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Though it’s rarely referred to as a problem-solver, vodka can be a solution to countless household challenges. Composed mainly of water and ethanol (via Wired) and distilled multiple times to remove impurities, the clear spirit is best enjoyed "neat." But because of its subtle flavor and ability to easily take on the character of a drink, it mixes well with almost anything and vodka is the key ingredient of classic cocktails, including the Moscow mule and martini.
Yet beyond being a vehicle for intoxication, vodka can also be used to keep bugs at bay, banish mold and mildew, remove stains, ease the itch of a jellyfish sting, and so much more. Even if you’re not drinking it, there’s a good reason to keep it on hand. Grab a bottle of vodka from the liquor cabinet (or the pile of cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink) and harness its unconventional power with these unconventional uses for vodka other than drinking.
Freshen up your linens
Freshen up your bedroom with … vodka? Vodka has virtually no odor (especially compared to stronger-smelling drinks like wine or beer), and thanks to its high alcohol content, it’s a natural disinfectant. Brew up your signature linen spray by blending your favorite essential oils with vodka as a base in a spray bottle. For better sleep, mix in essential oils that smell great and promote relaxation, including lavender, clary sage, chamomile, lemon, lime, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang (via Medical News Today).
Vodka works as an antibacterial agent, according to A Life Adjacent, and its high percentage of alcohol allows it to disperse the essential oils and keeps the scent of the room spray fresh for longer. Give your linens a light spritz to freshen them up instantly, and then allow them to dry completely before making up your bed. This spray can also be used to freshen up your mattress, but again, remember to let your mattress dry thoroughly before making your bed.
Make your own vanilla extract
Why buy vanilla extract when you can easily make your own? Homemade vanilla extract boasts more flavor than store-bought vanilla extract (many of which contain artificial vanilla flavoring as opposed to natural vanilla beans) and lasts for months so long as it’s stored in a cool, dry place. Making your own vanilla extract requires only two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka. Vodka, with its subtle flavor, makes for the best spirit choice.
Grade A beans can easily be found on Amazon or at local food specialty stores. When it comes to the vodka, don’t settle for the cheap stuff — opt for a bottle you would want to drink on its own. DIY vanilla extract in a glass jar tied with a ribbon also makes for a sweet holiday gift or housewarming present. Just remember that you’ll need to set aside at least a month to ensure that the vodka has taken on the full flavor of the immersed vanilla beans.
Keep bugs at bay
If you love spending time in the great outdoors, mix up your own signature vodka-based insect repellent spray to repel mosquitoes, gnats, and other annoying bugs and insects. Live Simply recommends combining high-proof vodka (or witch hazel), oil or glycerin, and a blend of essential oils. Simply add a blend of bug-repelling essential oils to a spray bottle along with vodka. Then add oil (olive oil, fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, vegetable glycerin, and aloe vera gel all work well).
Choose from a pre-blend of bug-busting essential oils or select your favorite scents from insect-repelling essential oils to customize your signature repellent. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is approved by the CDC for repelling mosquitoes. Lavender essential oil works well if you’re looking to repel mosquitoes and gnats, and flies hate peppermint and rosemary essential oils. There are plenty of other essential oils that not only smell lovely but also ward off bugs and insects.
Clean glass ’til it shines streak-free
When was the last time you could see the sun shining through your sparkling windows? Skip the store-bought glass cleaners and make your own eco-friendly, non-toxic spray glass cleaner with vodka. DIY Natural’s recipe for homemade glass cleaning spray calls for three simple ingredients you probably already have on hand: 1 cup high-proof vodka, ¼ cup white vinegar, and water. If you’re faced with truly dirty surfaces, add a ½ teaspoon of liquid soap. Combine the vodka and white vinegar in a bucket, add enough water to make ½ gallon, add optional liquid soap, and stir. Pour your homemade glass cleaner into a spray bottle with a tight-fitting lid, and be sure to label it.
Beyond cleaning windows, you can also use this natural glass cleaning spray to clean mirrors, countertops, and glass-topped tables. Use a soft, dry cloth to wipe, and avoid cleaning windows when the sun is shining on them, as streaks may remain on the warm glass after drying.
Clean your jewelry
Is your jewelry looking dirty or, worse, dull? Skip the trip to the jeweler, head to your liquor cabinet, grab a shot glass and a bottle of vodka, and harness the spirit’s power to make your jewelry sparkle. (While you can clean your jewelry with any white spirit, you probably already have high-proof vodka ready-to-go in your liquor cabinet.)
Veale Fine Jewelers recommends pouring vodka into a glass (a shot glass will do!). Pop your gold or silver rings, earrings, necklaces, or pendants into the vodka-filled glass and let soak for 15 to 20 minutes, swirling every 5 minutes or so. Then rinse your jewelry dry. Vodka works well for cleaning diamonds, too, since its ethanol content is a natural solvent that dissolves dirt molecules attached to diamonds. That said, vodka is not recommended for cleaning other gemstones, including pearls, emeralds, or opals, because its alcohol content tends to eat away at their shiny, natural coating.
Freshen your breath
Got bad breath? On the go? Head to the nearest bar and take a shot of vodka STAT. With its high alcohol content, the alcohol content in vodka kills the bacteria inside your mouth that causes bad breath (via The Conversation). Even Mythbusters tested vodka’s effectiveness as a bad breath-fighting mouthwash and proved that it works! Swirl it around in your mouth for a few seconds, gargle, and unlike regular mouthwash, you can either swallow or spit it out once it’s banished stinky mouth bacteria. You can even add a bit of flavor to the vodka by infusing it with a cinnamon stick or a few sprigs of mint.
Keep in mind that vodka mouthwash is best used in a pinch since it can dry out the mucosa in your mouth and thus cause dry mouth, which can increase your risk of cavities. Also keep in mind that if you have restorative work, alcohol-based mouthwashes can damage composite restorations (via BioMed Research International).
Remove tough stains
Vodka can be a key player in the battle against even the most notorious wine stains (fight fire with fire and alcohol with alcohol, apparently). Even better, it’s one of the easiest and best options for tackling ink or oil-based stains, including grass, grease, and even lipstick on your collar stains. Wonder How To recommends using high-proof vodka as a stain remover since its alcohol content acts as a degreaser, breaking down even the most stubborn stains in minutes.
Beyond common clothing stains, vodka can also be used to remove wine or oil-based stains from carpet, rugs, or linens. Since any plain (unflavored) vodka will work, this is one of the few times a bottom-shelf bottle comes highly recommended. Avoid scrubbing the stain, which can make it even more challenging to remove. Simply apply vodka, let sit for at least 10 minutes, then toss the stained item into the washing machine.
Sanitize your hands
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when hand sanitizer suddenly was in short supply nationwide, distilleries across the United States switched from making spirits to hand sanitizer (via Distilled Spirits Council of the United States). The CDC notes that washing your hands with soap and water is still the best way to remove germs, but if you’re on the go, hand sanitizer will do the trick. Make your own using vodka, a natural disinfectant, with this recipe for safe, non-toxic spray and gel hand sanitizer (via A Life Adjacent).
According to the CDC, an effective hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol, so remember to use high-proof vodka. To keep your hands from drying out, you’ll also need to add a moisturizing agent such as vegetable glycerin or aloe vera gel. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to give your hand sanitizer a signature scent. Store in a glass spray bottle to keep it eco-friendly.
Bake up the most tender pie crust ever
Pie crusts are one of the toughest baking basics to master. Every star baker has their secret ingredient or technique for making the perfect pie crust. Some add vinegar, egg yolk, or even lemon juice to guarantee a tender, flaky crust. But bakers truly in the know bring a touch of vodka to the table.
Our flaky, homemade pie crust recipe calls for two tablespoons of vodka. Why? Well, when the protein in flour comes into contact with water, it can lead to the pie baker’s worst nightmare: a dense crust due to the formation of gluten. Vodka adds the necessary liquid to make the dough pliable enough to form into a flaky crust without leading to excess gluten. Cold butter, a cold work surface for rolling out your dough, and handling the dough as little as possible can also prevent gluten strands from forming and ensure a more delicate crust.
Add shine to your hair
Has your hair lost its shine? Head to your liquor cabinet, and banish dull hair with vodka. Yes, you read that right: Thanks to its low pH levels and minimal acidity, vodka can help banish frizz and bring on the shine by sealing hair cuticles and protecting the deeper layers of the hair follicle. Rumor also has it that vodka can promote hair growth (via Thrillist). New Beauty recommends adding a shot of vodka to the bottle of your everyday shampoo and conditioner to increase shininess and eliminate toxins.
Alternatively, you can make your detoxifying hair rinse and prevent product build-up by adding a tablespoon of vodka to a cup of water and rinsing your hair with the formula post-shampoo. You also might want to pour yourself a shot first, or at least whip up a quick cocktail, to celebrate the fact that you no longer need to spend money on expensive hair treatments at the salon.
Kill pesky weeds
A shot of cheap vodka is more than so-called liquid courage. It’s also brave enough to eliminate the weeds invading your garden minus the harmful, toxic chemicals in traditional weed-killing solutions. The alcohol in vodka works to remove the waxy coating of weeds, causing them to dry out and eventually die. High-proof vodka works best when it comes to eliminating broadleaf weeds such as dandelions thanks to its high alcohol content.
While a vodka-based weed killer recipe will not be as strong as commercial, chemical-laden products, it’s safer for the environment and for your four-legged friends. Lifehacker recommends combining equal parts vodka and water plus a few drops of dish-washing soap in a spray bottle. Spray the vodka-powered solution directly onto the weeds you’re trying to eliminate from your lawn or garden. This formula will also kill grass, so be sure to spray strategically, and remember to remove the dead weeds ASAP so their seeds don’t disperse. The solution will also eliminate the dastardly weeds that sneak into your driveway or sidewalk.
Cure jellyfish stings and poison ivy rashes
Here’s a vodka hack that can help you in an emergency commonly encountered while hiking, camping, swimming, or surfing: If you’ve ever brushed up against poison ivy on a hike or been stung by a jellyfish while swimming in the ocean, you know the pain of the post-encounter itch and sting. Hopefully, you packed a bottle of vodka in your backpack or beach bag: vodka can help ease itching or stinging.
Mythbusters tested vodka’s effectiveness and proved that while it isn’t a cure-all, it is a quick and easy way to lessen the sting and itch. However, per Malta Today, alcohol in vodka stops sting cells from releasing their toxin. When it comes to poison ivy, vodka’s alcohol content washes away urushiol oil, which causes the itch (via HuffPost). Pour some vodka over the rash or location of the sting and let it work its alcohol-powered magic. Vodka is also a natural disinfectant, making it a good choice for eliminating bacteria in a scratch or open wound in a pinch.