Alcohols are low-level disinfectants and antiseptics that are effective against some bacteria, fungi and enveloped viruses but are ineffective against endospores and noneveloped viruses.  They evaporate rapidly and leave no residue.

Alcohols denature proteins and disrupt the surface tension of cell membranes, but are not effective at 100% concentration.  To work properly, alcohols must be mixed with water at concentrations ranging from 70% to 95%.

Alcohols can be mixed with other antimicrobial compounds such as iodine to form tinctures to increase the effectiveness of the compounds.