You probably have it lurking under your bathroom counter, and if you are like the rest of us, your $1.50 bottle of 70% or 91% rubbing alcohol is worth much more than you think. Here is why.
The multiple uses for this simple substance occurred about three months ago. I always knew it was a great disinfectant since my father, Dr. Robert Wild DDS, used it in his dental practice 40 years ago to swab areas between patients. As a teen, I replaced his dental assistant when she was on summer vacation. And after putting the dental tools into the disinfecting solution, I would dab straight rubbing alcohol on a gauze pad and cleanse the metal and porcelain surfaces around his dental chair. Perhaps that is why I’ve always loved the hygienic scent, for the fragrance reminds me of giving everything the good ole “one-two clean.” Now bringing it closer to home, it seemed like taking the bottle, adding a sprayer on top, and diluting it 1:1 with water might be a good disinfectant for our kitchen countertops. It was. From there, I branched out to a bathroom and window cleaner. And from an internet study, I gleaned the multiple uses for rubbing alcohol; here is what I’ve discovered.
Uses for Straight and Diluted Rubbing Alcohol
On a soft cloth, douse with straight rubbing alcohol and go over your stainless steel. It is particularly effective at getting off watermarks inside the dishwasher or grubby finger marks left on appliances.
During the flu season (or for general cleanliness any time of the year), use a dampened rag on surfaces such as doorknobs, your iPad, iPhone, or computer keys.
Apply to blemishes and bug bites via a cotton ball or cotton swab, and hold the ball/swab on the inflamed surface for about 30 seconds.
Straight rubbing alcohol can be used as a skin toner two times daily to keep acne and oil in check, or if you are challenged by the smell, a 1:1 water dilution works just as well.
To make an ice pack for sports injuries, combine 1 part rubbing alcohol with 2 parts water and put it in a Ziploc freezer bag and freeze.
To remove ink or permanent marker stains, soak in straight rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol applied straight to a whiteboard also removes gunk and Sharpie marker marks.
Put the undiluted RA in a spray bottle for the car, and spray it on windshield frost.
If fruit flies plague you, put straight rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle and attack them. Ticks also hate it, so apply RA to a tick before removing it from your pet.
To make a cleaning solution that is just as effective as anything on the market, combine 1 cup rubbing alcohol with 1 cup water and add 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Put in a spray bottle and clean windows, mirrors, kitchen counters, chrome bathroom fixtures, toilet bowls, and toilet seats. When using this mixture on mirrors or windows, rip out some magazine pages or newspaper sheets and wipe off the spray with those. For some reason, these pages make glass mirrors and windows really sparkle when combined with the above homemade cleanser.
To create a good hand sanitizer, use 2/3 cup 91% isopropyl alcohol with 1/3 cup aloe Vera gel and put this mixture in a pump container. You can also add your favorite fragrance or essential oil for a more pleasant scent.
For a good deodorant, put straight rubbing alcohol into a fine mist bottle and add 15 essential oil drops. Avoid applying after shaving armpits.
Other Important Information
Finally, if the smell of regular clear rubbing alcohol doesn’t agree with you, use the green Wintergreen Rubbing Alcohol (seen in the above picture). With its fresh scent, you don’t smell the alcohol fragrance at all. And one other note, don’t drink rubbing alcohol or keep it where your children can get into it. It is as poisonous as any other cleaning product.
So there you have it. Frugality is a bottle, and you never knew. In some respects, this simple bottle of RA reminds me of “a mustard seed.” As you recall in Luke 13:19, Jesus says, “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Well, just as that little mustard seed can grow and become great, so does my ability to stretch my resources better. Take what I've learned about rubbing alcohol! Because when I learn to live on less, I can give and save more. And that ability to give makes frugality is a fun challenge worth learning.
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.