12 Emergency Uses for Rubbing Alcohol

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This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Rubbing alcohol is of the items that ran low a couple of months ago during panic buying spurred by COVID-19. Diabetics, who needed rubbing alcohol and alcohol swabs for use with their insulin shots were having a difficult time finding what they needed.

A friend of mine ran out of Lysol spray and antibacterial gel. So she filled a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol (containing 70% alcohol) and used it for anything she needed to disinfect. This got me thinking about the multiple uses of rubbing alcohol, and why you should stock up when they are plentiful.

Emergency uses for rubbing alcohol


Although the best way to clean is to use soap and water, rubbing alcohol can be used as a substitute when water is scarce or unavailable.

Isopropyl alcohol (70%) is pure alcohol diluted with 30% purified water. It has been found that the 70% is actually better than higher concentrations such as 99% because they higher concentration evaporates too quickly to kill germs.

Use it to disinfect your phone, doorknobs, light switches, TV remote control. I recently disinfected my keyboard using cotton-tipped swabs dipped in alcohol.

Itch relief for insect bites

Rubbing alcohol works very well in relieving itching from insect bites and has a cooling effect.

Make your own ice pack

Mix two parts water and one part rubbing alcohol. Place the mixture in a self-sealing freezer bag. Leave the bag in the freezer for two to three hours. The mixture will form a gel-like substance that you can apply to an injury requiring a cold pack.

Soothe a skin rash

As we saw in my recent article on relieving skin rashes from poisonous plants, rubbing alcohol can provide relief from skin rashes. If you are unable to wash the area with soap and water, use rubbing alcohol instead.


If water is scarce and you are unable to take a shower, use rubbing alcohol to freshen up underarms and feet.  Moisten a cotton ball and swipe across the skin. However, don’t apply on recently shaved skin, as this will sting.

Remove a tick

Ticks carry a lot of diseases, so if a tick jumps on you or your pet, you’ll need to remove it right away. According to WebMD, remove a tick with tweezers and rubbing alcohol. Clean the tick bite area with rubbing alcohol and use the tweezers (or tick removal tool) to pull the tick straight up. Then clean the bite with rubbing alcohol again.

Pest killer

Rubbing alcohol can be an effective insecticide for plant pests such as aphids, spider mites and whiteflies. I’ve used a mixture of four cups water, one cup of rubbing alcohol and a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid.

For a small infestation, just moisten a cotton swab with the alcohol mixture and rub against insects and larvae. For a large infestation, spray the plant with the alcohol mixture.

Make sure you test on a small area first, as some plants may be sensitive to the mixture.

Rubbing alcohol also kills fruit flies and bed bugs.

Relieve nausea

Doctors have found that sniffing rubbing alcohol can help relieve nausea in patients,  in a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Fire Starter

Because rubbing alcohol is flammable, you can use a small amount as a fire starter. Soak a few cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and store in a small jar.  Place one cotton ball among tinder such as dried twigs and leaves and start your fire. Be careful because the fire can start very quickly.

Treat minor foot problems

Rubbing alcohol can be applied to minor foot irritations such as athlete’s foot, nail fungus for relief.

First aid

  • As mentioned above, rubbing alcohol pads are used to clean area before insulin shots.
  • Dab on skin before removing a splinter.
  • Disinfect skin before popping a blister.
  • Clean your thermometer with rubbing alcohol before using.
  • Dab on a cold sore to help dry it out.

Frost prevention and de-icing

Prevent locks from freezing during the winter – just spray rubbing alcohol directly on locks the night before you expect icy weather.

You can also use it for defrosting windows.  In a spray bottle mix five parts water and one part rubbing alcohol. Spray on your windows as you de-ice them.


Rubbing alcohol is for external use only – do not ingest. It can also be poisonous at higher doses, so keep the bottle away from children.

Avoid getting rubbing alcohol near your eyes.

Do not use near leather goods or wood furniture as rubbing alcohol can burn through leather, melt varnish and cause discoloration.

Never ever mix alcohol with bleach.

If you repackage alcohol into a spray bottle, label the bottle clearly.

Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable (that’s why it can be used as a fire starter). Do not use near an open flame such as a gas stove top, near candles, electrical outlets, heat or fire.

Clearly label your spray bottle of alcohol to avoid mishaps.

Shelf life

Whenever I’ve purchased a new bottle of rubbing alcohol, the shelf life is usually around two to three years. What happens after that period is the alcohol may evaporate, leaving more water content and possibly becoming less potent over time.

Store your bottle of rubbing alcohol in a cool place – heat will cause it to evaporate faster. Once you open the bottle, use and cap it back up right away, because the longer you keep it uncovered, the faster it will evaporate.

COVID-19 is still spreading, and the number of cases across the country remain as high as ever.  Supplies are getting replenished, but shortages of various items continue.

Now that rubbing alcohol is available in many stores again, now is a good time to restock. It is such a versatile product and has many emergency uses.


We are an affiliate of Amazon.com, which means we received a small commission if you click through one of our Amazon links when you shop, at totally no cost to you. This helps keep the lights on at the blog. Thanks!

About the author:
Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.



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