohol. Don’t let this bottle go forgotten along with the vinegar, peroxide, or these household staples you already own with extraordinary uses. Plus, it helps that a bottle of rubbing alcohol is inexpensive and sold at pharmacies and grocery stores alike. Here are some rubbing alcohol uses you need to know.

Remove hair spray from mirrors

When you are spritzing your head with hair spray, some of it inevitably winds up on the mirror. A quick wipe with rubbing alcohol will get that sticky residue off and leave your mirror sparkling clean. Not only does rubbing alcohol polish mirrors, but it’s also useful for cleaning windows and glass crystal too, according to Stephanie Cooper of Energy Cleaning.

Clean blinds

Rubbing alcohol does a terrific job of cleaning the slats of Venetian blinds. To make quick work of the job, wrap a flat tool—a spatula or maybe a 6-inch (15-centimeter) drywall knife—in cloth and secure with a rubber band. Dip in alcohol and go to work. This technique can also assist you with cleaning your couch. 

Keep windows sparkling and frost-free

Do your windows frost up in the wintertime? Wash them with a solution of 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol to 1 quart (1 liter) water to prevent the frost. Polish the windows with newspaper after you wash them to make them shine. Read our guide on how to clean windows like a pro.

Dissolve windshield frost

Wouldn’t you rather be inside savoring your morning coffee a little longer instead of scrape, scrape, scraping frost off your car windows? Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and spritz the car glass. You’ll be able to wipe the frost right off. Add this secret ingredient to defrost the windshield in less than a minute.

Keep car doors and locks from freezing in the winter

Another one of the great rubbing alcohol uses for winter is for your car doors and locks, according to Cooper. “If you are not prepared for the cold months, this trick will save you a lot of trouble,” Cooper says. Spray the insolation of your car doors and your locks with rubbing alcohol the evening before you expect the weather to go bad.

Clean your screen

Cleaning your phone, laptop, and smart TV is easy with trusty rubbing alcohol, says Greg Shepard, the president and founder of Emily’s Maids. “Rubbing alcohol cleans them all, whether it is just dust or natural oils from finger sticking to the keyboard,” Shepard says. “And it’s exceptional ideal for this task because alcohol evaporates quickly, lessening the risk of harming the electronics.” All you need is a cotton pad with alcohol.

Remove ink stains

Did you get ink on your favorite shirt or dress? Try soaking the spot in rubbing alcohol for a few minutes before putting the garment in the wash.

Erase permanent markers

Did your little angel just decide to decorate your countertop with a permanent marker? Don’t worry because most countertops are made of a non-permeable material such as plastic laminate or marble. Rubbing alcohol will dissolve the marker back to a liquid state so you can wipe it right off.

Remove dog ticks

Ticks hate the taste of rubbing alcohol as much as they love the taste of your dog. Before you pull a tick off Fido, dab the critter with rubbing alcohol to make it loosen its grip. Then grab the tick as close to the dog’s skin as you can and pull it straight out. Dab again with alcohol to disinfect the wound. This works on people, too. Follow this step-by-step guide on what to do when bitten by a tick.

Get rid of fruit flies

The next time you see fruit flies hovering in the kitchen, get out a fine-misting spray bottle and fill it with rubbing alcohol. Spraying the little flies knocks them out and makes them fall to the floor, where you can sweep them up. The alcohol is less effective than insecticide, but it’s a lot safer than spraying poison around your kitchen.

Clean bathroom fixtures

Just reach into the medicine cabinet the next time you need to clean chrome bathroom fixtures. Because it quickly evaporates upon contact with surfaces, it cleans and disinfects chrome, stainless steel, and glass without streaking, according to Carol Smith, the owner of Hire A Maid. Pour some rubbing alcohol straight from the bottle onto a soft, absorbent cloth and the fixtures. No need to rinse since the alcohol evaporates.

Remove stickers from jars

Keep the glass tomato or pickle jars without the old labels or decals. “Rubbing alcohol is great at removing that sticky glue residue after peeling off the brand sticker,” Shepard says.

Refresh your tennis shoes

Active souls who own tennis shoes should be happy to know one of the best rubbing alcohol uses is for cleaning the soles. Shepard says to add a dab of rubbing alcohol to a baby wipe to wash away any stain or mud from your kicks.

Sanitize toys

A quick and safe solution to sanitize your toddler’s toys is wiping them with rubbing alcohol, according to Shepard. “Considering all junior’s toys end up in his mouth, rubbing alcohol not only kills the bacteria but it’s also a safer alternative than using harsh, chemical-filled cleaning products,” Shepard says.

Spot clean carpets

Opt for rubbing alcohol to spot clean your rug. Shepard says it works better than any branded spot solutions. Just pour it on the spot, then blot and repeat as necessary. Or go for one of these homemade carpet cleaners you already have in your house.

Rubbing alcohol precautions

Don’t use rubbing alcohol to clean leather or wood furniture

Although rubbing alcohol uses might seem endless, the two times you definitely should not use it is for cleaning leather goods or wood furniture, according to Shepard and Cooper. Stay clear of using rubbing alcohol on any wood, including doors or floors, because the ethanol easily dissolves varnishes, coatings, and finishes, Cooper says. Similarly, natural leather is expensive and delicate fabric. There’s a chance you could burn a hole through it with rubbing alcohol, per Shepard.

Never mix rubbing alcohol with bleach-based products

There are plenty of ways to use bleach, but pairing it with rubbing alcohol is a big no-no, according to Smith. In fact, mixing these together creates chloroform and poses a serious health risk, she says. “Unless you want to create toxic fumes that will put you in the hospital, avoid mixing these two,” Cooper adds. These are just two of the cleaning products you should never mix.

Never use rubbing alcohol near an open flame

Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable and should never be used near an open flame or gas stovetop that’s in use, Cooper and Smith warn.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest