Household Uses for Rubbing Alcohol

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Feb 13, 2013 | Chaya Kurtz

Photo of rubbing alcohol by rutlo/Flickr.

I first discovered the wonders of rubbing alcohol as a cleaning agent when I tried to remove the label from a jar. You know the sticky goo that is left over when you take the paper label off a glass jar? I found that rubbing alcohol got rid of it with minimal elbow grease.

Though not perfect for every cleaning job (hello, washing dishes), rubbing alcohol is a fairly cheap and relatively environmentally-friendly solution to some tough cleaning challenges. Most people keep a bottle of the stuff in the bathroom, and if you don't it would behoove you to stock up on some rubbing alcohol for cleaning tasks.

Rubbing Alcohol Pros and Cons

It's great for sanitizing surfaces that cannot be cleaned with acids, such as granite counter tops. Although it has that initial "hospital" smell, rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly and does not leave a lingering odor, unlike vinegar. 

However, prolonged exposure to isopropyl alcohol fumes is not recommended. Bear in mind that it's not drinkable, and should be stored out of reach of children. Also, never use rubbing alcohol to clean near open flames or near extreme heat; it's flammable.

Here are ten ways to use rubbing alcohol around the house.

10 Household Uses for Rubbing Alcohol

DIY Granite Cleaner: Blogger No. 2 Pencil described her success making DIY granite cleaner out of rubbing alcohol, dishwashing soap, and water. Since acidic cleaning agents tend to cause pock marks in granite, and ammonia-based cleaners can strip the seal off of them, rubbing alcohol solutions are an inexpensive, effective way to clean granite counter tops.

Remove Nail Polish from Wood Floors: I'm not sure how frequently people spill nail polish on laminate floors or wood floors, or how often they call flooring contractors to repair the aftereffects of polish accidents. Apparently it happens enough that blogger Anna M posted a tip on using rubbing alcohol to remove nail polish stains from wood or laminate floors. She claims (with pictures!) that it works better than acetone or oil-based substances.

Clean Garden Tools: Plant diseases can be transmitted from one plant to the next by garden tools. Four Season Garden and Landscaping, a landscaping company in Atlanta, suggests disinfecting garden tools like pruners with rubbing alcohol between plants.

Clean Windows With Rubbing Alcohol: Simply add 1 part rubbing alcohol to 3 parts water or mix up your own custom DIY window cleaning solution. Whichever you prefer, rubbing alcohol cleans windows like a champ. 

Clean Venetian Blinds With Rubbing Alcohol: Reader's Digest suggests cleaning Venetian blinds with rubbing alcohol. Easily remove dirt and dust by wrapping a paint scraper in a cloth, securing with a rubber band, and dipping the cloth into rubbing alcohol.

Clean Your Cell Phone With Rubbing Alcohol Pads: Gizmodo claims: "Your smart phone is a basically a poop stick." I personally wipe my smart phone with rubbing alcohol pads. Rub an alcohol pad or two over the surface of your phone, then let it dry. Buff off the weird white film that it leaves with a paper towel. Alcohol prep pads are very handy to keep around for small cleaning jobs like this.

Bust Grime and Sticky Goo With Rubbing Alcohol: Sometimes it is enough to rub an alcohol pad on sticker goo. For bigger jobs, soak the goo-covered object in a bowl of rubbing alcohol, then scrub with a scrub pad. The label goo should slide right off.

Clean a Pipe: Apparently, people still smoke pipes. If you are inclined to look and smell like Sherlock Holmes and your pipe cleaner isn't cutting the mustard, quite a few commenters in the Pipes Magazine forum suggest cleaning a pipe with rubbing alcohol.

Remove Permanent Marker With Rubbing Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol is a decent solvent for permanent marker graffiti. Rub a cloth saturated in rubbing alcohol on the permanent marker graffiti from wood surfaces.

Clean Electronics With Rubbing Alcohol: Crunchy Betty, an experienced maker of DIY cleaning products, posted a detailed article on cleaning electronics with rubbing alcohol. You basically spray a mixture of rubbing alcohol and distilled water onto a soft cloth and then gently wipe the screen. Never spray directly onto electronic equipment, and use only distilled water in the solution.

Chaya Kurtz writes for

Updated February 20, 2018.

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