The other night as I lay dreaming about the promises of spring–rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market, the fresh scent of a morning rain, warm sunshine kissing my cheeks–I awoke to realize it wasn’t warm sunshine I was feeling on my face. It was warm, moist dog breath from our beloved beagle, Bailiff. A rude awakening, indeed.
We had forgotten to put him in his kennel before we went to bed, and during the lonely hours of the night he found his way to our room and wedged himself between us. Bless his doggy heart. The problem with this isn’t that he’s terribly unclean or that he’s diseased. We bath him regularly and keep him up-to-date on all his shots. The problem is, he smells like a dog. He sheds profusely. He slobbers. And he has bad breath and dirty paws. So he must stay off the furniture. But as any dog owner knows, keeping a dog off the furniture is a losing battle. No matter what we do, Bailiff gets the better of us and finds his way onto to our bed, or the couch, or any upholstered surface that can’t easily be cleaned. The bigger problem with waking up to him in our bed that particular night was that we had just changed the bedding without putting the cover back on the duvet. The duvet is “spot-clean only,” so getting the doggy smell out of it was going to be an issue. Until I discovered the cleaning power of vodka. Yes, vodka. The powerful potion that goes so well “shaken, not stirred,” can clean nearly any surface in your house, including no-wash fabric.
I began my vodka experiment at–where else–the liquor store. I’ve never been much of a drinker, so I’ve always felt uncomfortable at liquor stores. I never know what I’m looking for or how to navigate the endless choices of vintage, proof, and foreign-sounding names. Honestly, my husband and I completely gave up drinking a while ago, so I didn’t think I’d find myself in this situation ever again. But this time I actually knew what I wanted: vodka as cheap as it comes. (The cheaper the vodka, the better the cleaner.) I marched into that liquor store, ID in hand, and found a 750 mL bottle for about $5. Perfect. The clerk poked fun at me for selecting such low-brow fare, but I didn’t care. This vodka was for cleaning, not drinking.
While researching this home remedy I found that vodka has lots of unexpected uses around the house. Its purity, high alcohol content and lack of odor make it the perfect solution for disinfecting and refreshing almost anything. It also evaporates quickly, which makes it especially apt for cleaning fabrics and shiny surfaces.
I first tried the vodka in the shower. Not on the shower, in the shower. (However, this is not to say I drank it in the shower.) I read that vodka makes your hair shinier when mixed with shampoo, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I poured what I estimated as half a shot into my half-full bottle of shampoo, shook it up, and applied it to my hair. I could tell as I rinsed that my hair was coming out very clean, and once my hair was dry it was noticeably shinier and softer. I’ve had similar results doing much the same thing with vinegar, but the vodka didn’t have the tangy smell. I also applied straight vodka to a cotton square and used it in lieu of my regular facial toner, also with pleasing results.
Later I continued my vodka trial by mixing a solution that would work on every surface I wanted to clean. I poured one cup of vodka into a 16-ounce spray bottle, added about 30 drops of eucalyptus essential oil, and shook it up. Then I filled the rest of the bottle with filtered water and shook again. You can use any essential oil you like, but I chose eucalyptus for its antiseptic properties, fresh scent, and cleaning potency.
Then it was on to the doggy duvet. If the weather was nicer, I would have hung the duvet outside on the clothesline to air out. Instead, I wiped a damp cloth on the dirt smudges and used masking tape to pick up all the fur. I then sprayed a light mist of the vodka cleaner all over the duvet, concentrating on the area where the dog slept. I turned on the ceiling fan to help it dry out, and moved on to the living room where I sprayed the solution on all the upholstered furniture and rug. (This is like a homemade version of Febreeze.) Then I grabbed a rag and moved on to cleaning my hard surfaces. The vodka tonic worked like a charm on my windows, mirrors, and chrome bathroom fixtures. I went back to check on my duvet. The liquid had evaporated, living a light scent and no trace of doggy odor. My couch and loveseat were also smelling much better.
It didn’t take me long to find other uses for the vodka spray. My daughter is just getting over a cold, and I’ve been puzzling over how to clean her unlaunderable stuffed animals. This cleaner was a great solution. I sprayed each of her fluffy friends and set them aside to dry. Doorknobs, light fixtures, pillows, and curtains all got a dose of the eucalyptus mist. My wedding ring even got a nice bath in a dish of straight vodka (minus the eucalyptus oil), which made it gleam. (I actually could hear the “bling! bling!” coming from my wedding band.)
The final use for vodka I tried was the toughest–a patch of mold on a wall in my basement. We don’t use the basement for much yet, but there is an area with drywall that will be a great family room once it’s finished. The removal of some plastic wall coverings left by a previous owner revealed some small areas of mold that would have to be addressed. The mold is not extensive or serious, but I did want to make sure it was gone before we do any work on the room. I read that vodka can be used to remove mold in the bathroom, so I decided to try it in my basement. I soaked the affected areas with the vodka solution and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then I used a scrub brush to remove the mold. The mold stains came off completely and the wall dried quickly. I’m pretty sure the mold is gone, but I will have to consult someone who knows more about home improvement to be sure it won’t be a problem in the future.
All in all I am dazzled by this vodka remedy. It worked beautifully on everything I cleaned. However, vinegar can easily be substituted for all the same purposes at an even lower cost. If the smell of vinegar is an issue for you, you might consider using vodka as an eco-friendly cleaner. If not, you might be better off using vinegar. Leave a comment if you try either of these ingredients and let me know how it works, and be sure to leave suggestions if there is something you’d like to see me try. I’m always looking for new ways to go green!
To learn more about using vodka in your home, check out “Top 10 Weird Uses for Vodka” on The Daily Green.