Not just for cocktails anymore, vodka is a versatile, potent potable with cleaning powers aplenty. The grain-base liquor performs many of the same tasks as vinegar -- degreasing cookware, removing stains, refreshing fabrics, neutralizing odors, and disinfecting surfaces -- but without any odor, a real plus for smell- and chemical-sensitive folks, says green-cleaning expert Mary Findley. Findley and her fellow clean fiends recommend keeping the cheapest vodka you can find on hand to clean and refresh everything from bed linens to jewelry. Here's a look at things that surprisingly benefit from a shot, a spritz, or a swipe of vodka.
1. Most surfaces. Cleaning expert Leslie Reichert mixes up a batch of her vodka-base Happy Hour Cleaner to use on kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Create the germ-busting cleaner by mixing together 4 ounces vodka, 8 ounces white vinegar, 4 ounces lemon juice, 8 drops essential lemongrass oil, and 2 or 3 drops castile soap in a spray bottle. Another Reichert formula: Let lemon or orange peels sit in a jar of vodka for a few weeks before transferring the liquid to a spray bottle; the citric acid from the peels will be extracted by the vodka to create a powerful citrus-scented cleaner. Or, even easier, just fill a spray bottle with vodka to use for quick cleanups.
2. Bathroom surfaces. Findley recommends using sprays of straight vodka to remove soap scum from shower walls, polish shower door frames, and remove water spots from faucets.
3. Bed dressings. Promote a good night's sleep by turning down your bed linens 20 minutes before bedtime and refreshing sheets and pillowcases with a linen spray created by blending 1/2 cup distilled water, 1/2 cup cheap vodka, and 30 to 40 drops of lavender essential oils in a spray bottle, advises Melissa Maker. Maker says the spray can also be used to keep in-use towels smelling fresh as they dry.
4. Dirty mirrors and windows. Spray straight vodka onto windows, mirrors, and glass-topped furniture, taking care not to spray trim, frames, and stained finishes. Wipe off vodka with a microfiber cloth to remove streaks and smudges.
5. Sticky tags. Getting adhesive labels and price tags off slick surfaces, such as photo frames, vases, and glassware, can be a bear. Maker recommends easing the removal process by dabbing straight vodka onto stickers with a cotton ball or clean rag. Let the vodka sit for a few seconds. Gently remove the label with your fingernail; the label should slide right off.
6. Underarm odors. Mix a cocktail that neutralizes sweaty scents that collect in underarm areas of shirts, blouses, and dry-clean-only tops. Findley fills a spray bottle with 4 parts water to 1 part vodka; she thoroughly moistens both sides of the garment's underarm sections and lets the piece sit overnight. If the odor remains, she uses a stronger 3-to-1 water and vodka blend to re-treat the areas. Make sure to test the solution on an interior seam or hem before applying the mixture. When you are satisfied odors are gone, launder washable items in cold water and let them hang-dry (heat sets stain and odors, so forgo machine-drying to make sure the stink is really off). Let dry-clean-only garments hang-dry before returning them to closets or drawers.
7. Germy places. Vodka is rich in disinfecting qualities; when mixed with 3 to 4 parts water, it becomes an easy-to-apply antibacterial agent. Findley advises employing the spray during cold and flu season to clean doorknobs, fridge handles, remote controls, and light switches. It will also disinfect kitchen surfaces such as cutting boards and countertops that come in contact with raw meat and eggs.
8. Greasy spaces. Use straight vodka or a 1-to-1 vodka-water mix to degrease the tops of range hoods, backsplashes, and countertops. Apply the vodka or vodka solution to surfaces with a spray bottle or with a vodka-moistened rag or sponge.
9. Oil-slimed kitchenware. Greasy pans and plates get cleaner faster when you add a jigger or two of vodka to a sink of soapy dish-washing water, says Reichert.
10. Toilet rings. Pour 1/2 cup vodka into your toilet once a month to keep rings from forming, recommends Findley. While you're at it, wipe down toilet seats with vodka to disinfect the seat's top and bottom surfaces.
11. Musty towels. Findley offers this laundry-day idea for freshening stale towels: Add 1/3 cup vodka to your washing machine as it's filling with water, add laundry soap, and when the tub finishes filling, pause the machine. Place your towels in the washer and let them soak for an hour or two before washing as usual. Don't crowd the washing-machine tub with towels. Overfilled machines won't agitate correctly, which results in funky-smelling towels.
12. Smelly clothing. Cigarette and campfire smoke and cooking endeavors produce odors that permeate clothing. Simply hang smelly garments, spritz them with straight vodka, and let them dry. Odors will be neutralized, and you'll save yourself a trip to the dry cleaner.
13. Red wine, grass, and vomit stains. Vodka acts as a solvent, say the folks at Smart Klean, and can be used to effectively remove wine, grass, and vomit stains. Lay a stained garment atop an old towel or rag (this will protect your work surface) and blot the stain with a vodka-soaked rag. Rinse the area with clean water; repeat the process until the stain has disappeared. Reichert notes that straight vodka can also be used to remove grease stains on carpets -- spray the stain with vodka, and blot the area with a dry cloth, followed by a clean wet cloth. Let the area dry. Stain still there? Repeat the process.
14. Houseplants. Keep aphids at bay by washing houseplant leaves with tap water and then dabbing the leaves with a cotton ball dipped in vodka, advises those in the know at Apartment Therapy. Employ this treatment on plants with sturdy or waxy leaves; the vodka could damage delicate-leafed plants like African violets. Speaking of pests ... spray vodka along incoming ant trails to keep ants out of the house.
15. Fine and not-so-fine jewelry. Shine up your baubles and beads with a swish or two of vodka, advises the DIY Network. Before tackling this chore, sort out soft metals and delicate gems, like opals and pearls, which could be damaged by the vodka. Swish rings, pendants, or earrings back and forth through a bowl of vodka and dry the pieces with a clean cloth. Soak very dirty jewelry pieces in vodka to loosen debris before cleaning them with a toothbrush.