How to Disinfect With Rubbing Alcohol

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Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Small towel

  • Latex gloves

  • Cotton swab


Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, so keep the liquid safely stored away from open flames.

Rubbing alcohol is toxic when ingested, so keep it away from children and pets.

Rubbing alcohol usually refers isopropyl alcohol, a chemical substance that is diluted with water to create an effective cleaning substance. Rubbing alcohol is great for disinfecting surfaces, whether at home or in the workplace. It is also commonly used in hospitals to sterilize surgical tools and operation rooms. You can even use the chemical to disinfect minor cuts and wounds. Easy to find and use, rubbing alcohol kills bacteria and germs that can spread illness and infection.

Home Use

Step 1

Find the right rubbing alcohol at a local convenience store. You can often find 70 percent rubbing alcohol in 16-ounce containers. This concentration works as an ideal cleaning solution.

Step 2

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water. Dry completely. This will prevent spreading any bacteria of your own onto the substance you are cleaning.

Step 3

Dab the towel in the rubbing alcohol. You can do this by covering the open top of the alcohol with the towel, then pouring the liquid directly onto the cloth. If you are concerned with spilling the alcohol on your hands, you may wear rubber or latex gloves.

Step 4

Apply the alcohol, using the towel, to the desired surface. Rubbing alcohol is great for countertops, door handles, telephones and other solid surfaces. If you wish to use rubbing alcohol to disinfect glass surfaces, first mix the alcohol with some water; diluting the substance creates a gentler cleaner that's better for fragile surfaces.

Cleaning a Wound

Step 1

Wash hands thoroughly, dry and put on latex gloves. This is essential to avoid contaminating the wound with bacteria or germs.

Step 2

Dab a sterile cotton swab in the rubbing alcohol.

Step 3

Gently rub the swab on the minor cut. This will greatly reduce the risk of bacterial infection. Warn your patient that this will sting a little bit.

Before Surgery or Injections

Step 1

Wash your hands thoroughly and put on latex gloves.

Step 2

Submerge the surgical instrument or syringe in a container of rubbing alcohol. Leave the instrument in the rubbing alcohol for a few seconds, then remove it.

Step 3

Place the instrument in the center of a sterile towel. Fold in the ends of the towel to dry off the instrument, never touching the instrument with your fingers.

Step 4

If you are preparing to make an injection, you'll want to disinfect the area where the syringe will be inserted. Dab a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol, then rub the swab on the skin of the patient. This sterilizes the skin and prepares it for the injection.


Ellis Martin

Ellis Martin recently graduated from Brown University, where he wrote for the Brown Daily Herald. Martin has many articles published on eHow, mostly concerning medical topics. He has been writing these articles since the summer of 2009.