cleaning with alcohol

4 DIY All-Purpose Cleaners with Alcohol

Alcohol is a powerful cleaner and disinfectant, and can be used as an all-purpose cleaner, spot stain remover, and all-around germ killer. However, when we are looking for DIY cleaners with alcohol, you don’t want to hit the liquor store.

Let’s take a quick look at the different types of cleaning alcohols.

Different Types of Alcohol for Cleaning and Disinfecting

If you are shopping for alcohol for DIY cleaning, the different types and names can get confusing. You may encounter all of these terms.

Ethyl Alcohol/Ethanol

Ethanol is pure alcohol, the basic chemical compound produced by fermentation that all other alcohols are derived from. It is also sometimes called “grain alcohol.”

Denatured Alcohol/Methylated Spirits

Denatured alcohol or methylated spirits is a form of alcohol that has had products added to it to make it smell and taste unpleasant and make it poisonous to drink. In the US, these formulas are mostly made of methanol, while in other countries it contains more ethanol.

In either case, denatured alcohol is intentionally made toxic so that it can be used for various cleaning and chemical purposes, without incurring the taxes that apply to alcohol intended for drinking.

Methanol/Methyl Alcohol

Also called “wood alcohol,” methanol is the chemically simplest form of alcohol, and far more toxic than ethanol. It is often used as a component of gasoline, formaldehyde, antifreeze, and in other applications.

Isopropyl Alcohol/Isopropanol

Slightly more complex than methanol, isopropanol is a common ingredient in various antiseptics and disinfectants.

Rubbing Alcohol

While isopropyl alcohol can be purchased at various concentrations, “rubbing alcohol” is specifically defined in the US as a solution containing 70% isopropyl alcohol. It is typically used as an antiseptic.

Does Alcohol Concentration Matter?

When you are using alcohol as an all-purpose cleaner, even low concentrations are effective at removing stains, cleaning surfaces, and other general household cleaning. If you are using alcohol as a disinfectant and germ killer, concentration does matter.

Repeated studies show that ethanol at concentrations of below 40% have little to no effect against microbes. Concentrations from 40-60% are effective anti-fungal agents, but do not necessarily kill bacteria. Concentrations of 60% or more are needed to kill disease-causing bacteria.

This is important because if you purchase a cleaning alcohol at 60% concentration, and then mix it with water, aloe vera, or other products (as most DIY alcohol-based cleaners do), you may have diluted it below the level needed to be effective for germ killing.

No matter what kind of alcohol you choose, check the concentration of ethanol, methanol, or isopropanol to make sure the final product is the right concentration for your purposes.

Precautions About Using Alcohol to Clean

Alcohol is a great solvent, and can remove stains, sticky residue, water spots, and the like, leaving surfaces shiny and disinfected. But alcohol is not a traditional cleaner and does not remove grease and dirt. The most effective way to use alcohol is to clean with soaps and/or detergents, and then finish or polish with alcohol.

Alcohol will damage many surfaces and will degrade rubber and harden glue. Never use alcohol on finished or treated wood, or any surface that is painted, shellacked, lacquered, or varnished. It should also not be used on synthetic or delicate fabrics like acetate, rayon, wool, or silk.

Alcohol should never be used around smoke or flame. Alcohol is highly flammable, so avoid cigarettes, candles, and pilot lights.

Never mix alcohol with bleach. Mixing alcohol and bleach creates toxic fumes that can seriously damage the central nervous system.

Always use it in a ventilated area. Even when using alcohol alone, use it in a well-ventilated area to avoid harmful fumes.

Don’t use it on large areas of your skin, and don’t use it to treat wounds. Using alcohol to clean tweezers or to sterilize a small cut is perfect. Don’t use it to keep treating a wound over time, as it is more likely to irritate the skin and delay healing, and don’t use it on large areas like rashes and sunburns, where it will irritate and not help at all.

Never drink it. Cleaning alcohol is toxic to drink, and drinking alcohol is too mild to be an effective cleaner. Don’t mix the two.

In other words, alcohol-based cleaners and antiseptics are best used on specific areas to solve specific problems, than as a widespread, all-purpose, all-occasion spray.

DIY All-Purpose Cleaners with Alcohol

Best DIY All Purpose Cleaners with Alcohol

1. DIY Alcohol Stainless Steel Cleaner

Alcohol is great for cleaning stainless steel, removing fingerprints and restoring shine. It’s a good idea to check your manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaners or do a spot test if you aren’t sure.

To Make an Alcohol-Based Stainless Steel Cleaner, You Will Need:

  • Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Water
  • An empty spray bottle
  • A microfiber cloth

To Make the Cleaner

  1. Put ½ cup of isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle.
  2. Add 1/3 cup white vinegar.
  3. Add 1½ cups of water.
  4. Shake well.

To use this cleaner, spray it on your stainless steel and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.

2. DIY Alcohol Glass and Mirror Cleaner

Alcohol can also be used to clean glass and mirrors. In many cases, you can simply use the vinegar + alcohol + water solution above to shine and polish, but for dirty windows, this DIY glass cleaner has more power.


  • Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Liquid dish soap
  • An empty spray bottle
  • A squeegee
  • A microfiber cloth

To Make a DIY Glass Cleaner With Alcohol

  1. Add 1 cup rubbing alcohol to a spray bottle
  2. Add 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  3. Add 3 drops of dish soap
  4. Shake the bottle gently

To Use This Cleaner

  1. Spray the glass with the cleaning solution.
  2. Wipe with a microfiber cloth, scrubbing at any spots or dirt.
  3. Spray the glass a second time.
  4. Squeegee to remove the solution and leave streak-free glass and mirrors.

3. DIY Surface Disinfectant with Alcohol

Sometimes cleaning doesn’t kill all the germs and bacteria in your household. For particularly problematic places, like cutting boards, faucet handles, doorknobs, light switches, and the like, you may want to go the extra mile and use a disinfectant as well.

Keep in mind that surfaces should always be cleaned with a soap or detergent before disinfecting: this should be the final step.

To Make a DIY Surface Disinfectant With Alcohol:

  • Check the concentration of your alcohol. Your alcohol should be 60% ethanol/methanol concentration or higher. If your alcohol is only 60%, add it to a spray bottle and use it undiluted
  • If your alcohol is concentrated at 70% or more, you may dilute it with some distilled water

To Use a DIY Alcohol-Based Surface Disinfectant:

  1. Wash the surface first with a cleaning product, and rinse it clean
  2. When it is dry, spray it with the alcohol solution
  3. Leave in place for 3-5 minutes for optimal anti-microbial effect
  4. Wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.

4. DIY Disinfectant Wipes with Alcohol

Alcohol disinfecting wipes are not only a great way to keep your hands clean when you are out-and-about, but they are fantastic for using on phone and tablet screens, which quickly accumulate dirt and bacteria.

To make DIY alcohol disinfectant wipes, you will need some kind of tissue and some kind of dispenser. The most common DIY method is to cut a roll of paper towels in half and use a cylindrical plastic container to dispense them. You could also use square tissues from a box or packet like these along with a refillable wipe dispenser like these. Either way, you will need some kind of absorbent paper tissues, and a waterproof, sealable container to put them in.

To Make DIY Disinfectant Wipes, You Will Need:

  • Ethanol or isopropyl alcohol at 96% alcohol concentration
  • Glycerin
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Distilled water

This recipe gives a final concentration of about 80% alcohol, which makes it effective against many common bacteria in the home.

DIY Alcohol Disinfectant Wipes Instructions:

  1. Place paper towels or tissues in a waterproof, sealable container.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine:
  3. 1/3 cup of 96% alcohol
  4. ¼ tsp of glycerin
  5. 1 tsp of hydrogen peroxide
  6. ½ tsp of distilled water
  7. When all the ingredients are mixed, pour them over the paper towels or tissues
  8. Seal tightly
  9. Use the wipes one at a time, as needed. Always discard a wipe immediately after use.


Alcohol is an excellent way to polish and shine many household surfaces. It can help to remove stains from laundry, clean residue off a dry erase board, remove stubborn sticky residue from labels and adhesives, and is an effective way to kill germs and bacteria.

The more you know about alcohol, the more ways you can find to use it safely and effectively around the home and make DIY alcohol-based cleaners and disinfectants that really do the job.

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