Isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, is extremely useful around the house because it acts as both a solvent and a disinfectant. Add to that, it’s relatively cheap! All of this makes isopropyl alcohol nearly magical as an ingredient in so many useful homemade cleaning products.
Rubbing alcohol comes in varying strengths from 70%, which is most common, all the way to 99% strength. While any of these strengths will work well in the five recipes I have for you today, 70% is most common and least expensive—$1.29 for a 16 oz. bottle is typical*. Always label homemade solutions clearly and keep them out of the reach of children.
Windshield Washer Fluid
- 3 cups rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
- 1 tablespoon liquid soap, like Blue Dawn
- 10 cups water
Pour ingredients into a gallon-size plastic jug. Shake thoroughly to mix. Use in place of commercial windshield washer fluid in your car’s windshield washer reservoir. Always shake prior to adding to the reservoir. The alcohol speeds the drying time and prevents the solution from freezing in winter.
Eyeglasses Lens and Screen Cleaner
- 1 part rubbing alcohol
- 1 part water
- 1 drop liquid soap like Blue Dawn
Combine ingredients and pour into a small spray bottle. Spray onto a microfiber cloth rather than directly onto lenses, computer screens, or other devices. Rub to clean away all the fingerprints and other dirty grim. Look at that sparkle!
All-Purpose Liquid Cleaner
- 2 cups rubbing alcohol
- 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid, like Blue Dawn
- 1 tablespoon household ammonia
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
Pour ingredients into a gallon jug. Fill with warm water and shake. You can put this in a spray bottle and use as you would Windex. Great for cleaning windows, chrome, and bath fixtures, too!
Heavy-Duty Window Cleaner
- 1/2 cup household ammonia
- 2 cups rubbing alcohol
- 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing detergent, like Blue Dawn
Mix ammonia, alcohol, and detergent in a gallon jug. Fill to the top with water. Shake before each use. This solution is great in cleaning really dirty windows, taking tape marks off windows, and is also removes soap film from shower doors.
- 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
- 8 drops Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid
- 5 drops essential oil (optional, but makes it smell great)
Pour rubbing alcohol, soap, and essential oil (if you choose) into a 16-oz. spray bottle. Add enough water to fill the bottle. Label and keep out of reach of children. Shake to mix. From now on, use this cleaner to keep your countertops beautifully clean and shiny without wrecking the sealant or causing any harm to the granite.
Pro Tip: Can also use to clean quartz, marble, Corian, Formica, and wood counters.
Got a carpet stain? Lipstick on a blouse? Adhering to the adage of first, do no harm—use isopropyl alcohol straight up to remove that stain. Nine times out of 10, it’s going to work to remove it, and quite magically!
*A word on availability
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the pandemic of 2020, ordinary things can suddenly be in limited supply. So was the case for isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. For months, it was difficult to find, if at all! Should that be the case in the future, it’s good to know how we can substitute rubbing alcohol for another type of alcohol in these cleaning recipes.
You can reasonably substitute denatured alcohol or Everclear Grain Alcohol for the rubbing alcohol in these homemade cleaning products.
Denatured alcohol is not an exact match to isopropyl alcohol, chemically, but performs the same. It has a stronger odor and you certainly do not want to use this for medicinal purposes, as you might with rubbing alcohol. You will not find this in supermarkets or drugstores. Denatured alcohol is available in the paint aisle of Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other such home improvement stores. Also online.
Everclear Grain Alcohol is available in liquor and spirits stores. It is the strongest alcohol allowed for human consumption, and even so, I would suggest you never, ever come close to drinking the stuff. It’s bad, nasty stuff—190 proof! And that makes it perfect for homemade cleaning products.
Keep all alcohol products clearly labeled and out of easy reach of children and others. Treat them with the same respect you treat all flammable, toxics, and pest control products.
Revised & Updated 5-5-21