Abusing Alcohol in Household Products
Aside from food, many household items contain alcohol in various amounts; some do contain ethanol, the type of alcohol found in beverages like beer or liquor. Yet most contain other types of alcohol including isopropyl, ethyl, methyl, or acetone. These solvents or cleaners are not intended to be consumed, so they are very dangerous in large enough amounts.
If you or someone you know is seeking alcohol in household products, it may be time to seek professional help. Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to speak with you about treatment options. Call our hotline at or fill out the form at the bottom of this page to start your journey toward recovery today.
Household Products Containing Alcohol
Here is a list of common household items containing alcohol. Although it is rare, some may abuse these products to get high or drunk.
- Mouthwash: Alcohol in mouthwash helps to kill bacteria that causes bad breath. Many mouthwashes have added flavoring agents to make them more pleasant, so children may drink them, leading to intoxication. Teenagers and adults, especially those who struggle with alcohol abuse, may also drink mouthwash to get a buzz.
- Cough syrup: Another common item used to treat symptoms of colds or flus, cough syrup contains dextromethorphan, which can cause a high if a large enough amount of it is taken. It also contains alcohol at levels that are similar to vodka or gin.
- Flavored extracts: A cooking item found in many pantries, extracts like vanilla, almond, or lemon extract contains anywhere from 35% to 83% alcohol, making them 70 proof. They rival the highest-percentage alcohol but are not regulated the same way that beer, whiskey, or Everclear are. This is because the amount of a flavored extract used in cooking is very small, about one or two tablespoons depending on the recipe. However, there are reports of people abusing extracts to get drunk.
- Rubbing alcohol: The more common name for isopropyl alcohol, this household item is used to clean cuts or small wounds. Isopropyl alcohol can also be found in hand sanitizer because it is a powerful disinfectant. There are several strengths of rubbing alcohol available, from 45% to 95%, although 60% to 75% are the most common. Alone, rubbing alcohol can be mistaken for water, and the National Poison Control Center often receives calls about small children who make this mistake and drink it. Although rare, some adults drink isopropyl alcohol or hand sanitizer to get drunk. This is very dangerous, because the concentration of isopropyl alcohol in most products is much higher than the amount of ethanol found even in hard liquor like vodka or whiskey.
- Perfume or cologne: Of course, these scented products are not intended to be consumed; however, many perfumes and colognes contain alcohol, ranging from 50% to 99%. Typically, perfume tastes terrible, so it is rare for anyone to abuse these substances, but there have been reports of it happening.
- Windshield wiper fluid: This product contains methanol, a potent industrial alcohol. It is rare for people to abuse this product, but some reports have found that teenagers accidentally drink it at parties when someone has mixed it into a punch or soda as a prank.
Which Products Show Up On Alcohol Tests?
Additionally, if testing for alcohol is part of your rehabilitation or recovery process, there are several products that may show up on a urine test as a positive indicator of alcohol abuse. If you consume these household items, even in small amounts, the liver will metabolize them as alcohol:
- Liquid medications, like Dayquil.
- Non-alcoholic beer and wine, which contain trace amounts of alcohol.
- Breath strips, which have a small amount of alcohol like mouthwash.
- Aftershave, hairspray, mousse, and some body washes.
- Astringents for skin care.
- Bug sprays.
- Nail polish remover.
Some of these products may cause a positive detection if they are inhaled excessively, so people who struggle with inhalant abuse may test positive for alcohol through a urine test.
The Dangers of Abusing Alcohol Products
Abusing any of the products listed above is more likely to lead to alcohol poisoning because the type of alcohol in many household items is more potent than that found in liquor, wine, and beer. Confusion, delirium, vomiting, slow or irregular breathing, low body temperature, blue-tinted or cold skin, and seizures are all indications of potential alcohol poisoning. In an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.
When to Seek Help
Abusing household products is a serious and dangerous activity. Whether using them to get high or simulate the effects of alcohol, doing so points to a greater sign of problematic alcohol use and puts you at greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. If you’re struggling with an alcohol addiction, there are resources available to help you regain control of your life and work toward sobriety. With effective treatment, group and private therapy, as well as long-term aftercare planning, individuals can successfully find recovery from alcoholism.
If you or someone you love is ready to seek professional help, American Addiction Centers’ (AAC) admissions navigators are available 24/7 to take your call. Alcohol.org is a subsidiary of AAC, a nationwide provider of treatment centers and works to make addiction treatment available to everyone in need.