My wife recently found some website recommending mixing 91% isopropyl alcohol, white vinegar, water, and corn starch and using it to wipe down countertops. This would be where we put our raw chicken and pork after washing them.

I'm concerned that this won't kill the germs as well as harsh chemicals would, although I am as eager as she is to replace those hard chemicals. I need to know, from a chemist, whether isopropyl alcohol really will kill all those E. coli and Salmonella and whatever else the raw poultry is leaving behind.

As a bonus, can anyone recommend any better solutions that we can make on our own than the one mentioned above?

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    $\begingroup$ Every biology lab I have been in so far that dealt with live bacteria used 70% ethanol solutions for wiping down. Not exactly the definition of a ‘harsh’ chemical ;) $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ see also cdc.gov/hicpac/Disinfection_Sterilization/… and cmr.asm.org/content/12/1/147.full $\endgroup$
    – user7951
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ The corn starch is probably intended to be a thickener and may supply your most active bacterial culture medium, I would leave that out. High purity alcohol on its own should be pretty good, water and vinegar will dilute it though the vinegar action may assist with cleaning but may not make much difference to bacteria counts. $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ Don't place raw meat on the countertop. Use a bowl or other container instead. Also, this is in my opinion really a question for biology stack exchange. $\endgroup$
    – Buck Thorn
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 14:22
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    $\begingroup$ As @BuckThorn states, don't spread everything over a counter. Use a cutting board, that can be more easily disinfected. eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/separate/… $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 16:57

1 Answer 1


A 70% “rubbing” alcohol solution will kill those pesky bacteria usually in ten seconds or less. It will also kill a host of viruses, but not all of them.

For your common household disinfecting, a 70% solution will do the trick. Especially for E. coli, salmonella, staph, and a few others that would be risk bacterium when preparing poultry, etc.

A final bit of information: 70% will be a more effective carrier than the 90-99% equivalent. Why? Because the water mix (30%) will act as a carrier or transport mechanism to get the alcohol into the bacterium cells in order to terminate them! The 90% mix simply is not very effective at penetrating the cell membranes.

See this for additional information: https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/disinfection-methods/chemical.html


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