Healthy Alternatives to Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol is another name for isopropanol, or rubbing alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol is a common product in drugstores and pharmacies, and is a clear, inexpensive liquid. In medicinal applications, isopropyl alcohol cleans wounds and decreases itchiness. Isopropyl alcohol is also a household cleaner, and it sanitizes surfaces, but it can feel harsh on your skin. However, there are healthy alternatives to using isopropyl alcohol.

Woman applies hand sanitizer. Credit: Norman Pogson/iStock/Getty Images

Skin Sanitizer

To avoid spreading germs, it is important to have clean hands even when soap and water are unavailable. Isopropyl alcohol disinfects skin by killing bacteria, but it is harsh on skin. According to, hand sanitizers, especially moisturizing varieties, can be as effective as isopropyl alcohol at cleaning skin. Furthermore, manufacturers design hand sanitizing products specifically for convenience, and it is easier to use these products in their portable containers than it is to use liquid rubbing alcohol. Another alternative to isopropyl alcohol as a sanitizer is hydrogen peroxide, or H2O2. Hydrogen peroxide is inexpensive, it cleans minor wounds to prevent infection, and it does not sting as much as rubbing alcohol.


Vinegar is an alternative to isopropyl alcohol for various uses. The main ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid from fermentation. As a surface disinfectant, vinegar is a healthy alternative to isopropyl alcohol because it is edible. If you accidentally leave food grade vinegar residue on a food contact surface, chances are that it will not be toxic if it gets on your food. Vinegar can also replace isopropyl alcohol in some health applications, such as reducing itching and dryness from eczema or poison oak or ivy infections and cleaning out infected ears; however, consult your health care provider prior to self-treatment of these conditions.


Bleach is a simple alternative to isopropyl alcohol as a surface sanitizer and disinfectant. Like isopropyl alcohol, it kills microorganisms on household surfaces like counters, furniture and floors. As a surface sanitizer, you can dilute 1 tbsp. of pure bleach in a gallon of water. For disinfecting, increase the bleach concentration to 3/4 cup per gallon of water. Bleach is a healthy alternative to isopropyl alcohol for surface cleaning because, according to Clorox, it begins to break down within hours after you mix it with water. This decreases the risk of poisoning from accidental ingestion.

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