Introduction: 15 Unusual Uses for Cheap Vodka

Picture of 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

Step 12: Hand-Sanitizer

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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

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

Comments

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.

eemke (author)2017-09-22

I worked at the ballet-company in Amsterdam for one season and they used Wodka in stead of dry-cleaning ! but not the cheap one ... and it ony works if you spray it one dirtectly after you used the clothes : when the sweat is still fresh and moist ! I felt drunk afterwards : spraying all those costumes , I worked in a cloud of wodka : thank God it was odourless

JohnC430 (author)eemke2017-10-09

so u got drunk from the fumes and since it was odorless u did not know why u were drunk and then after work u went to the local bar for a drink so that u would know why u were drunk.

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.

Andyrob257 (author)OWK000.2017-09-23

Proper Vodka doesn't have any flavour. If it does, it's cheap vodka!

OWK000. (author)Andyrob2572017-09-23

Trader Joe's briefly had this cheap "Australian Vodka" from made from grapes, that was very clean tasting-- no vodka flavor. Awesome for tincture. Right now, I've got a bottle of "Vodka" made from coconut sugar that is more like Everclear, but I will take anything over grain-based spirits. Too me, vodka does have a very distinctive flavor, even the better stuff. . . as does tequila and rum. Do not know how they get "vodka" flavor naturally--the yeast and the grain, I would expect--but I read somewhere that they do flavor up cheap rum for vodka.

Andyrob257 (author)OWK000.2017-09-23

I'm talking original Vodka from Russia, not even the Polish/Czech stuff they sell in most countries nowadays. Smirnoff has never been to Russia. My Wife is Russian and when she goes back to see her family she brings back several bottles of proper Vodka, this can only be bought in Russia. And, it is virtually tasteless, apart from the burn of the alcohol. Also, we can drink a full bottle between us and be completely sober and have no hangover afterwards. (As long as that's all we drink!!) It's a bit like saying, Jack Daniels is original whisky/whiskey. It a derivative from the original but by no means the same thing.

DIY-Guy (author)Andyrob2572017-09-23

The idea that someone could be "completely sober" after sharing a bottle of 80 proof is an interesting one.

Could it be that it's only the side effects from other chemicals produced in the process that are not being felt? I mean, would reaction tests show being drunk even though a person does not feel drunk?

JohnC430 (author)DIY-Guy2017-10-09

a friend and I used to finish a full large bottle of Scotch in an evening. we also danced thru the evening so i suppose a lot of the alcohol evaporated thru our breath or sweat etc. we never got "rolling" drunk.

the small muscles are affected first... the ones in your eyes so the room seems to spin a little. when we finished the bottle we would go out the door, call a cab and go home. end of a wonderful happy evening.

Andyrob257 (author)DIY-Guy2017-09-24

Okay, I agree we couldn't have been completely sober, but we felt sober. You try drinking half a bottle of neat Gin and see how you feel! And yes, I'm pretty sure that it is the other chemicals in spirits that make you feel drunk and that give you a hangover.

throbscottle (author)OWK000.2017-09-22

I've had cheap rum that tasted like cheap vodka - maybe that is why!

JohnC430 (author)2017-10-09

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. taste it while it is sitting. try a couple of spoonfuls after meals. One way or another in two days it will be finished. buuurppp. i cant believe i drank it all

glamourd (author)2017-09-27

2 of My favorite uses for vodka:

Antibacterial Linen Spray/Air Freshener:

1 Cup - add essential oils to preference; this is My favorite - combine in a spray bottle and Shake well before using:

1/4 part vodka

3/4 parts water

5 drops Tea Tree Oil

10 drops Lemongrass Oil

20 drops Lavender Oil

~~~~~~~

Vodka is also a great mold killer! One recipe is to use a 1:1 ratio of vodka and distilled water to spray directly onto mold, let sit for 10 minutes and scrub. Another recipe applies straight vodka to the problem area, but you can add essential oil to mask the smell. If you add Tea Tree Oil, it is a natural antimicrobial so this will enhance your benefits!

pgs070947 (author)2017-09-22

As the use of what used to be common household chemicals become harder to obtain legitimately (won't name them) thanks to terrorist activity (Hydrochloric acid named in the press, left on a UK motorway recently), then you have to turn to other sources.

The price of meths and especially industrial meths with duty added is nudging towards the price of basic vodka, then vodka might be your cleaner of choice.

I have a bottle of absolute alcohol here (99.9% ethanol or 175 degrees proof) which only ever gets used for skin cleaning prior to blood glucose finger pricking.

DIY-Guy (author)pgs0709472017-09-23

I thought "proof" numbers were half the percentage of alcohol strength?
80 proof vodka is 40% alcohol, isn't it?

pgs070947 (author)DIY-Guy2017-09-24

No. It isn't half the proof figure.
Proof spirit was originally tested by pouring a small amount of the suspect liquid onto a small pile of gunpowder. If you could ignite the gunpowder, then the liquid had passed "proof" i.e. too much water, then the powder wouldn't ignite (it would eventually as the gunpowder dried out) - so 100% proof met that standard.
Off the top of my head, 70% proof vodka is near enough 40% ABV - Alcohol By Volume). I must admit I didn't do all the sums. So 100% ABV would be 100x70/40 proof or thereabouts.
Proof was used before more scientific methods like gas liquid chromatography came along.
The UK proof figures are all I'm familiar with, but other countries might use different systems. People understand proof, but ABV is harder for many.
Going back to the misuse of chemicals, there is another (today) reported acid attack in UK. Acid is becoming the weapon of choice. Soon, all the useful household or building chemicals will be outlawed, spoiling it for the legitimate users (descaling pipework, cleaning off mortar residues) to stop a small minority. Local authorities and the EU have a field day banning things like effective pesticides.
When I pour A voddie tonight, I'll have a look at the label

DirtyIrishGit (author)pgs0709472017-09-25

America and the United Kingdom do measure proof differently. Here in the States, proof is defined as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. Still, good vodka is good vodka, regardless of how it's measured.

Jkivance (author)2017-09-23

That's really cool with what cheap Vodka can do . Thumbs up!

kkmmccoy (author)2017-09-23

You can drink it too!!!

renar2d2 (author)2017-09-23

Thyme (fresh) infusion is a better astringent and wound cleaner

t.rohner (author)2017-09-23

Well, for cleaning purposes, i'd use denatured Alcohol or Isopropanol.

For disinfection, 60% is the optimal concentration.

For infusions, i'd buy "Weingeist" (drinking alcohol) at 96% and dilute it accordingly. (It's not cheap in my country, but i can buy it in Italy, Germany or Austria at around 12-20$ per Litre. 0,7 Litre of cheap Vodka at 37% costs around 10$.)

SteveMann made it! (author)2017-09-22

Vodka can greatly improve driver safety!

Driving safely with vodka... a nice clean windshield helps improve vision.

Tree sap on windshield accumulated and was quickly removed with vodka.

Also useful to clean the glass table in our yard.

A good use of the Palo Alto Weekly, free newspaper.

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?

bgabet1 (author)FlyinngDolphin2017-09-22

ha!

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.

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:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/

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

https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction!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.

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