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Rubbing Alcohol

By Pebbles Mendoza

Last March when the quarantines were imposed, many people around the world started stockpiling everything they could get their hands on. Supermarket shelves, especially here on Boracay, quickly became empty of anything that was thought to be essential. One item that almost vanished for a couple of months was alcohol. Both the drinking kind, as well as that used for sanitation and other general cleaning purposes.

It made me think of a little story that I wrote for another publication last year.


When I left home and moved into my own apartment, I thought my life would be less complicated and that I would manage everything easily. Most of the things that I considered important, like paying bills on time, making sure that the laundry was done every week, and keeping my music down to an acceptable level for the administrator and my neighbors, had all been put in place. I did what mom advised and wrote a list of “things to do,” which I then placed under a magnet on my refrigerator door.

I assured my parents that I would be okay, and I was determined that I wouldn't have to go back and ask them for anything. Pride can be very silly at times.

I did my weekly supermarket shopping every Tuesday and rarely ran out of anything. I wasn't really aware of which brands were better than others, and I certainly didn't know much about cleaning materials and such. If I’d spilt anything on the counter top when I’d lived at home, I’d blotted it up with a kitchen towel, and that had been it. What I’d never realized was that mom had been following around after me using a proper cleaning agent to clear up my mess.

Now I was on my own and quickly discovered that unless I cleaned up properly, counter tops became sticky, mirrors smudgy, and everything in general needed a lot more attention than I was giving it.

I was determined not to go back and ask mom what I should buy, or the best way to do things, which left me in a difficult position. Then I remembered being a little child following my tita around the house. She always had a bottle of rubbing alcohol in the kitchen, others in the bathrooms, and one in her bedroom. She always had it on hand, plus it was inexpensive and sold in most grocery stores.

The rubbing alcohol products that I tried are ideal for cleaning and disinfecting most household surfaces. I remember tita using rubbing alcohol on a daily basis for a variety of different cleaning chores. You can buy different strengths of rubbing alcohol such as a 60- or 70-percent solution. The 70-percent solution has a lower water content, so it dries faster and can be better for items that aren’t supposed to get wet, while a 60-percent solution is gentler if you are going to use it as a hand sanitizer or on your skin.

Around the Home

Rubbing alcohol is also a strong disinfectant that helps kill bacteria and viruses. Simply pour a little onto a cloth or directly onto the kitchen or bathroom surface, then wipe it off. This works on and around the taps and inside the sink as well as the counter tops. You can also clean the bathroom and bedroom mirrors by simply wiping them down with the same cloth.

If you want to use rubbing alcohol as a hand sanitizer (it’s a much cheaper alternative to products marketed as such), pour a little into the palms of your hands and rub for around 20 seconds. This will kill off most bacteria, but remember, if your hands are dirty, you should wash with soap and water first to remove the dirt from your skin. You can finish off with a little alcohol to make your hands feel fresher.

You can also use rubbing alcohol for treating minor wounds as it is a strong antiseptic. Pour a small amount onto the skin or some cotton wool and rub around the wound to kill germs and stop them from entering the wound. Once the area has been disinfected it can be bandaged to keep it clean. If the wound is deep or looks bad, you should also seek professional medical attention.

Rubbing alcohol has a variety of other uses around the home. I successfully made my own reed diffuser by putting a quarter cup of mixed eucalyptus and lavender oils into a small bottle, adding a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol, and dropping in a few wooden skewers.

If you have a smelly pair of trainers, put some rubbing alcohol into a spray-gun and spray the insides before putting them out in the sun to dry. The mixture of sunlight and alcohol will kill the bacteria that cause the odor.

Other Uses

Besides being useful for cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces, rubbing alcohol is also ideal for removing marks and disinfecting most electronic gadgets. But be careful not to let too much come in contact with your phone or computer screen - only use it to clean the casing and keyboard. However, you can use it to wipe across the screen, just be careful only to use a small amount on a dry cloth. It’s not recommended to do this too regularly, but it’s okay to use it as often as necessary on the rest of the gadget.

When using it for keyboards, I pour a little into a small container (a plastic bottle top is ideal) and dip a cotton wool bud into it. You can easily clean in between the keys and other difficult-to-reach areas. Then use a soft cloth dampened with alcohol to clean the back and sides.

If your office has a whiteboard that someone has used a permanent marker on, rubbing alcohol can rehydrate the ink and make it easy to wipe off. I once spent 15 minutes trying to clean our office board with other cleaners for a big presentation. It would have taken two minutes if I had known to use rubbing alcohol. It also cleans marker and ink from office desks and some fabric chairs.

Our office still uses Scotch tape and other adhesives. When you peel them off, they always leave a hard-to-remove residue. Rubbing alcohol softens the adhesive, making it easier to wipe everything off.

Next time you’re in a Drugstore, think of all the things you’ve just read above and pick up a bottle of multi-use rubbing alcohol.


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