What Are Alcohol Wipes Used For?

Alcohol wipes are pre-saturated with a mix of alcohol and water. They’re used for a wide variety of purposes and have several benefits.

Alcohol wipes in a nutshell

Alcohol wipes are as versatile as they are useful for people who want to:

  • Ensure a consistent alcohol-to-water solution ratio

  • Quickly and easily clean surfaces

  • Promote germ-free environments

In many cases, alcohol wipes are commonly used to:

  • Sanitize hard surfaces

  • Remove fingerprints

  • Polish glassware

What are alcohol wipes made out of?

Many alcohol wipes are made from a polyester tear-resistant and lint-free polyester “fabric.” The wipe is then soaked in a solution of isopropyl alcohol and deionized water.

The higher the percentage on the alcohol wipe canister, the more alcohol there is in the solution. For example, 90% isopropyl alcohol wipes have more alcohol than 70% wipes.

However, 70% alcohol is more effective at killing pathogens than 90%. This is because the extra water in the solution helps slow down the chemical reaction. When this process is slowed down, alcohol can more thoroughly penetrate pathogens.

What is isopropyl alcohol (IPA)?

Isopropyl alcohol is a chemical compound that dissolves soils like:

  • Oils

  • Fingerprints

  • Flux residues

  • Carbon deposits

  • And more

Isopropyl alcohol is also known as IPA or CAS #67-63-0 and it has a wide variety of purposes and benefits. Since isopropyl alcohol acts as a solvent, it’s highly effective at degreasing and sanitizing surfaces.

However, it is important to note that alcohol is highly flammable. Individuals who choose to use alcohol wipes should store them safely away from lighters, candles, and other open flames.

What are alcohol wipes for?

There is a wide variety of alcohol-soaked wipe applications such as:

  • Cleaning fiber optics

  • Cleaning hard surfaces

  • Cleaning fusion splicers

  • Cleaning computer keyboards and mice

  • Cleaning display screens

  • And more

Cleaning contact surfaces

High-touch surfaces often collect bacteria, dirt, and germs. However, alcohol wipes can help reduce the amount of bacteria that collects over time.

  • Door handles

  • Coffee makers

  • Visitor badges

  • Writing utensils

  • Elevator buttons

Use alcohol wipes to coat such surfaces and reduce the risk of disease spread. They are particularly helpful when it comes to public places (e.g. grocery stores) as well.

Cleaning optical surfaces

Streaks, water marks, and fingerprints impact the appearance of optical surfaces (like eyeglasses). Many people use alcohol wipes to counteract this with other transparent surfaces like:

  • Glassware

  • Windows

  • Chemistry lab equipment

Mineral deposits in water can cause streaks on glass. This is one reason why many alcohol wipes are made with distilled or deionized water.

Cleaning printers and computer keyboards

Many high-touch office equipment develop residue build-up over time. Alcohol wipes help break down residue and prevent build-up in and on:

  • Thermal printers

  • Computer keyboards

  • Computer mice

  • Circuit boards

  • Phones

Tasks like printing shipping labels can also lead to residue. Use alcohol wipes often to prevent stubborn build-up from occurring.

Cleaning electronic devices

Lint, residue, and fingerprints can impact the way electronic devices look and operate. Keep devices free of residue by using alcohol wipes on:

  • Smartphones

  • Tablets

  • Computer accessories

  • Display screens

  • Smart watches

Always check device manuals before cleaning electronics with alcohol wipes.

Deodorizing household items

Because alcohol can kill odor-causing bacteria, they can deodorize common household items like:

  • Shoes

  • Gym bags

  • Exercise equipment

Alcohol wipes help eliminate strong odors to leave household items feeling fresh. Wipe down shoes and exercise equipment frequently to prevent odor build-up.

Cleaning jewelry

Jewelry collects dirt, bacteria, and residue especially with everyday use. Alcohol wipes help keep jewelry hygienic with regular cleaning.

  • Necklaces

  • Rings

  • Bracelets

  • Earrings

  • Pendants

Gently swab jewelry with a soft alcohol wipe to remove dirt and bacteria from worn jewelry. This not only prevents bacteria build-up but it may prolong the life of jewelry.

Cleaning oil, dust, and other contaminants

Alcohol wipes have many other general uses like:

  • Deodorant

  • Astringent

  • Liniment

  • Antiseptic

  • Disinfectant

Because alcohol is so versatile, it’s often used to clean:

  • Makeup brushes

  • Dry erase boards

  • Shoes

  • Sponges

  • Mirrors

  • Tile

  • Stainless steel

  • Sinks

  • Blinds

  • Chrome

Can you use alcohol wipes on cuts or to clean a wound?

Many people use alcohol wipes to disinfect bug bites or care for pierced ears. However, alcohol wipes can actually harm vulnerable tissue in the event of injury. The National Health Service (NHS) recommends the following to cleanse a minor injury.

  1. Rinse the cut, scrape, or wound in running water for five to ten minutes

  2. Soak gauze or cloth in water or saline solution

  3. Gently dab the skin with the wipe

  4. Gently pat dry with a clean towel or tissues

  5. Apply a sterile dressing and apply pressure if necessary

NOTE: Seek medical attention in case of major injury or other medical emergencies.

Can you be allergic to alcohol wipes?

Some individuals may have an allergic reaction when they come in contact with rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol wipes. Signs of an allergic reaction to alcohol include:

  • Hives

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat

Symptoms may occur with rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. Always consult with a medical professional in the event of an allergic reaction. Although rare, anaphylaxis is a life-threatening and severe allergic reaction. Seek emergency care in the event of:

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Stopped breathing

  • Severe swelling of the face, tongue, or throat

Alcohol wipes offer a convenient way to sanitize and polish surfaces. Use them to remove fingerprints, residue build-up, and bacteria from high-touch areas. In many cases, alcohol wipes can also help reduce the risk of disease spread in public spaces.