5 Strange (but Effective) Uses of Rubbing Alcohol and Hand Sanitizer

Updated on April 25, 2017
mariekbloch profile image

I've had great success using rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer for these five purposes. Some of them are a bit unexpected, too!

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.

Final Thoughts

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.


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    • profile image

      Kate Hallberg 

      15 months ago

      Patty Brackin, I'm confused and maybe just not seeing something when you wrote "recently learned that, u can use Hand..." and "So, as u can imagine...... the crimson red really...". Is there some reason I'm not understanding why someone wouldn't use "you" in a reply like this? I know it was used for texting in the 90's when we had to grind through each number key to get to one of the 3 letters but that was a long time ago. I don't see it in Twitter so I don't think it's about decreasing character count. All I can figure is it's a gender fluid pronoun since people think we don't have one in English (but we do). Can you explain to me where it came from and the "value" of it- if that's what it is since "u" and "you" seem to be homonyms?

      I'm just surprised if that's what it is since I try to stay on top of LGBTQIA issues.

      Anywho, as my Midwestern family sometimes said, alcohol tax is very high in the Faroe Islands. Hand sanitizer is EtOH, as it's often labeled in labs. The stuff we drink is also ethyl alcohol. Yeah. Imagine the "worst". I don't know what proof it is. *shudder*

    • profile image

      Patty Brackin 

      19 months ago

      I have recently learned that, u can use Hand sanitizer to remove out-door latex paint from vinyl siding. My husband painted my bestfriend's porch Crimson red. Of course, there was some over spray. Her vinyl siding is kind of a cream color. So, as u can imagine...... the crimson red really stood out. I dont really know where or how my husband came across the idea of using hand sanitizer, but he did...... and it worked! Just some helpful info for future reference, folks.....

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I wanted to know if I could use hand sanitizers on mealybugs which are killing my cactus. as I don't have rubbing alcohol at the moment.but I did find some interesting things which would definitely help in the future.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This site was very interesting and useful. I plan to be revisiting it soon. There is however a bit of incorrect information on the page. Not all rubbing alcohol is made from isopropyl alcohol. Many rubbing alcohols for sale are made of ethanol. Also, ethanol is not highly toxic. It is the exact same alcohol put in drinks. The reason why hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol made from ethanol is harmful is because methanol (a very deadly type of alcohol which can course blindness and death) is added to make it non consumable. This is done so that rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer can be bought without paying alcohol tax. Isopropyl alcohol is toxic however and should not be consumed. Regardless, there are a wide array of ingredients in such products which render it inedible meaning that one should always stay away from consuming them. Also, many alcohols are lipidophilic meaning that they bond to oils. That means that they can be used to some-what clean up oil and grease spots.

    • profile image

      Charles Lickens 

      3 years ago

      Charles Dickens = confirmed ant lover

    • profile image

      CharIes Dickens 

      3 years ago

      --- ^^ ---

      @Joel: regarding what you wrote 9 days ago:

      Rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle + lighter can be a handy blow torch to kill ants. Fun!

      -- -- --


      Yeah, that sounds like a whole lot of fun! I can't even begin to imagine how entertaining it would be to take the time out of my day to fill a spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol and kill ants for FUN!

      Pretty soon, you can move onto even more fascinating things - like drowning cats, or burning live animals with your homemade torch!


      You realize how insane this sounds, right? Taking the time out of your day to fill a bottle with flammable liquid (i.e. building a homemade "fire sprayer") - with the intention of killing ants for fun??

      What's the point? Are you being serious?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I used it instead of the saline they give you to keep my new ear piercings clean and i use it to clean my earrings/ear lobe regularly. I had one infection the first time i missed a day and cleaned that with alcohol as well and went away in no time

    • mariekbloch profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you, Kenja. I'm glad you enjoyed the info. Have a happy V-Day too!

    • Kenja profile image

      Ken Taub 

      7 years ago from Long Island, NY

      clever, practical, and just plain fun. so happy Valentine's Day Mariel, and thanks for the info. Ken


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