The origins of vodka are shrouded in mystery, with both Russia and Poland laying claim to its invention. Some say Genovese merchants brought vodka (then known as aqua vitae, or the water of life) in the late fourteenth century to Russia. For many years, vodka wasn't just an alcoholic beverage: it was also consumed as medicine.
Nowadays, this innocent-looking and near-lethal beverage is the most popular spirit in the world. It's also useful in dozens of ways around your house, especially if you have a bottle that's so harsh it can't be improved even with a few easy DIY methods.
In fact, once you know all the ways vodka can be utilized, you might just start keeping a bottle around expressly not for drinking.
Making mint, citrus, and almond extract is pretty easy if you have some vodka handy. You just chop, crush, and steep the above items in vodka and voilà—you no longer have to shell out lots of dough for artificially flavored versions at the grocery store. This is a boon for bakers, since going the DIY route isn't just cheaper, it also means you have more control over the final product.
Check out our guide to making flavored extracts to get full instructions.
Keep in mind that you do want to use decent-tasting vodka for this process, since it will effect the taste of your extract. Be sure to read our guide on how to make crappy vodka taste better and you won't have to use up your bottle of Ketel One for this project.
Freeze a mix of vodka and water in a sturdy plastic bag for any injuries where you need a cold pack that can mold itself to an area. The alcohol will prevent the water from freezing completely, and it's reusable, too. (If you don't have vodka handy, regular rubbing alcohol is a good substitute.)
The proportions can be tricky to figure out, but never fear: DIY Natural has a great recipe for you. Not only is it easy to make, it's significantly cheaper than buying a reusable ice pack: DIY Natural estimates the cost as $1.28, as opposed to the eight bucks or more you might spend on the store-bought kind (which is much better for science projects, like creating cool crystals or smoke mix).
In 2007, Cook's Illustrated came up with a recipe for foolproof pie dough where vodka, not water, was the liquid used to bind all the ingredients together. Why vodka? Since it's only 60% water, it forms less gluten when it comes into contact with flour. Less gluten equals a more tender crust.
Get more info on how to use vodka in pie crust here.
I used to go to a scary Russian aesthetician who used to give hilarious, but very effective beauty advice. Number one tip? Use straight vodka to kill pimples, and use diluted vodka (half filtered water to half vodka) as a cheap skin toner. The high alcohol content of vodka gives it some antibacterial and antiseptic qualities, which may help it fight Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes pimples.
I like to dip a cotton swab into vodka and then press it onto any blemishes. Your zit will definitely shrink, and better yet, you won't get any ashy or dried-out skin the way you might with OTC pimple medication. Caveat: you have to do it consistently over several nights, and the results aren't as dramatic as with, say, benzoyl peroxide. However, the benefit is that your skin won't get raw looking or feeling in comparison.
As for the vodka skin toner, I make a lavender tincture by soaking organic lavender buds in vodka for a few weeks. I strain it, then store it in a clean jar. Rather than dilute it with water, I put some on a damp cotton ball. That way I don't have to worry about the tincture developing mold.
I've heard vodka also works to dry up cold sores, too, but I haven't tried it personally.
Have invasive weeds in your garden? This Old House recommends mixing one ounce of vodka, a few drops of dish soap, and two cups of water in a spray bottle. This works best on weeds that grow in direct sunlight. The vodka breaks down the waxy coating that protects the leaves, which means those weeds will now dehydrate.
Vinegar also works to get rid of pesky weeds, too.
Thanks to vodka's high alcohol content, it works wonderfully to freshen up clothes that you're not quite ready to wash but have a little more, shall we say, aroma than is strictly desirable.
Best of all, the cheap stuff works best here. You just fill a spray bottle with undiluted vodka and spritz until your clothes are lightly misted. The odors will dissipate once the alcohol dries from your clothes. This means less washing and hassle for you, and less wear and tear on your oufits and your washing machine.
Want complete instructions? Check out our full guide.
Turns out adding vodka to water might keep your fresh flowers alive longer. The vodka inhibits the production of ethylene, the same gas that fruits produce as they ripen.
However, it can be tricky to get the proportions right, since plants can only tolerate about 8% alcohol. You might be better off giving them citrus soda and bleach (seriously) instead. Yumi also suggests adding a little sugar to the vodka to make it more plant-friendly.
Want to get rid of product buildup or otherwise limp hair? Then pour a teaspoon of vodka into your shampoo (XO Vain advises you adjust upward if necessary). Most likely the high alcohol content of vodka will help remove any hair gel, styling wax, or conditioner that more gentle shampoos might leave behind.
Also, if you don't have vodka, a teaspoon of baking soda will serve the same purpose.
Don't have any jewelry polish handy? Not to worry. Turns out a few drops of vodka will remove the grime, says Reader's Digest. They do caution that you shouldn't use vodka on any gemstones that aren't crystal. Opaque stones like turquoise or malachite are softer, more porous, and might dry out if you apply an alcohol-based solution.
XO Vain also gets behind the vodka method of cleaning jewelry, going so far as to soak some silver pieces in the stuff and scrubbing it with a soft toothbrush or clean cloth.
In fact, if you need to clean any kind of shiny surface, cheap vodka in a spray bottle will work as well as pre-packaged household cleaners. Just spritz, wait for a few minutes, then polish the desired area with a soft, clean cloth.
I used to keep a bottle of vinegar and water to spray down the inside of my shower to prevent mold, but I think vodka actually works better, and leaves the shower doors streak-free, too.
If you've got a case of super stinky feet, soak them in vodka. Well, don't soak them in straight vodka because a) that's a lot of money and b) since it is mostly alcohol, it will sting like crazy if you have any open cuts.
However, the alcohol that gives vodka its antiseptic qualities will also go a long way toward killing whatever odor-causing bacteria is on your feet. I'd recommend one cup of vodka to a few quarts of water. Mother Nature Network says you can just soak a washcloth in vodka and wipe your feet down, too.
And if your shoes are affected, then spritz them down with vodka, the same way you would sitnky clothes. The alcohol will break down the odors there, too.
In fact, vodka comes in handy as an all-around germ killer, sanitizer, and general grossness remover. Bruce and Jeanne Lubin, the couple behind the household hints site Who Knew? Tips recommend it as a great way to kill mold and mildew, especially on caulk. You can also prolong the life of personal hygiene tools like razors, tweezers, and scissors by giving them a vodka soak.
In fact, with all these multipurpose uses, it might be worth it to get a few bottles of cheap vodka and start using them instead of pricey premade cleaners. Check out Yumi's guide for even more non-drinking uses for vodka.