Best Rubbing Alcohol

Updated December 2020
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
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147 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best rubbing alcohol

Now more than ever, people are realizing how important cleaning and disinfecting are when it comes to staying healthy. If you can kill viruses and bacteria on a surface where they typically thrive, there's less chance of them infecting your body. One of the safest and best ways to do that is by using rubbing alcohol.

The right rubbing alcohol can kill germs in seconds, making your home a safer environment. Additionally, it can be used for a wide variety of other important tasks ranging from deodorizing your shoes to removing stubborn stains. With the right recipe, you can even turn rubbing alcohol into your own homemade hand sanitizer.

If you'd like to learn all about how rubbing alcohol works, its many uses, and how to make your own hand sanitizer, keep reading. If you're looking to find a bottle or two to keep on hand at home, consider the options that we've recommended above.

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A solution containing equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar can be used in the ear to help prevent swimmer's ear, ear infections, and blockages.

Key considerations

Type of alcohol

There are two main types of rubbing alcohol: isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. Despite the chemical differences between these two types, when used as a disinfectant, their performance is roughly the same. 

Isopropyl alcohol: The active ingredient in common household rubbing alcohol is most often isopropyl alcohol. What makes isopropyl more desirable than ethyl alcohol is the fact that it evaporates more quickly, and, when it’s gone, it doesn't leave behind any oily residue. This type of alcohol is never to be ingested. Drinking isopropyl alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding in the stomach and intestines, dehydration, low blood pressure, shock, coma, and even death. 

Ethyl alcohol: Though not as common, rubbing alcohol can also be manufactured with ethyl alcohol. While this is the same type of alcohol that’s found in adult beverages, when used as a disinfectant (in rubbing alcohol) it is in such high concentration that a single glass is lethal. Furthermore, additional toxins are added during the denaturing process to help ensure you never even think about consuming it.

Concentration

The main distinction between the two types of rubbing alcohol is the percentage of alcohol in the solution. For disinfectant purposes, the percentage usually ranges from 60% to 90% (or more). 

It’s important to understand that a higher percentage of alcohol does not translate to a more effective product. As a matter of fact, 70% is generally considered to be ideal because alcohol alone doesn’t kill germs very efficiently. Water is the critical element that allows alcohol to disinfect. If there isn’t enough water in the solution, the alcohol won’t be as efficient at eradicating germs. Do not be swayed by brands that boast a 90% solution, especially if they’re charging more for it than the 70% solution, because the latter is the better product.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Rubbing alcohol should never be used on wood surfaces because it acts as a solvent. Just a small amount can ruin varnished or stained surfaces.
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Features

Size

How much rubbing alcohol do you need? You can find containers in sizes from 8 ounces to a gallon. While you can save money purchasing rubbing alcohol in larger quantities, it does have a shelf life. If you won't be able to use all of it by the product's expiration date, it’s better to purchase a smaller container. In general, rubbing alcohol has a shelf life of a couple of years.

Multipack

If you plan on using a large amount of rubbing alcohol, another way to save money is to purchase a multipack. Instead of a 1-gallon jug, for instance, you can purchase eight 16-ounce bottles. Not only will the smaller bottles be easier to handle, but for most people they’ll be easier to store as well.

Wipes

If you prefer to have your rubbing alcohol in a more convenient form, such as saturated on wipes, that is an option as well. If you’re considering wipes, remember that you’ll be paying more for this convenience.

It’s important to keep the container of rubbing alcohol tightly sealed to prevent evaporation.

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Make your own hand sanitizer

If you're having a hard time finding hand sanitizer or you'd just like to make your own, it's really not that difficult. In fact, you can make it using only two or three ingredients. The following are the instructions for making your own hand sanitizer.

  1. Pour 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol and 1/3 cup aloe vera gel in a clean bowl.
  2. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (to mask the odor of the alcohol).
  3. Whisk the ingredients together.
  4. Pour the solution into a clean bottle. 

Rubbing alcohol prices

Before the coronavirus pandemic, rubbing alcohol was a relatively inexpensive product. A 16-ounce bottle cost less than $2. However, because of high demand, it can be difficult to find rubbing alcohol at those lower prices now. For instance, a 16-ounce bottle of rubbing alcohol can cost as much as $15 or more. It’s important to compare prices to find the best value. You can often save money by buying a larger container or multipack.

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CAUTION
Never mix rubbing alcohol with bleach. The mixture creates a potentially lethal gas that can damage the liver, kidneys, brain, heart and even bone marrow.
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Tips

Most people are interested in rubbing alcohol because they want to use it as a disinfectant. However, the product has a wide range of uses, especially when it comes to household cleaning tasks. The following are a few of the more common uses.

  • Deodorize shoes: Often, bacteria are the reason for smelly shoes. Since rubbing alcohol kills bacteria, it can be effectively used to deodorize shoes. Just spray a little inside your shoes and let them air-dry.
  • Clean sponges: If you have a smelly sponge, simply pour some rubbing alcohol on it, put it in a sealed container, and let it sit for at least an hour.
  • Clean electronic devices: Liquids and electronics do not mix. However, you still need to clean the devices that can harbor harmful bacteria. The best option is to dip a soft cloth into rubbing alcohol and use it to gently wipe down your device.
  • Disinfect makeup brushes: The best way to clean your makeup brushes is to swirl them around in a small container of rubbing alcohol, rinse them in warm water, then place the brushes on a towel to air-dry.
  • Defrost your windshield: If you'd like a quick way to get rid of frost on your windshield, mix one part water to two parts rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Spraying this on your windshield makes the frost easier to remove.
  • Remove stickers: If there is a sticker on a surface that won't be damaged by rubbing alcohol, saturate the sticker and let it sit for a few minutes. After that, you should be able to just wipe it away.
  • Remove stains: Some of the most stubborn stains can be removed with rubbing alcohol. Before treating the stain, it’s best to moisten a cotton ball and dab it on an inconspicuous part of the clothing. After it dries, if the fabric is unharmed, you can use rubbing alcohol on the stained area.
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Besides storing rubbing alcohol out of reach of children and pets, you must keep it away from open flames because it’s highly flammable.

FAQ

Q. How does alcohol kill germs?

A. In short, bacteria, viruses, and fungi are surrounded by a fat membrane that keeps the core components safe. Alcohol molecules have a proclivity for bonding with fat. When they bond, they break down the fat membrane that’s protecting the germs. Once exposed, the germs can die in as little as 10 seconds. If you do a quick wipe down and dry immediately, the alcohol will not have a chance to work and the germs may linger. Additionally, it’s important to remember that germs can’t die unless they have been in direct contact with alcohol, which is why thorough cleaning is important.

Q. Which is better for cleaning hands: soap or rubbing alcohol?

A. While rubbing alcohol is a great option, soap is better. Soap is specifically designed to break down the outer membrane of bacteria and viruses. The vigorous action required to work up a lather creates the friction that’s needed to lift grime and microbes off your skin so the running water can wash them away. If you don’t have access to soap and running water, or if using soap and water would be impractical in a particular situation, then rubbing alcohol is a great backup choice. 

Q. Does rubbing alcohol kills all germs?

A. While rubbing alcohol is effective at killing a wide variety of germs, there are a few bacteria, such as Enterococcus faecalis, that are becoming more resistant to alcohol-based disinfectants. Additionally, rubbing alcohol won’t work on bacteria spores, a dormant form of bacteria that helps the organism survive in adverse environmental conditions.

 

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