Does Alcohol Kill the Coronavirus?

From hand sanitizer to a nightly glass of wine, we look at what the science says.

We are all coping with the global pandemic and its far-reaching effects. Beyond washing your hands and practicing social distancing, people are wondering whether there are other ways to reduce your risk of contracting the coronavirus. There have been claims circulating about alcohol's relationship to the disease, and its potentially protective properties. We looked at the science and the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to separate fact from fiction about the coronavirus and alcohol.

Will Alcohol Kill the Coronavirus?

Claims about alcohol's protective effect against the coronavirus may have started due to the recommendation to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when you are unable to wash your hands. Though it is not as effective as washing your hands, hand sanitizer with a 60% or higher alcohol content will eliminate several, though not all, germs. Alcohol is effective at killing influenza, but it is unclear right now if it is effective specifically on the coronavirus. Note: Safe commercial hand sanitizers contain ethanol; beware of anything containing methanol, which can be toxic.

Alcohol-based cleaners can also be used to disinfect household items and even electronics. The CDC recommends using a wipe or spray that is at least 70% alcohol to frequently disinfect touch screens and high-touch surfaces. It should be used only on small surfaces and in a well-ventilated area, as alcohol is flammable.

hand sanitizer and computer
Getty Images/Marko Gerber

Drinking Alcohol & Coronavirus

Alcohol can be an effective household disinfectant or hand cleaner in a pinch to help eliminate most germs. However, the same does not hold true about drinking alcoholic beverages. The World Health Organization has been very clear in stating that consuming alcohol does not protect you from the coronavirus and can increase your risk of health problems if you consume it in excess. And, of course, it can be deadly to ingest alcohol-based sanitizers or any other alcohol not meant for human consumption, and these products should be kept away from children when not in use.

Bottom Line

Though washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water should be your priority, hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol can be effective at cleaning your hands in a pinch or when you are on the go. Alcohol can also be used to disinfect household surfaces, specifically electronics and screens. Consuming alcohol will not reduce your risk of contracting illness, and excess drinking can put you at greater risk for health problems. For more information, check out the best cleaning products to fight the coronavirus, according to the EPA.

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