5 Strange (but Effective) Uses of Rubbing Alcohol and Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer contains ethanol, and rubbing alcohol’s key ingredient is isopropyl. The main difference between the two toxic chemical agents is that isopropyl is much more dangerous and should not be consumed. Ethanol is pure alcohol, so it can be digested (but can make you sick).
Other than that, the purpose of hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol is the same; they both kill bacteria, although isopropyl is a little stronger than ethanol. Here are some uses of rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer that I have used with success.
1. Treating Cuts and Scrapes
This is an obvious use of rubbing alcohol; it is the most common use. Every cut and scrape we received as kids got the painful alcohol treatment, but it is the best thing to apply on a small wound.
I’ve never understood why people buy Neosporin for cuts when rubbing alcohol does the job fine. In fact Neosporin doesn’t always work for me. The cuts took long to heal whenever I used this or similar ointments, and I think it has to do with the skin being moist all the time. Also the wound still got infected even after cleaning it with soap and water and adding antibiotic cream to it.
I’ve never had this problem with rubbing alcohol (or hand sanitizer) for minor wounds. I soak the wound in it, put on a loose Band-Aid (sometimes no Band-Aid), and it heals fast. It stings for a minute, sure, but it is worth the speedy recovery with zero complications.
2. Replacement for Deodorant
Yes, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer can be used as deodorant—I discovered this before ever hearing about it.
Ever left the house forgetting to put on deodorant before? I did once when I was a clerk at a dollar store. Working at the register, I had to be a foot away from strangers at all times; talk about embarrassing when I started to stink during the rush and I wasn’t given any time to buy deodorant off the shelf. When I had a 30 second break from customers, desperate, I got it in my head to use the hand sanitizer from my station. I stealthily rubbed some under my arms and the smell died instantly. It can be a life saver for disinfecting your hands and killing body odor. Who knew?
3. Treating Itchy, Flaky Skin
Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder in which oily skin develops red, itchy, flaky blotches around the nose, on the nose, between and around the eyebrows, chin, behind the ears, and on the forehead (near the hairline). It can also appear all over the scalp and other places on the body, but the face is the most distraught location. It’s an embarrassing disorder where you either have white flakes on your face or red blotches after rubbing the flakes off. The itching can drive people crazy and sometimes the red appears anyway without scratching or rubbing.
I have a very mild case of it and discovered hand sanitizer / rubbing alcohol kills the itch instantly and increases inflammation for a few hours before reducing it significantly. I do not recommend people to put rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer all over their face, just on the affected areas of this skin disorder, because it dries your skin up and can harm otherwise healthy skin.
Before going to bed, I always wash my face with soap and water, dry it, and then apply rubbing alcohol on all areas that develop the blotches. In the morning there is either no trace of red or flakes, or it’s very minor and I just reapply the alcohol.
A few warnings about this procedure:
- Do not apply rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer on your face right before going out in public; the red brightens the rashes from 30 minutes to a few hours. This is why I always do it late in the evening or early morning.
- When applying rubbing alcohol around the nose, be prepared to hold your breath for 30 seconds. You should not consume or breath in rubbing alcohol, and the smell will be prominent. I find it best to have a fan running so once I apply the rubbing alcohol, I can put my face in front of the fan and speed up the drying process.
- Do not use this treatment on children.
- Don’t soak the tissue, because you do not want either product dripping into your eyes when applying it around the eyebrows, nor do you want it on your lips.
It’s a tricky procedure where a lot could go wrong. I advise using hand sanitizer instead of rubbing alcohol because it is less dangerous. I have heard that vinegar can also be applied to do the same thing (but the vinegar smell, while not toxic, lingers for a while).
4. Ice Gel Pack
The freezing point of isopropyl alcohol and ethanol is less than minus100 degrees Fahrenheit, so rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer isn’t going to freeze in your freezer.
Make a bag of ice slush using water and rubbing alcohol. For whatever amount placed in the bag, ¼ must be rubbing alcohol and ¾ must be water. After a few hours in the freezer, you will have a permanent ice gel pack that won’t freeze into a solid mass. A gel pack is a better alternative to a bag of blocky, sharp-edged ice or a solid mass of ice that can’t bend. It’s great for applying on injuries when you need that comfortable flexibility. It can also wrap around drinks to keep them cool during warm temperatures. It’s a handy item to have around and simple to make.
This gel pack is reusable too, so it can melt and refreeze into slush.
In theory hand sanitizer gel can be kept cold and still gel-like in the freezer for the same purposes, but you need only a fraction of rubbing alcohol to make the bag. Rubbing alcohol is a cheaper practical alternative than using an entire thing of hand sanitizer gel.
5. Frost Removal
Rubbing alcohol can dissolve already-existing frost, and it is much safer than using hot water (because cold windows can crack from the extreme temperature change). So put some rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle, spray, and remove frost with a brush or a rag. If your windows are caked with ice, you can pour a bottle of rubbing alcohol onto the ice and use an ice scraper to remove it; it can take time depending on the thickness of the ice, but it certainly reduces the work and hurries the process.
So those are the strange but effective uses of rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer that I have personally used. There are certainly other functions that rubbing alcohol can be used for that I have never tried, such as removing ink from fabrics, removing glue from surfaces, and cleaning just about anything. Hand sanitizer can also remove stains and glue residue. If anyone discovers a new use for either product, please share below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.