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Cleaning with rubbing alcohol: dos and don'ts

Cleaning with rubbing alcohol is a clever trick to make a lot of tasks easier, but it’s important to know when not to use it.


cleaning with rubbing alcohol: blue liquid in bottle

Key steps

  • Use on stainless steel to add shine.
  • Rubbing alcohol and water can defrost your car fast.
  • Never mix it with 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.

Rubbing 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.

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.

Has your cleaning regime changed during the Covid-19 lockdown?

Cleaning with isopropyl alcohol: The dos of using rubbing alcohol to clean

If you know where to use it, rubbing alcohol can be an invaluable cleaning tool. Try these tricks:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Rubbing alcohol is perfect for buffing your sink and chrome finishes, adding shine and disinfecting the surface.
  4. 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.

Using rubbing alcohol to clean: The don’ts and safety notes

If you’ve found cleaning with isopropyl alcohol 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.

  1. Never mix it with 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.
  2. Don’t use it near open flames. Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, so remember to put out open flames like candles first.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Never ingest it. Put simply, rubbing alcohol 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.

With this simple guide, we’ve now shown you the important dos and don’ts of cleaning with rubbing alcohol.


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Originally published