Can Vodka Be Used As a Disinfectant?

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When you consider that ethanol, the type of alcohol we drink, can also be included in rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizers, you might think that a product like vodka would suffice as a disinfectant. And technically, it can. "Vodka of a high enough proof (at least 70%, or 140 proof) would theoretically have the same effect as common household cleaners containing ethanol," Dr. Eric Lee — who has experience in outpatient clinic-based medicine, inpatient hospital medicine, emergency departments, nursing homes, and long-term care centers — tells Hunker. However, the good news ends there.

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"It's much more expensive and probably most frequently used as a disinfectant on TV," Dr. Lee continues. "I don't really suggest taking it seriously as a disinfectant." Instead, Dr. Lee recommends using dilute bleach.

When searching for information about vodka as a disinfectant on both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites, nothing is mentioned. On the CDC's page specific to the coronavirus, vodka is also not cited. Instead, they state, "For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective." On the latter list, vodka is not included.

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In the WHO-recommended Handrub Formulations guide, the organization does not refer to vodka and instead mentions ethanol and isopropyl alcohol for production.

In the end, you can "technically" use vodka as a disinfectant in your home, but really only as a very last-ditch effort if your resources are seriously compromised. You're better off using bleach, which the CDC does say can be used for disinfection of the coronavirus. In terms of hand hygiene, good old soap and water is recommended first and alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is recommended second. As always, if you have further questions about how certain disinfectants affect you personally, consult a healthcare provider.

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Anna is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle and design content for Hunker. She's written for Apartment Therapy, the L.A. Times, Forge, and more. She previously worked as the lifestyle editor at HelloGiggles and deputy editor at So Yummy. Her email: anna.gragert@hunker.com