Something akin to what we now know as vodka first appeared in Poland in the 11th century. Called gorzalka, the vodka prototypes were used as medicines. By 1534, a treatise on herbs professed that vodka could serve “to increase fertility and awaken lust.” Hot diggity!
Although many still indulge in the “medicinal” benefits of a martini, vodka has a surprising array of alternative uses that can save money and be kinder to the planet than the harsh chemicals it can stand in for. And with so many uses, it makes sense to have one bottle of vodka rather than array of otherwise specific products.
So just what can the versatile vodka do around the house?
1. Febreze without the guilt
If you douse your clothes and home with Febreze to remove odor, you can do the same with vodka…but without the cyclodextrin, and without supporting a company that tests on animals. (I’m talking to you, Proctor & Gamble.) The alcohol in vodka kills bacteria which cause odor, and vodka is basically odorless, as far as booze goes. Spritz your clothes and hang them in a well-ventilated room. (As with any natural remedy, sp0t-test first.)
2. Keep cut flowers fresh
If you’re going to have fresh-cut flowers working hard to brighten up your decor, show some hospitality and give them a little drink. Several drops of vodka and a large pinch of sugar added to the water in your flower vase, changed daily, stunts ethylene production and will extend the vitality of bouquet.
3. Shoo flies, and other pests
I couldn’t harm a fly, or any other living thing. Except…if something is biting and sucking the blood from my children, mamma bear swoops in and goes medieval. DEET is persona non grata in my neck of the woods, and I wouldn’t own a can of Raid if you paid me. But a spray bottle of vodka? Sure. Use it to spray directly at the offenders, it can also be used on your skin as a repellant.
4. Calm the sting of sea creatures
The pain of jellyfish and ray stings is magically dissipated with meat tenderizers (the enzymes that work to break down meat’s proteins also break down the stinging agents in the venom). But if you find yourself at the beach with vodka instead of meat tenderizer (and who doesn’t?)–it can help alleviate the punch those stings can pack. Douse the area with vodka. (And…have a shot while you’re at it?)
5. Give your hair some life
Vodka can make people lush and bouncy, and can do the same for your hair. Add an ounce to your bottle of shampoo and use as you usually do. It helps to break down the oil build-up that can make your hair droll.
6. Remove laundry stains
Treat stubborn stains with a splash of vodka and some elbow grease, then launder as usual.
7. Make lavender ironing water
Forget about scented fabric softener for fragrance, be like a cool French granny and use lavender ironing water instead. Mix 3 ounces of 90-proof vodka and 12 drops of pure lavender essential oil and let sit for 24 hours. Then add 12 ounces of purified water and swirl together. Store in the refrigerator until it loses its scent, around 6 weeks.
8. Get rid of unloved plants
Also known as weeds (poor, misunderstood things)–if you’ve got them and don’t want them, vodka can kill them. Vodka attacks broad-leaf weeds, like dandelions, chickweed, by breaking down their protective coverings which leads to lethal dehydration. Fill a spray bottle with an ounce of vodka, a few drops of liquid dish soap, and two cups of water. Spray on weeds, in the sunlight, and wilt away they will. (Or, buck the trend and love your weeds! See Eating Dandelions.)
9. Quash mold and mildew
Like vinegar, vodka can help combat stubborn mold and mildew stains in the bathroom. Spray it on stained caulk, let it sit for 30 minutes, and scrub with a brush.
10. Wash your mouth out
With homemade mouthwash: Boil 6 ounces of water and 2 ounces of vodka together. Add in 4 teaspoons of liquid glycerin and 1 teaspoon of aloe vera gel. Remove from heat and let cool. When cooled, add 10-15 drops of Spearmint oil and shake the entire mixture together well.
11. Make a tincture
You can make a tincture of botanicals and vodka to use topically for a number of ailments or conditions. Fill a jar with a handful of flowers/roots/leaves and top with vodka.
12. Ease a poison ivy rash
Urushiol oil, the pesky component of poison ivy and poison oak, leads most to an agonizing rash. Before the rash sets in, vodka can be poured directly on the skin where contact occurred to minimize the severity of what’s to come. Rubbing alcohol will work too.
13. Shine your shiny things
Who needs separate chrome-cleaner, glass-cleaner, and porcelain-cleaner when a trip to the liquor cabinet can tackle all three materials at once? Dampen a cloth with vodka, rub, back in the shine.
14. Unstick sticky stickers
I bet 9 out of 10 of you save glass jars and reuse them. How many of you cringe at the gummy label adhesive that clings to glass like a manic starfish? (Or is that just me?) Vodka to the rescue. Dab a scouring sponge with some vodka, scrub, rinse with some liquid dish soap, no more sticky ugh.
If you don’t want to keep a bottle of vodka on hand, try alternative uses for these non-toxic household products: