Introduction: 15 Unusual Uses for Cheap Vodka

Contrary to popular belief, cheap vodka is not only for boozehounds and college freshmen. There are many legitimate ways to use vodka that go beyond mere consumption: cleaning, baking, deodorizing, and even drinking (with a few tweaks for flavor.)

Inexpensive vodka makes an excellent replacement for pricier products that do the same thing. Sure, a cabinet full of McCormick's vodka is more difficult to explain than some Windex. But the savings should make up for the worried looks and shaking heads you'll get for buying the cheap stuff by the case. At your intervention, you can teach them all these unusual uses for cheap vodka. Read on to learn more...

Step 1: Forget Expensive Dry Cleaning Bills

Spritz down your garments with a vodka dilution between dry cleaning to remove odors!

Unfortunately, this does nothing for stains, so once you've spilled red wine on your favorite white coat, you've really got no other option but take it to the professionals.  Or, you know, just soak the whole thing in red wine and make it new again!

Step 2: I Can See Clearly Now

A small spray bottle with vodka and water is the perfect solution for cleaning your glasses.
Don't get ripped off by those greedy optometrists - make your own at home!  One optical employee told me they make their own cleaning solution by combining water, alcohol, and a drop of dish soap.  Give it a try!
(May not be suitable for lenses with special coatings - try and your own risk.  And the tell us how it went!)

Step 3: Goo Be Gone

Vodka is a great solvent for sticky residue.  Maybe you have a tiny spray bottle that used to hold overpriced lens cleaning solution that you've decided to repurpose into a homemade lens cleaning solution spray bottle, but it has sticky residue from the label that used to be on it.  Problem solved!

Step 4: Mouthwash

Kill the germs that cause bad breath!  Combine cheap vodka with a few drops of cinnamon, spearmint, or tea tree oil and let sit for two weeks.  You've got your own high-octane mouthwash.  Just make sure to spit after you rinse.

And next time you've had too much vodka, you can use the vodka mouthwash to freshen your breath!  No one will be the wiser.

Step 5: Keep Flowers Fresh

Add a teaspoon each of vodka and sugar to water to keep freshly cut flowers looking great.  The vodka kills the bacteria that would otherwise grow in the water, and the sugar provides nutrients the flowers need to thrive.

Step 6: Flakier Pie Crusts

Swapping ice cold vodka for water in pie crust recipes ensures a flakier crust.
The liquid makes the dough more pliable to work with, and then evaporates while baking, giving you a lighter result than water.
Try this recipe for the perfect pie crust!

Step 7: Homemade Extracts

Vodka is a perfect base for flavored extracts, including chocolate and vanilla.  Add vodka and flavoring to sanitized bottles and let sit to develop flavor.

Step 8: Window Cleaner's Best Kept Secret

A vodka dilution makes a great window-cleaning solution.  Combine vodka and water in a spray bottle and use newspapers for a perfect, streak-free finish!

Step 9: Odor Eater

Mist stinky shoes with vodka between wears to cut down on the smell.  Feet can also be soaked in vodka to remove odors, as proven on Mythbusters!

Step 10: No More Flakes

A vodka rinse is a great solution for dandruff or dry scalp.  Mix one cup of vodka with two teaspoons of rosemary and let sit for two days.  Strain and use as a rinse to remove shampoo build-up, or as a leave-in scalp treatment.

Step 11: Re-Usable Ice Pack

Combine equal parts vodka and water in a sealable freezer bag for a slushy ice pack to nurse injuries.

Step 12: Hand-Sanitizer

If you're someone who deals with germy kids all day, you know the importance of having hand sanitizer within arms reach.  Vodka is a natural enemy to bacteria, so reach for that small spray bottle and mist your hands generously.  And if the kids are really giving you a hard time, no one will notice a few spritzes down the gullet too.

Step 13: Natural Astringent

Dampen a cotton ball with vodka to use as a facial astringent to cleanse and tighten pores, or dab onto cold sores to help dry them out.

Step 14: Treat Wounds!

Vodka acts both as a local anesthetic and disinfectant, so is perfect for treating open blisters and other minor wounds.  It's even great for treating aching teeth!

Step 15: Drink It!

To enhance (remove) the flavor of cheap vodka, run it through a charcoal filter multiple times.  The charcoal will get used up quickly, however, and if you're using brand-name filters, it may end up costing as much as a nicer bottle of vodka in the long run.  Instead you should refill your charcoal filter at home!

Step 16: Infuse It

If the filtered vodka doesn't do it for you, remember, vodka makes great infusions!  Just add fruits, herbs, bacon or skittles to round out your liquor cabinet with specialty home-brewed custom liqueurs.


louis.m (author)2011-09-15

No more weird mysterious chemicals, with flamboyant names, I am making my own cosmetic products for years now. !

I use vodka with ordinary kitchen herbs and/or spices added as an aftershave.

One of my most successful recipes is with a combination of parsley nutmeg cloves and lemon. I add a bit of alum to take care of little shaving cuts and just a pinch borax to prevent spoilage (both of which I purchased at a local pharmacy, and dissolved in some hot water).

I even use vodka with nettle tops (Urtica dioica), as a lotion for my scalp and hair.
Boil young tops (Urtica dioica), picked just before flowering (use gloves or just plastic shopping bags over the hands when picking), with a little water, then pour through a cloth, add borax (see above) and vodka to the liquid, ready.

Very refreshing!

harderm (author)louis.m2017-09-21

Louis, what herb and spice mixes do you use for your aftershave? Sounds great. I like the natural smells in my shaving lotion and aftershave, but I have no idea how to make them.

Gofish (author)2017-09-21

Newspaper to clean windows? Not since the introduction of Latex inks. Use clean paper towels.

FlyinngDolphin (author)Gofish2017-09-21

What's a newspaper?

Gofish (author)FlyinngDolphin2017-09-22

Something that millennials don't know about. A thing made out of paper with words printed on it. Often printed daily so that news and opinions are up to date after facts are checked to see if what is on interweb is real.

Have multiple uses after reading as well.

sparaski11 (author)2017-09-21

Google "Popcorn's Still" for all you need to know about making Likor.

thundrepance (author)sparaski112017-09-21

my boys & i watched a fantastic documentary about popcorn sutton in '09 ~~ r.i.p., popcorn <3

bpark1000 (author)2017-09-21

If you use a significant amount of alcohol in a pie crust, and then bake it in the oven, you could accumulate explosive gasses in the oven!

Any of the other uses where alcohol is at above 60% can be flammable, and should be handled as such.

For other non-consumption uses (such as window cleaning or goo/paint removal), denatured alcohol is much cheaper and has no water dilution, which interferes with its solvency in some situitions.

OWK000. (author)2017-09-21

I prefer cheap rum. With new sugar cane harvesting machinery rum is cheaper than ever. Some cheap vodka is just cheap flavored rum anyway--best get it sans the cheap vodka flavoring. Rum tastes better. Go grain free.

theoldguy (author)2017-09-21

Vodka can also be used as a paint remover for water based paints. After all it is basically Ethanol, the dried paint will wrinkle and you can wipe it off. I've also used it to remove water stains on a French Polished table.

HawkM2 (author)2017-09-21

Thank you for the information.

neffk (author)2015-11-10

Nice collection of ideas. I've tried some of these and wanted to offer some perspective.

Starting on a positive note, infusion are a really interesting and complex process. So much going on there. So many uses. Make your own bitters. Preserve the taste of summer with limencello. Medicine. Et cetera.

However, the dry cleaning bit is a misnomer. Vodka is half water. So it's not dry.
It's not really cleaning, either. However, it does inhibit growth of
icky stuff. Same for shoes. Speaking from experience. BTW, dry cleaning is usually not needed at all. It's not a scam, just a high-price luxury laundry service. Almost everything can be washed with water. If you read carefully, dry-cleaning establishments mostly offer non-dry-cleaning services: pressing, alterations, button repair, etc, etc.

Using alcohol as a solvent for cleaning really works, sometimes. Like all cleaning tricks, it's something to try when the usual methods fail. Nail polish also works. Canola oil comes in handy sometimes and so does oderless mineral spirits.

Some people swear by vodka in pie crust. But people will swear by anything that results in a pie that's done, whether or not it's good. Standards in baked goods are falling, people. I saw a fallen cake at a church potluck the other year and the baker wasn't even embarrassed---she didn't know it was a failure. Back on point---ethanol makes the crust sticky and harder to work with. I've made lots of crusts and the only thing that really seems to matter is thermal management. Gotta keep the butter from melting, roll it out on a cool surface, etc. Even the ratio of flour to butter isn't consistent across recipes. I'll stop now... Pie crust could be its own category of instructubles!

Using ethanol to clean wounds definitely works but it stings. Still, it's a good tip.

The problem with the ice pack is the bag. Bags leak where they bend at too sharp a radius or at the seams. There's no advantage to putting ethanol in the mix over salt or sugar. It's not a bad idea, just different. Maybe double bag it.

Usually isopropyl alcohol is used as an astringent. I don't know if the effect is different or if it is only customary. Also, there's witch hazel, which is widely available.

The idea of filtering cheap vodka is interesting and a good learning experience but filters have a cost. Gotta plug the Discovery Channel boys and their vodka show. When you include the cost of the filter, it doesn't make sense. You can also re-distill the vodka to avoid the filter but that's not for everyone.

Seems that there's only 12 ideas here. Glasses and windows are basically the same. Infusions and vanilla are the same. Cleaning clothing and the cloth lining of shoes is the same. An article about 12 things is good. Trying to inflate the number of items dilutes the awesomeness of the internet.

Sorry if this feels negative. I thought your article was pretty above average. Thanks for posting.

jimmie.c.boswell (author)neffk2015-11-10

redistilling vodka for drinking, is a bad idea unless you know what you are doing. which can produce fusel oils, that results in bad headaches form the toxic butyl's and propanol's formed. resulting in heating the still, by direct flame/heat without a double boiler. so you should never, use this for drinking.

with the only other option available, being low temp vacuum distillation. but this requires, a little more sophistication using a pressure regulator to only extract the alcohol.


Fusels and suchlike will have been distilled out by the original manufacturer; redistilling won't 'create' these nasties (although it probably won't change the flavour much either!)


do you understand, how the fusel oils are made? it is, the result of heating an alcohol solution with a direct flame. most modern distilleries, use a jacketed double boiler to prevent formation of fusel oils. fusel oils are higher chain alcohols, formed by heating.

neffk (author)jimmie.c.boswell2015-11-12

Basic still operation is heating slowly so even if this were so, I'm not sure it would be an issue in practice. (This is one of the places where an electric burner is actually better than gas.) Distilling under vacuum sounds like a really interesting task but it's certainly not required to get a good-quality product.

jimmie.c.boswell (author)neffk2015-11-13

been having trouble posting, so have been gone for a while. but uneven heating in a vessel with high temp spots, can cause chemical reactions. so water baths, oil, or sand baths give a more uniform heat. and it, will keep the temperature even and uniform. and you, do not want to exceed 94*C.

two things that affect the boiling point of the solution, is atmospheric pressure and the percentage of solution. increase the pressure, and the vaporization increases. lower the atmospheric pressure, lowers the boiling point and increases the vaporization point between water and alcohols.

at higher alcohol concentrations, the vaporization point gets closer to 72*C. so this is closer to what you would use, for already once or twice distilled vodka or any other distilled liquor. and depending upon, the type of condenser used may effect the atmospheric pressure.

neffk (author)jimmie.c.boswell2015-11-13

Oh, interesting. I've mainly read about fermentation of pectin-heavy wash resulting in foul heads. Fusil oils are always mentioned but this is the first time I've thought about where they come from. Do you think a heavy aluminium pressure cooker would spread the heat enough?

nwlaurie (author)neffk2015-11-14

I simply don't know about aluminium. We use two continuous-flow stills (they used to be travelling Calvados stills that went from village to village around the Normandy region of France!) to distill many thousands of litres of cider annually and they are made of copper (someone else here has said copper is a no-no, not true). Our research still is made of stainless steel. The big stills are heated with a (huge) gas flame and probably have hotspots but they don't cause problems – the circulating liquid soon dissipates it ... did you know you can boil water over a gas flame in a paper bag and still have no problem with hot-spots? We used to do it as boy scouts in the 50s just to show it could be done!

neffk (author)nwlaurie2015-11-14

Copper and aluminium are good conductors of heat, so maybe they're similar.

RalfA3 (author)neffk2017-09-21

You should NOT use aluminum, it dissolves with the high alcohol content.

I use a reflux still and get 190 the with almost zero due to the reflux action. And to re heat it you do NOT get any added oils!

jimmie.c.boswell (author)neffk2015-11-13

i would be hesitant to use aluminum, for anything with an OH radical. typically stainless steel, or copper, are used in large scale productions. smaller scale, i would consider either stainless steel, an alkali resistant borosilicate, or quartz glass. and do not use rubber as a seal, for any reflux, or fractional distillation towers.

and aluminum would have hot spots, where it was in contact with the heat source. and the heat spreads from the hot spots.

and remember when dealing with cheap vodka, they are bound to cut some corners. and the first distillation, from the brew is the most critical. and may include some alcohols with a lower like methanol and slightly higher boiling point butyl's and iso-butyl's. and if you know what you are doing, you can distill off the lower boiling dangerous compounds first.

generally a good distillery, will throw out the first ten percent of the draw. which contains the lower boiling point alcohols. a second distillation, about one percent or less. and cheap vodka, is usually around 35 to 40% single distillation and may include some lower and higher boiling point compounds. and if you concentrate further from there, you are going to also concentrate those.

but the requirements get easier, if you are not distilling ethanol for drinking purposes. then some of those other compounds, do not matter if it is not to be consumed. i mean why distill 40% vodka for drinking purpose, since all you are doing is adding to the initial cost? it is not cost effective, to distil consumer bought vodka for drinking purposes.


Not so! Fusel alcohols are formed when fermentation occurs at non-optimal temperatures or abnormally low pH; there are a number of otheror when yeast behaviour is modified by othe environmental conditions that can increase these by products (which we lose in the feints at distillation time). And before you nay-say me, I'm a part owner of a cider farm and distillery so I know whereof I speak!


we, are talking about cheap vodka here. are you sure, they throw away the first ten percent of the draw? which will contain, the lower boiling point alcohols like methanol. which may also contain, some of the higher boiling point alcohols.

and if you concentrate cheap vodka from there, you are going to be concentrating these undesirables also. plus using too much heat, on ethanol does not do it any good. when even the type of container, can make a difference.

in as much, as i would say. it is not cost effective, to concentrate vodka for drinking purposes. which just adds to the initial cost, of the vodka. however if it, is not to be used for consumption. then none of these, precautionary things matter.


Jimmie; the question is: do YOU understand how fusel oils are made?

They are a byproduct of fermentation, concentrated during distillation.

The aromas described by wine geeks (grassy nose, etc.) are fusel oils.

Read-up a little.

Fusels are not the result of heating alcohol. It may appear that way because you don't notice them much until after distillation, but that is not where they come from.

The article did not mention redistilling, only filtering.

neffk (author)jimmie.c.boswell2015-11-11

I have to challenge you on this. Distillation is neither difficult or dangerous. If you really study it, the dangers are over-blown, exaggerated, and often the result of myth and storytelling rather than facts and case reports.

BTW, legalization of hobby distillation is in the works. Contact your US Representative about H.R. 2903 and your US senator about S-1562. They're identical companion bills that make it easier to do small-time distillation legally. Here's a link for finding the politicians that represent you:

Oh, you need your full ZIP code to contact most of these politicians. Look yours up here:!input.action

Daisytikityke (author)neffk2017-09-21

Did you mean "nail polish" as s spot remover or "nail polish remover"?

s_baswell (author)neffk2015-11-11

neffk, your positive comments on the article were interesting, but to me, the negative ones really amounted to your opinion and reduced the worth of your contribution. The writer doesn't say that spritzing alcohol is the same as dry cleaning, but that it can reduce odors between dry cleanings. While glasses and windows may be made of glass, many may not think of both applications unless they are mentioned separately, and the same with infusions and vanilla. Please accept my opionion, not as an affront, but just another point of view.

LadyRoz (author)neffk2015-11-10

I use a soft sponge with isopropyl alcohol in freezer bags to make ice packs. I've never had a problem with leakage. Any of the cleaning hacks can be substituted with isopropyl alcohol. But spritzing your clothing or shoes with vodka makes more sense to me than using a chemical clothing refresher in between dry cleaning. And wool cannot be washed in water without a lot of shrinkage. I do remember recommendations after Ohio's Blizzard of 1978 to keep vodka on hand to put in toilet tanks and to use as windshield washer. I do make my own extracts with cheap vodka because it is so economical. And yes, your comments are very negative.

neffk (author)LadyRoz2015-11-10

Wool certainly can be washed with water. I always thought there was some magic in dry cleaning but turns out, not really. Wool is fine as long as you don't do drastic temperature changes and a lot of agitation. (If you do, you get felt!) If you read the interwebs carefully, you'll see that others have found the same. Sorry, I'm just really excited about this cause I figured it out recently!

silversofttail (author)neffk2015-11-10

Since your post did not add anything but be critical it did not feel negative it WAS negative. Thanks to scoochmaroo for thinking outside of the box and giving great tips.

jeanniel1 (author)silversofttail2015-11-10

The above critique was constructive. Hence, not a negative piece. Distinction between negative criticism and constructive - one learns as one reads for (which I did on the above comments), and negative is just a venting of feelings that are a put down as a reply.

neffk (author)silversofttail2015-11-10

Wow. Small world. I was trying to make ricotta last night and stumbled on your article, sliversofttail. Anyway, criticism isn't always negative. I mean, it's probably great to never receive criticism because you're perfect. But in my experience, there's always opportunities for improvement. Also, reading all the way through someone's article and leaving a comment about the content is a compliment, even if it's not 100% thumbs-up awesome.

FeriandasG (author)2017-09-21

There is another good use. Use it as a windshield washer fluid. Vodka doesn't freeze, cleans a windshield well, plus gives "original" smell. In a savers mode you can dilute it.

Phil_S (author)2015-11-10

With the European Union legislating against "chemicals" other than tap water, you have to look to other sources. "Cheap" vodka really isn't that cheap with roughly £9.80 out of £10 going to the government, but for some purposes, vodka, which is no more than watered down ethanol, is fine - I clean my glasses in it before the tomato juice goes in. For the adventurous, meths can be un-denatured (i.e. take out the napthalene, pyridine, gentian violet) with activated carbon to leave a mix of ethanol and methanol, or as suggested elsewhere, do a home brew. In my opinion, meths is a much underrated cleaning agent.

A fine malt whiskey is too pricey for stain removal and makes you smell like a member of the Royal family.

In the UK, even propanol is difficult to get and going to B&Q to get some "rubbing" alcohol is a no-no - however, look elsewhere - windscreen additives/de-icers are usually propanol based.

Fortunately, years ago, I managed to get my hands on a 2.5-litre bottle of absolute alcohol 99.9% pure ethanol - it's the drinking equivalent of a habanero pepper, 175 degrees proof. It won't be seeing one drop of water.

Daggs (author)Phil_S2015-11-13

The strongest proof you can achieves is 190, IIRC. That is 95% alcohol. That's as good as you can distill a spirit.

John Sphar (author)Daggs2017-09-21

lclaiborne (author)John Sphar2017-09-21

I prefer Diesel Brand Grain Alcohol. The giant semi on the label is priceless! And, it's what bars on Bourbon St use, so we know it works. ;)

Phil_S (author)Daggs2015-11-13

Without going into US and UK definitions of proof and ethanol content, 95% is as high as you are going to get by boiling the stuff - you can't get the last traces of water out - but 5% is nit-picking. If you want 99.9% pure, you have to use other means to get the water out, probably selective molecular sieves or production scale chromatography. As well as IMS at 90% (164 proof), I have a bottle of Absolute Alcohol from James Burroughs (Gin distillers of London) rated at 99.9% Ethanol. It tastes foul and only finds use now as a skin swab prior to glucose finger pricking

nwlaurie (author)Phil_S2015-11-11

Running it through a carbon filter will, indeed, remove the things that are there to put us off drinking it, but it won't remove the methanol (what we used to call 'wood alcohol') which has the clever little party trick of turning people blind when drunk in quantity.

In the UK, 99.9% propanol (or iso-propyl alcohol) is easily available on eBay at about £12/litre. I buy it twice a year without any difficulty.

Phil_S (author)nwlaurie2015-11-11

The basic premise of this article is to do with with finding uses for for a water-ethanol mix i.e. something that is a good solvent for some things at a reasonable cost. Getting stuff on eBay doesn't always mean that it is a legitimate route and I have been staggered at the sort of chemicals - concentrated nitric acid, hydrofluoric acid, no questions asked, which should not fall into the hands of the general public. Legitimate users of Propanol, MEK, Xylene, etc. can get buy them provided you can prove a a plausible end use.
If you want a stain remover, then "mineralised" meths is not a good starting point, because you remove one then add another plus the nasties - however, cleaning it up a bit gives you a good, water miscible solvent. A little bit of methanol won't make any difference - but, if your intention is to drink the stuff, that's a whole new can of worms.
Meths is the real rough stuff, only good for cleaning paintwork - you can get "Industrial methylated spirits" which only has methanol added to ethanol (I have a bottle in front of me, total aclohols 90%, 64 degrees Over-Proof), but you will pay duty up front then have to claim it back.
One of the main problems contributing to the clampdown on things like hydrogen peroxide and all the other things you could get down the High Street, is a small minority of the population intent on turning acetone and hydrogen peroxide into explosives.
If you can get IPA, then good luck, until then, cheap vodka is a good alternative.

chaydgb (author)Phil_S2015-11-10

I recall B&Q used to sell "BioEthanol" fuel for about a fiver for two litres, which was mostly ethanol plus a bitterant to make it unpalatable. Unsure if they still sell it now, but may be worth looking into. (I used to use of for PCB cleaning, being cheaper than IPA)

Phil_S (author)chaydgb2015-11-10

I must admit I've never seen it in B&Q despite being a "regular" customer. What is it fuel for? Vehicle? If you lived in Brazil, you could get a tank full of ethanol. I'm quite certain that if the EU got a sniff of B&Q selling something as dangerous as bioethanol, it would be off the shelves in seconds.

As an ex-chemist, I find it fascinating that without exception, all the "ols" are toxic apart from ethanol when used in moderation. One carbon atom either way (methanol, butanol, propanol) - instant blindness, death etc.; until you get to tetrahydrocarbinol (THC) as found in the most famous member of the hemp family (weed?). Plants only produce stuff like THC as a deterrent or an attractant - must be a lot of stoned caterpillars in Afghanistan.

neffk (author)Phil_S2015-11-11

In the US, fuel ethanol is spoiled with gasoline. Is that the case in Brazil?

StevenL50 (author)Phil_S2015-11-11

I think you mean Tetrahydrocannabinol - there is no such substance as tetrahydrocarbinol.

lclaiborne (author)2017-09-21

The Vodka Fix for stinky feet and shoes is good to know about - but the actual problem is good to know too. Your feet shed dead skin cells. Or worse? Don't. That's what the reek is. The vodka's alcohol content kills the bacteria, but it's helpful if you go after your feet with a pumice or foot file too. Taking off that dead skin before it gets ripe just works better. Then your vodka shoe cocktail only has to contend with regular sweaty foot critters and works much better. Your shoes last longer, you'll have a brighter twinkle in your eye.

I'm just leaving this here, because some people don't know. Life is an accumulation of such trivia and tips.

lclaiborne (author)2017-09-21

Shellac is a resin made from the leavings of bugs. Renewable - and ethyl alcohol is its solvent. If you have shellacked floors or furniture you can fix scratches with a little cheap vodka, unlike modern polyurethane which needs to be sanded off and reapplied from scratch. The stuff dissolves and then dries as a single layer when you coat it; applying ethylene on a spot also redissolves it and it levels as it dries. The instructions call for denatured alcohol, but that's just cheap vodka with a toxin added to make it undrinkable. It's about sin taxes on liquor versus hardware store stuff. Which is, oddly, often more expensive than cheapo vodka.

The test is pretty easy. Try it. If you get action, it's shellac. If you don't, it's poly or varnish.

Bug stuff and vodka are renewable agricultural products. Polyurethane and varnish get into nastier chemistries. I've oversimplified, but it's worth knowing about.

DUMB8 (author)2017-09-21

What is the price & brand for a bottle of cheap Vodak in PA?

fattG (author)DUMB82017-09-21

Your best source for this info is probably your local booze dealer.

GaryK73 (author)2017-09-21

You can mix it with bait for fishing in winter so the bait does not freeze.

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Bio: Former Living &amp; Food editor here at Instructables, now running! Follow me @sousvidely
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