The ultimate guide for cleaning with rubbing alcohol

Cleaning with rubbing alcohol is a simple and easy way to clean items around the house, but it’s important to use it safely. This handy guide will take you through the do’s and don’ts of using isopropyl alcohol to clean.

Updated 4 April 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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Rubbing alcohol, sometimes called isopropyl alcohol, is a great multi-tasker, useful for shifting stubborn marks and disinfecting surfaces. However, it's important to exercise caution when you use it – both for your own health and safety and that of your delicate surfaces! Get your facts straight with our tips, dos and don’ts for cleaning with rubbing alcohol.

Key Steps

  • Use on stainless steel to add shine

  • Rubbing alcohol and water can defrost your car fast

  • Never mix rubbing alcohol and bleach

  • Don’t use near open flames

  • Don't use on finished surfaces and fabric like acetate

  • Don’t use on skin as it can cause irritation

  • Keep out of reach of children

Why not try using rubbing alcohol to clean, degrease and disinfect your keyboard and mouse?  It dries almost instantly, reducing the risk of liquid damage.

Cleaning electronics with alcohol

From mobile phones and laptops to gaming devices and tablets, electronics form a large part of our lives. But, despite our frequent interaction with our electronics, they’re often forgotten when it comes to cleaning.

Cleaning electronics with alcohol is a safe and effective method to get rid of any nasty bacteria and germs lurking, without damaging your devices. If you want to use rubbing alcohol to clean electronics, simply apply a cloth or cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol to any areas that need to be cleaned.

Using rubbing alcohol as disinfectants

Is rubbing alcohol a disinfectant? The simple answer is: yes! Rubbing alcohol is a great way to disinfect hard objects and items in your home. As shown above, cleaning electronics with alcohol is a simple and effective cleaning method, and it works the same with other small surfaces such as house keys and toilet handles. Simply leave wet for around 30 seconds before wiping down to neutralize viruses and other bacteria.

However, using rubbing alcohol to disinfect isn’t a great solution for cleaning the entire house. This is because the alcohol is likely to evaporate off larger surfaces too quickly to be effective at neutralizing germs on the surface.

Is rubbing alcohol antibacterial?

Rubbing alcohol can help to kill bacteria, as it is a natural bactericidal treatment, but that doesn’t mean it prevents bacteria growth.

The dos of cleaning with rubbing alcohol

If you know where to use it, rubbing alcohol can be an invaluable cleaning tool. Here are just some of the ways of using isopropyl alcohol to clean:

  • Try using isopropyl alcohol to clean stainless steel surfaces and leave them streak-free. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol to a soft, lint-free cloth, then wipe down your stainless steel going against the grain. Check out this guide for more tips on how to clean stainless steel.

  • Is your car frosty? Mix one part rubbing alcohol with five-parts water and place it in a spray bottle. Use it to defrost your exterior car windows and mirrors.

  • Rubbing alcohol is perfect for buffing your sink and chrome finishes, adding shine and disinfecting the surface.

  • Stained your favourite clothes in permanent marker? All you need to do is soak the area in rubbing alcohol for 3-5 minutes before blotting up the stain with a clean paper towel.   

  • Cleaning jewellery: Jewellery lost its shine? Cleaning with rubbing alcohol is a great way to get it back. Check out our guides on cleaning jewellery and cleaning earrings!

The don’ts of using rubbing alcohol to clean and safety notes

If you’ve found using isopropyl alcohol to clean has been effective so far, you might be tempted to bring it further into your home care. Not so fast! There are some important things you need to remember not to do.

  • Never mix rubbing alcohol and bleach. Rubbing alcohol contains ethanol and isopropyl, and when it’s mixed with bleach the chemical reaction creates chloroform. Chloroform can cause issues with the central nervous system, and kidneys, as well as causing nausea and dizziness.

  • Don’t use it near open flames. Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, so remember to put out open flames like candles first.

  • Avoid cleaning certain surfaces. Rubbing alcohol can damage finished surfaces (ones which are lacquered, varnished or treated) as well as fabrics like acetate or rayon.

  • Do not use it as an antiseptic on wounds or skin conditions. It might be great for sterilising equipment, but it can delay healing and cause skin irritation.   

  • Never ingest it. Rubbing alcohol is very different from the stuff you put in your martinis and put simply, is toxic. Make sure you keep it out of reach of children, and never store in a clear container as it could be mistaken for water.

From cleaning electronics with alcohol to adding shine to your jewellery, there are so many benefits of cleaning with rubbing alcohol. Be sure to follow these do’s and don’ts to clean safely and effectively for a happy, hygienic home!

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