Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on November 30, 2022
Stronger Isn’t Always Better

Stronger Isn’t Always Better


You can buy rubbing alcohol with a concentration of 70% or 99% isopropyl alcohol. Even though you may think the higher concentration is more effective, experts say 70% is actually better for disinfecting. It has more water, which helps it to dissolve more slowly, penetrate cells, and kill bacteria. The disinfecting power of rubbing alcohol drops at concentrations higher than 80%-85%.  

It Gets Rid of Plant Pests

It Gets Rid of Plant Pests


Rubbing alcohol works as a natural, less toxic way to get rid of pests on your houseplants. Wipe the insect with a cotton swab dipped in it to stop small outbreaks of mealybugs, aphids, whiteflies, and scale crawlers.

It Eases Nausea After Surgery

It Eases Nausea After Surgery


It’s common to feel sick to your stomach or throw up after surgery. It’s a side effect of the medicine that helps you to sleep (anesthesia). Some research studies show that breathing in rubbing alcohol on alcohol pads can help to soothe your stomach after surgery. It may work faster than standard anti-nausea medicines, but the effects are short-term.

It Won’t Lower Your Fever

It Won’t Lower Your Fever


For years, doctors and parents sponged rubbing alcohol onto kids’ skin to treat fevers. It does make skin cooler to the touch, but today, science shows that alcohol is dangerous because it can soak into the skin and cause alcohol poisoning, coma, and even death, especially for babies and small children. Instead, bring down your child’s fever with medicine that has acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

It Can Remove Ink Stains

It Can Remove Ink Stains


Spilled ink on your shirt and don’t have any stain remover? Try rubbing alcohol. The key is to act quickly before the stain dries -- older ones are harder to get out. Cover the stain with a pad dampened with rubbing alcohol. Continue to change the pad as it soaks up the ink stain.

It Cleans Up Around the House

It Cleans Up Around the House


You can use rubbing alcohol to clean some surfaces. For a DIY glass and window cleaner, mix 1 pint rubbing alcohol with ½ cup ammonia and ½ teaspoon liquid dish detergent. Add enough water to make a gallon and pour into spray bottles. To get bugs and tree sap off of your car, first wash your car and then dab some rubbing alcohol on leftover spots with a cloth.

It Can Make a DIY Cold Pack

It Can Make a DIY Cold Pack


To make a cheap cold pack, pour a 1-1 solution of rubbing alcohol (70%) and water into a reusable storage bag, then pop it into the freezer. You can even add blue food coloring to make it look like a store-bought ice pack. It won’t get hard in the freezer.  You can use it on minor sprains and strains.

It Can Ease an Ear Infection

It Can Ease an Ear Infection


Mix a 1-to-1 solution of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Pour a little into each ear, then let it drain out. The mixture helps to restore your ear’s pH levels after an ear infection and dry them out after a long day at the pool.

It Doesn’t Mix With Bleach

It Doesn’t Mix With Bleach


Never combine bleach with rubbing alcohol. It can release dangerous gases that may damage your lungs. Symptoms of chlorine gas exposure include burning in your eyes, throat, and lungs.

It Disinfects (Most) Things

It Disinfects (Most) Things


You can mix a 50/50 solution of water and rubbing alcohol to disinfect your hard-surface countertops, like granite and quartz. Hospitals also sometimes use alcohol towelettes to get rid of germs on small surfaces like stethoscopes, scissors, and thermometers. Experts don’t recommend using rubbing alcohol to sterilize medical and surgical equipment because it can’t kill bacterial spores, which can lead to infection.  

It Makes Hand Sanitizer

It Makes Hand Sanitizer


You can make your own hand sanitizer at home with a few ingredients. Mix ⅔ cup of rubbing alcohol and ⅓ cup of aloe vera gel in a bowl until blended. You can add a few drops of essential oil, in a fragrance you like, to mask the alcohol smell if you want. Whisk the oil into the other ingredients and pour into a container. Be sure to wash your hands before you start, and clean the container to get rid of any dirt.

It’s Not a Friend to Wood or Leather

It’s Not a Friend to Wood or Leather


You can use rubbing alcohol on some surfaces like marble, limestone, or terrazzo, but not on wood. The chemical will damage a wood finish. And while it’s safe to use in a pinch on coated leather, like in your car, over time, it will damage and discolor the leather. Use special cleaners made for leather and wood instead.

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Consumer Reports: “How to Clean Countertops and Keep Them Looking Their Best,” “Can You Fix Hearing Loss?” “How You Can Kill Coronavirus in Your Car Without Damaging Interior Surfaces,” “Tips for Removing Ink From Clothes,” “The Best Cleaning Supplies for the Job,” “How to Get Tree Sap and Bugs Off Your Car.”


Mayo Clinic: “Home Remedies: Suffering from swimmer’s ear.”


American Journal of Diseases of Children: “Coma Following Use of Rubbing Alcohol for Fever Control.”


Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System: “How To Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer.”


CDC: “Chemical Disinfectants,” “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home.”


Cochrane: “Aromatherapy for treating postoperative nausea and vomiting.”


Official Publication of The College of Family Physicians of Canada: “Inhaled isopropyl alcohol for nausea and vomiting in the emergency department.”


Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan: “How Do I Make an Ice Pack?”


University of Michigan Environment, Health & Safety: “70% ethanol / 70% isopropyl alcohol Frequently Asked Questions.”


University of Rochester Medical Center: “Common First Aid Mistakes.”


Drew University: “Information, Forms & Health Updates: First Aid Survival Kit.”


National Center for Preservation Technology and Training: “Covid-19 Basics: Disinfecting Cultural Resources.”


StatPearls: “Chlorine Gas Toxicity.”


Occupational Safety and Health Administration: “Cleaning Chemicals and Your Health.”


University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences: “Remove Stains from Ink (Ballpoint, Felt Tip, India, Mimeo, Stamp Pad).”


Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center: “Common Houseplant Insects & Related Pests.”


National Gardening Association: “Top 10 List of Pests That Affect Houseplants.”

The Hearing Journal: “How to care for moist ears.”