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Microbes including bacteria and viruses are all around us. The vast majority of them are harmless to us, but some can be very dangerous indeed. Microbes are a particular threat to us when we have certain injuries because broken skin makes it easier for the microbes to get into the body and cause unwanted infections. 

We have developed numerous methods of managing microbes, one of which is with the use of disinfectants and other substances that kill germs. One example of such a disinfectant is rubbing alcohol.

What is Rubbing Alcohol?

Rubbing alcohol is a type of alcohol that is typically used as a disinfectant. It is made using isopropyl alcohol, usually with a concentration of 70% or 99%. Rubbing alcohol that contains 70% isopropyl alcohol is preferred because of its high water content. This water content means the rubbing alcohol takes longer to evaporate, giving more time for the alcohol to kill microbes.

Rubbing alcohol is very easy to use, and also very safe provided it is used with care. It can be found in homes around the world as well as in medical and commercial settings.

Rubbing Alcohol Uses

Rubbing alcohol’s properties make it suitable for a wide range of uses. Some of these uses include:

Medical Uses

It has a variety of potential medical uses, which include:

  • Antiseptic: Rubbing alcohol is a highly effective antiseptic. It is often applied to the skin before injections or other punctures to help limit the likelihood of infections.
  • Relieves Nausea: It is quite common for people to feel quite nauseous after medical procedures, which can result in vomiting that can be problematic. However, rubbing alcohol can be used as an aromatherapy treatment that helps to reduce nausea in patients.

Home Health Uses

Rubbing alcohol is also found in first aid boxes in homes around the world. It can help with numerous home health issues, including:

  • Tick Bites: If left untreated, tick bites can result in unpleasant infections. Cleaning the area of a bite with it will help kill germs, thus helping to prevent an infection.
  • Astringent: Rubbing alcohol causes your pores to tighten and leave the skin feeling smooth and fresh. Be sure not to use it on acne, though, and avoid using it on dry patches.
  • Ear Piercings: Ear piercings are common and usually harmless, but it still pays to take care of them. Treat the area around the piercing to help prevent infections. Not only can rubbing alcohol help to prevent infection, but it can also help prevent unsightly scabs.
  • Ice Packs: If you’ve picked up an injury or your muscles are inflamed, an ice pack could help to relieve pain and other symptoms. Using rubbing alcohol, it’s easy to make your own gel ice pack that stays cool for longer and molds to the shape of your body as you use it.

Household Cleaning Uses

Rubbing gel can also be used around the home in ways other than for home health uses. Some of these uses include:

  • Cleaning Surfaces: Rubbing alcohol can help to dislodge ground-in dirt and stains from surfaces, making it an effective cleaner. Not only that but rubbing alcohol will also help to disinfect surfaces. Its disinfectant properties make it particularly useful in kitchens when cleaning surfaces where food is to be prepared. 
  • Removing Ink Stains: Ink from leaked pens and markers can ruin otherwise perfectly good clothes. Many ink stains can be easily removed, however, by soaking the stain in rubbing alcohol.
  • Sanitizing Electrical Devices: Smartphones and other electrical devices tend to be contaminated with many bacteria; while they also tend to be shared meaning germs can be spread. Adding some rubbing alcohol to a paper towel and using the towel can help to make the device clean of bacteria. It can also be used to help evaporate water if the device has been dropped into water.
  • Eradicating Fruit Flies: Fruit flies can be a real pest and difficult to control. Rubbing alcohol will kill them almost immediately on impact, so add some to a spray bottle to use on them.
  • Jewelry Cleaning: Bacteria can easily collect on jewelry, and rubbing alcohol can help kill the bacteria here also. Not only that but rubbing alcohol can also help clean jewelry to help return it to its former glory. Just add some rubbing alcohol to cotton wool or a cloth, and use it to wipe away dirt, grime, and bacteria.
  • Sticker Removal: Stickers can be very difficult to remove, potentially leaving unsightly marks on furniture and other items. Rub some alcohol onto a sticker or on the gum left behind by a sticker, and it will rub away a lot more easily.
  • Disinfecting Wash Cloths: Washcloths and sponges etc make for an ideal habitat for germs to live. When they are used to clean our dishes and homes, the germs can then contaminate dishes and other objects. Use some rubbing alcohol to disinfect your washcloths, making them safer to use.
  • Deodorize the Home: If you have pets, it can be difficult to prevent unpleasant odors from arising from time to time. Adding some rubbing alcohol in with essential oil and spraying it in the problem area will help to mask unpleasant odors. It can also help to kill bacteria that are causing the odors in the first place.

Rubbing alcohol can also be used to remove odors from shoes, while people can also use it to reduce odors from their bodies.

When Not to Use Rubbing Alcohol

As useful as rubbing alcohol can be around the home and in other environments, there are times when it is not suitable. Some of these include:

  • Reducing a Fever: Whilst it can help the skin feel cooler, some people have used it to treat a fever. However, it does not reduce a person’s core temperature and its use might also cause other medical problems.
  • Consumption: Consuming rubbing alcohol can be dangerous and can lead to some potentially serious complications. If a significant amount has been consumed accidentally then medical assistance should be found as quickly as possible.
  • Sterilizing Medical Equipment: Although it can help kill bacteria, it is not suitable for use when it comes to sterilizing medical equipment. It is not effective at killing bacterial spores, which are protective layers that keep bacteria safe while dormant.
  • Bathing: It might be tempting to add rubbing alcohol to a bath to help kill bacteria on the body. This is not a good idea, however, as the alcohol can be absorbed by the skin, potentially leading to alcohol toxicity.
  • Acne Treatment: It is not an effective treatment for acne. In fact, it can make the problem worse, causing the skin to dry out and making acne symptoms worse. Treatments that have been made specifically for acne are a much better solution.

Rubbing alcohol has numerous potential uses in and around the home, and in a medical environment. It’s ability to kill germs can help keep us safe from infection and disease and its ease of use means anybody can use it. Rubbing alcohol can also help with cleaning and removing tough stains that might otherwise be all but impossible to get rid of.

While rubbing alcohol is generally safe to use, however, it should still be treated with caution. Don’t consume it, avoid using it on sensitive or damaged skin, and don’t count on it to kill bacteria in a professional medical environment.