Rubbing alcohol is something many of us have in our cupboards, but few of us know about all the different uses of this highly practical solution. The liquid comes in several different strengths, which give a good indication of the best uses for particular solutions. 

Whether you’re looking for something to keep plants healthy, a reliable disinfectant for your home or a cleaning solution for electronics, rubbing alcohol could be just the thing you need. Read on to find out more about the different uses of rubbing alcohol and what makes it such an effective solution for so many day to day household tasks. 

The uses of rubbing alcohol 

Rubbing alcohol is found in many homes and workplaces, because it offers a whole host of different benefits for all kinds of jobs. 

In the medical profession, rubbing alcohol is used in many ways. Often you’ll find rubbing alcohol being used to disinfect surfaces, particularly in high traffic areas such as waiting rooms. It’s also often used in treatment rooms and surgical theatres, where it’s crucial to maintain a sterile environment. 

Rubbing alcohol is used by doctors and other medical professionals as an antiseptic. Did you know that breathing in rubbing alcohol also has the added benefit of easing nausea? Patients are sometimes offered pads with rubbing alcohol on them to breathe in after surgery, as it can help with postoperative nausea - a common side effect of many anaesthetics.  

One of the most well-known rubbing alcohol uses is, of course, as a cleaning solution, and this is what you’ll find it being used for in many homes and workplaces. In the home, rubbing alcohol can be used to clean anything from sinks and counters to blinds and bathroom suites. 

Rubbing alcohol also be used to clean surfaces that we touch regularly, like the screens of our mobile devices. For tough stains and marks, rubbing alcohol works like a dream. It’s great if you need to remove an ink stain or a stain left by a permanent marker. It can also easily remove the tacky residue left behind by stickers.

There are some other lesser-known rubbing alcohol uses, too. Rubbing alcohol can be used as a highly effective deodorant, for example. The solutions are also great for other household must-haves, such as ice packs. Some astringent products, designed to improve the appearance of the skin by tightening pores, will also contain rubbing alcohol solutions. 

What is rubbing alcohol made of? 

Rubbing alcohol solutions come in a variety of different strengths, but the ingredients of these solutions remain largely the same no matter which option you choose. 

Typically, rubbing alcohol solutions will contain a certain percentage of isopropyl alcohol (usually 70% or 91%), along with a varying amount of water and denaturants. Depending on the intended usage of the end product, other additives may be included, such as perfumes or colouring. Other common ingredients of rubbing alcohol solutions are sucrose octaacetate and denatonium benzoate.

Rubbing alcohol safety advice 

Rubbing alcohol is a handy product to have around the house, but it should be treated with caution. There are several things that you should never do with rubbing alcohol, because it can be quite dangerous when not used with the utmost care and attention. 

Rubbing alcohol should not be used in any areas near naked flames, such as fireplaces or candles, or in any areas where people may be smoking. It’s a highly flammable liquid which may ignite if it’s left too close to a flame. 

While rubbing alcohol is great for cleaning, you should never mix it with bleach. If you do, the chemicals in the two liquids can combine to create a highly toxic compound: chloroform. The fumes of this compound are incredibly dangerous, and can have a wide range of different effects on a person’s health. Keep the two liquids separate at all times to avoid this problem. 

Rubbing alcohol can be used safely to clean many areas of the home, but it’s always a good idea to make sure your room is well ventilated both during and after cleaning with rubbing alcohol. While the liquid itself isn’t dangerous when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the fumes of rubbing alcohol can sometimes be harmful if a space isn’t ventilated properly. 

What to avoid with rubbing alcohol 

It isn’t just safety warnings that you should take care of before using rubbing alcohol. There are also some surfaces and fabrics which should never mix with isopropyl alcohol, so make sure you’re aware of these before you start exploring the whole range of isopropyl alcohol uses. 

Before cleaning anything with rubbing alcohol, we always advise that you read up on the particular do’s and don’ts for the solution you’ve chosen. Some surfaces can be badly damaged by rubbing alcohol, so check the finish of the item in question before you begin. Pay extra attention to any surfaces which may be varnished or lacquered, as rubbing alcohol can ruin the finish on these surfaces and leave you with a costly repair job to do. 

There are many great uses of isopropyl alcohol, one of the best ones being as an effective stain remover. But a word of warning. Some fabrics don’t react well to isopropyl alcohol solutions, so check what your fabric is made from before you attempt to remove any stain with rubbing alcohol. 

For many fabrics, rubbing alcohol offers the perfect solution to stubborn stains and marks such as those left by pens. But in some cases, trying to remove a stain with rubbing alcohol will ruin the fabric, and you won’t be able to fix the problem once that’s happened. We suggest you avoid rubbing alcohol for stains left on silk, wool and rayon fabrics in particular. 

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If you’d like to find out more about different rubbing alcohol solutions and what they’re used for, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’re here to talk you through our range of alcohol solutions and advise you on the best options for the tasks you have in mind. Give us a call to learn more.