Alcohol Sponge


from Hydrothermic Remedies...

Because alcohol evaporates rapidly it is an effective agent in cooling the body. As such it can be used externally in place of cold friction after a "sweating" treatment, or to bring down a fever. Its use is limited to external applications.



The application of rubbing alcohol to the body surface.

Purpose and Effects

  1. Astringent effect on the skin
  2. Removal of heat from the skin surface by rapid evaporation; the effect is to lower the total body temperature.


  1. To cool the body after local or general applications of heat
  2. To lower body temperature in Production Fevers or where the body temperature is over 40°C.
  3. To protect areas of skin that receive unusual pressure (toughens the skin)
  4. To refresh the bed patient when it is not possible to give a bath.


  1. Do not use on infants or very small children because of alcohol absorption.


  1. Rubbing alcohol or 95% pure grain alcohol diluted to make a 70% solution (2/3 alcohol to 1/3 water.)
  2. Basin to pour alcohol and water in, if diluting alcohol.
  3. Basin of hot water to warm bottle of alcohol if necessary.
  4. Bath blanket for patient and Turkish towels to protect bedding.


Important Considerations

  • Pour alcohol into cupped hands to avoid chilling the patient or dip hands into water-alcohol mixture.
  • Be sure such areas as the neck, axilla, under the breasts, umbilicus, groin and the gluteal cleft are left dry.
  • Keep alcohol away from eyes, mouth and genitalia.

Preparation for Treatment

  • Assemble equipment
  • Replace the top bedding with a bath blanket, and drape the patient.
  • Have the room free from drafts, and comfortably warm.


  • Rub upper extremities first
    • Apply alcohol with upward stroke returning with rotary movements to cover the entire surface; repeat as needed.
    • For cooling effects use short alternate strokes to aid evaporation of alcohol.
    • Finish with three superficial strokes from shoulder to hand, using both hands to cover surface (be sure the patient is dry.)
  • Rub chest
    • Apply alcohol with one long stroke up to shoulders returning with rotary movements to sides of chest; repeat as needed.
    • Use short, brisk strokes (for evaporation of alcohol) beginning at the shoulder, first on one side and then the other side.
    • Finish with superficial strokes downward from shoulder on both sides.
  • Rub lower extremities.
    • Modify movements as used for upper extremity, being sure to cover posterior surface of the leg thoroughly.
  • Rub back.
    • Assist patient to turn on side or abdomen placing a pillow under the patient's lower chest or abdomen.
    • Apply alcohol with both hands from buttocks to shoulders; follow with firm rotary movements to shoulders, scapulae, ribs, hips and buttocks. Repeat as needed.
    • Apply circular kneading with right hand over coccygeal area.
    • Finish with superficial stroking from shoulders to buttocks using both hands to cover the surface. Stroke the spine from the neck to the buttocks with alternate hands.

Completion of Treatment

  • Leave the patient comfortable and in good alignment.
  • Take temperature at intervals to check on fever reduction. (only in production fevers)


from Dr JH Kellogg's Hydriatic Techniques...

1 part medical alcohol or white vinegar to 3 parts of water for evaporating Sponge in


from Dr GK Abbott's Prescriptions...

Following Diaphoretics instead of tonic cold - prevent chilling

  • 1 part proof alcohol to 1 part water
  • Dip hands once or twice as needed then rub each part
  • No towel drying needed