Q: Long story short: I recently inherited a couple handles of low-grade vodka and since I don’t drink the stuff — I do imbibe but my attempts with vodka have resulted in some pretty unsightly splotchy rashes — I’m looking for creative ways to get it off of my hands without pouring it down the drain. Ideally, I’d save it for the holidays and pass it off as a re-gift but since the spirits in question are more aligned with rocket fuel than Grey Goose, I’d rather not go that route. I’ve heard that vodka can actually come in handy around the house for various things and I’m all about saving money and resources and putting reject booze to good use … any thoughts on where to start?

Looking to make a Green Russian, 

Justine, San Antonio, Texas.

A: Hey Justine,

Looks like we have the exact opposite alcohol afflictions: Aside from vino, vodka is one of the only libations that I can drink that doesn’t leave me with a rash, sour stomach or wicked headache. That said, when there’s vodka in my fridge it’s treated as a precious commodity and doesn’t tend to see much action aside from being mixed in a tumbler with ice cubes, soda water and lime. So in terms of not drinking vodka, I can’t speak from experience but I’m well aware of several “neat” ways to put it to use without reaching for the martini glasses. And even though you’re dealing with bottom-shelf booze, it shouldn’t really matter what kind you use. As long as it’s 80 proof, I don’t think your chrome fixtures or cutlery will know the difference between Popov and Ketel One.

On that note, one of the easiest ways to put vodka to work is by using it to add sparkle to various household objects that need a little pick-me-up. Try ditching chemical cleaners and apply vodka to a clean cloth and use it to shine chrome and porcelain bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Vodka is said to work streak-free wonders on chandeliers, silverware and crystal as well as mirrors, windows and car windshields. Is your jewelry (glass or crystalline gemstones only) looking a bit greasy? Treat ’em to a booze bath.

Have an empty spray bottle sitting around? Fill it with vodka and head to the shower. Simply douse any surface — tiles, tub, caulking, shower curtains — with a light vodka mist and let it sit for several minutes before scrubbing/rinsing and the alcohol will effectively eliminate mildew, mold and soap scum. Be warned: Cleaning with vodka might require a bit more elbow grease than chemical products but the eco-payoffs are obvious.

With that same booze-filled spray bottle, head on over to the laundry room. Since the alcohol in vodka kills bacteria, try spritzing stinky clothes with it. The vodka will banish odors without leaving behind a chemical-y “country fresh” scent a la Febreeze. This trick also works on upholstered furniture and carpeting that’s smelling a bit funky … just be sure to do a spot-test first. And while we’re on the topic of banishment, vodka can be used to treat tough fabric stains like lipstick, grass and deodorant.

If you haven’t exhausted the spray bottle of spirits in the bathroom and laundry room, add 2 cups of water and a couple of drops of dish detergent to an ounce of vodka and head outdoors. If your garden is plagued by pesky weeds, spray them (in direct sunlight) with the solution instead of resorting to chemical herbicides. And if you have plants that you want to live longer, add a shot of vodka and a teaspoon of sugar to the water in a vase filled with fresh-cut flowers. The bacteria-busting vodka allows water and nutrients to travel up the stems and keeps ’em from drooping prematurely.

In addition to coming in handy in the cleaning cupboard, laundry room and garden, vodka has long held a valued place in medicine cabinets. Most commonly, vodka may be used as a general disinfectant when rubbing alcohol isn’t available. Many folks also swear by it as a toothache and earache remedy and as a pore-tightening facial astringent or aftershave. Also, if you’ve had a nasty run-in with poison ivy, pour vodka pour on your skin. That said, if you’ve banged yourself up pretty badly don’t reach for the bottle ... use a trusted drugstore solution and/or consult your MD. And I’m not sure what exactly your living situation is but I wouldn’t suggest stashing bottles of cheap vodka in your closets, laundry room, bathroom, garage, garden shed and under the kitchen sink unless you’re prepared to do a whole lot of explaining to a concerned family member or friend. 

Hope this helps you put that unwanted cheapo vodka to good use, Justine. Although vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice get top billing as the premiere multipurpose household staples, vodka, with its excellent cleaning and disinfectant properties, ain’t too shabby either. Let me know how your non-intoxicating vodka adventures pan out. Cheers!

— Matt

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