As anyone living outside of Russia or a college campus knows, vodka isn’t often lauded as a bartender’s favorite spirit. Yes, it is “flavorless,” which makes it easy to mix with. And, yes, it could be described as “odorless” (a debatable claim). But more often, it’s compared to rubbing alcohol or dismissed as the poison of choice for uneducated drinkers.
While vodka’s drinkability is purely a matter of opinion, it’s plainness makes it a prime candidate for alternative uses—from cooking and cleaning to repelling insects and treating poison ivy.
Left with a friend’s near-empty bottle of vodka? There are countless ways to use it around the house. The next time you’re tempted to dump the dregs down the drain, recall these 10 tips so it doesn’t go to waste.
Full disclosure: This only works with classic, unflavored vodka, so you’ll have to find another use for the rest of that whipped cream–flavored booze.
1. Clothes Deodorizer
Is that trusty blazer not smelling as fresh as it could and don’t have time to take to the dry cleaner’s? Spritz it with a bit of vodka. The spirit will eliminate smelly bacteria and, once it dries, will leave clothes odor-free. No, you won’t smell like a bar.
2. Window & Kitchen Cleaner
Even if your clothes don’t need freshening up, it’s likely that your windows or countertops do. Dilute some vodka in a spray bottle and you instantly have a full bottle of homemade household cleanser that will leave surfaces streak-free and sanitized.
3. Goo Gone Substitute
C’mon, the infomercial for this handy alt-vodka use practically writes itself: “Got a stubborn sticky spot that you can’t get rid of? Try vodka! It’s the fool-proof, chemical-free alternative to abrasive cleaners. All it takes is one easy payment of $9.99—to your local liquor store!”
From phone cases to computer keyboards to the sticky mess price tags sometimes leave, vodka works wonders.
4. Treat Poison Ivy
For those who are super-susceptible to itchy rash-inducing plants like poison ivy and poison oak, having a little bottle of vodka on hand might be a good idea during outdoor adventures. Supposedly, pouring vodka on the rash immediately after a rash appears helps wash away the oils that cause discomfort.
5. Insect Repellant
Avoid becoming a mosquito buffet by spritzing yourself with a bit of the clear stuff before going camping or taking a hike. The alcohol kills bugs and will ensure a much more comfortable outdoor experience, and leaves you un-addled by itchy bug bites.
6. Polish Jewelry
Precious gemstones, sterling silver, you name it, vodka can clean it. Turns out, soaking jewelry in vodka helps remove that pesky tarnish. So if you’re in a pinch and don’t have a polishing cloth on hand, dunk your jewels in the spirit for 10 to 15 minutes, wipe it down and let it dry. Your bling will be back to its original sheen in no time.
Developing your own DIY beauty routine? Add this easy hairspray to the mix. Lemon juice, water and vodka combine for a slightly less flammable stand-in to Aqua Net. Smells pretty darn good too.
8. Painless Bandaid Removal
Not so different from using vodka to remove a stubborn sticky spot from a countertop or laptop keyboard, soaking the sticky parts of an adhesive bandage with it before ripping it off will save your skin from that all-too-familiar—and incredibly unpleasant sensation.
9. Plant Care
If you’re not much of a green thumb and want to try to keep a plant alive for more than a couple of days, it might be a good idea to keep a bottle of vodka handy. Not only can brushing a vodka-dampened cotton ball on plant leaves fend off pesky aphids, but you can also keep cut flowers alive a bit longer by adding a few drops of vodka and a small spoonful of brown sugar to the vase.
10. Cooking & Baking
Image: Tina Rupp
Most people are aware of the wonders of a good store-bought vodka sauce. But it’s not often that you hear about baking with anything other than bourbon, rum or brandy. However, that bourbon pecan pie will undoubtedly benefit from a bit of the clear liquor, which supposedly makes the crust super flaky and delicious.