Not Just For Drinking
The word “vodka” is more likely to bring up thoughts of cosmos and Carrie Bradshaw than Mr. Clean and his ilk, but you might be surprised at how handy your favorite spirit can be around the house. Clear and virtually odorless, vodka’s 40% alcohol content makes it good for a wide variety of home uses — from cleaning to beautifying — without leaving stains or odors. Here’s how to put vodka to work at home (and we won’t tell if you take a nip or two yourself).
Ethyl alcohol, the chief component of vodka, is the main ingredient in most commercial air fresheners. The alcohol freshens up clothes and air by killing odor-causing bacteria. Trouble is, most store-bought air fresheners are often laced with phthalates and synthetic musks — chemicals that act like estrogen in your body and can wreak havoc on your hormones. Vodka leaves no odor as it dries, so mist it straight into your air as is, or add a few drops of your favorite essential oils until you’re happy with the strength of the scent.
The most common cause of flowers wilting is bacteria in the vase water. The bacteria attach to the cut ends of flower stems and plug up the mechanisms that allow the plant to draw water. Add one part vodka to 5 parts water to inhibit the growth of bacteria without any harmful effects to the plant. (Flowers don’t only smell great — they can also improve your health!
Moisten a damp cloth with vodka and wipe your surfaces clean for a streak-free shine on windows, chrome, and other sparkly surfaces. Alcohol dissolves the fats and oils that cause most smudges.
Bake much? Make your own vanilla extract by soaking raw vanilla beans in vodka. Add three vanilla beans, chopped, to one cup of vodka poured into an airtight container. Let that steep for at least four weeks. Some vanilla purists, however, insist good vanilla extract takes at least 6 months of soaking. Just taste yours as it ages to figure out when it’s “done” to you. Experiment with flavors by using different varieties of vanilla beans. Put into a decorative bottle with a crafty label, homemade extract also makes a great gift, and it’s often less expensive than the pricey store-bought stuff.
Follow this recipe from horticulturist Nicole Juday to make your own rosewater perfume: Put a few inches of petals in a pot, and place a solid object like a brick on top of them. Pour water over the petals so that they’re completely submerged. Next, place a small stainless-steel bowl inside the pot, on top of the brick. Cover everything with an inverted domed lid, and bring the water to a simmer. The rose petals release their oil into the water as it boils; it then condenses on the lid and falls into the bowl. Pour the water from the bowl into a small jar, and add a tablespoon of vodka to preserve it. The spray lasts for a few months.
Fill plastic bags with vodka and place them in the freezer. Pull one out the next time you need a cold pack to ice a bruise or sore muscle. Because vodka doesn’t freeze, the packs will mold around your body way better than that old bag of frozen peas you usually use.
After you’ve cleaned your house and eliminated every offending odor, kick back with a cocktail! Light to moderate drinkers (one to four drinks per week) were better protected from stroke than teetotalers or heavy drinkers, reports the New England Journal of Medicine. And in a study published in the journal Circulation, researchers found that animals fed both red wine and vodka saw similar increases in blood flow to the heart, a marker of heart health.