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Thursday Challenge: Vodka Tips!

I just received an email forward that, like pretty much all email forwards, seemed suspect in a few places.

The email in this case concerns the miraculous powers of VODKA! Now, those of you who have met me probably already know the soft spot I hold in my liver for a refreshing sip of Grey Goose. With that alone, I’m happy to declare vodka a wonder-liquid. The email takes it a few steps further, with a list of alternative uses for the deliciously flavorless drink.

My original plan was to send some of these tips to various experts and get their opinion — for instance, I feel like Bug_Girl could tackle #8. But when I realized I don’t know any dentists (#15), I realized that we could probably do a better, faster job of tackling this together. So, skepchicks and dudes, I’d like you to look these over and comment below with your expert opinion. If you don’t have an expert opinion but know of a friend, family member, or helpful blogger who might, please send them the tip and ask for confirmation or debunkification as needed. I’ll edit this post with the updated information after each number.

No prizes except credit, with which comes bragging rights and the knowledge that you helped out the terminally curious and/or credulous. The full list is below in bold, with updates added below each item.

1. To remove a bandage painlessly, saturate the bandage with vodka. The stuff dissolves adhesive.

2. To clean the caulking around bathtubs and showers, fill a trigger-spray bottle with vodka, spray the caulking, let set five minutes and wash clean. The alcohol in the vodka kills mold and mildew.

3. To clean your eyeglasses, simply wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth dampened with vodka. The alcohol in the vodka cleans the glass and kills germs.

Says russellsugden: Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol) works much better for cleaning glasses than Smirnoff.

4. Prolong the life of razors by filling a cup with vodka and letting your safety razor blade soak in the alcohol after shaving. The vodka disinfects the blade and prevents rusting.

5. Spray vodka on wine stains, scrub with a brush, and then blot dry.

6. Using a cotton ball, apply vodka to your face as an astringent to cleanse the skin and tighten pores.

7. Add a jigger of vodka to a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo. The alcohol cleanses the scalp, removes toxins from hair, and stimulates the growth of healthy hair.

8. Fill a sixteen-ounce trigger-spray bottle with vodka and spray bees or wasps to kill them.

9. Pour one-half cup vodka and one-half cup water into a Ziploc freezer bag and freeze for a slushy, refreshing ice pack for aches, pain or black eyes.

Says russelsugden: “I wouldn’t bother diluting the Alcohol to make a cold compress either, just stick it in a plastic bag and allow to cool in the freezer. It wont form an crystals (to make a slush) but will thicken up and be just as good. Given the Tax on alcohols it’d be cheap to buy a cold compress from the shops than a bottle of scotch.”

10. Fill a clean, used mayonnaise jar with freshly packed lavender flowers, fill the jar with vodka, seal the lid tightly and set in the sun for three days. Strain liquid through a coffee filter, then apply the tincture to aches and pains.

11. To relieve a fever, use a washcloth to rub vodka on your chest and back as a liniment.

12. To cure foot odor, wash your feet with vodka.

13. Vodka will disinfect and alleviate a jellyfish sting.

From Rebecca: this was on Mythbusters and was confirmed. However, there is a problem with their methodology. Kari was stung once on each of her arms. One sting was treated with vodka and the other with antihistamine, and Kari reported that the pain in each arm was relieved quickly. A good follow-up would have one sting treated with water and the other with vodka. Any of you are welcome to try it, or I’d like to hear from anyone out there studying jellyfish.

14. Pour vodka over an area affected with poison ivy to remove the urushiol oil from your skin.

15. Swish a shot of vodka over an aching tooth. Allow your gums to absorb some of the alcohol to numb the pain.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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26 Comments

  1. Everything listed relates to the solvent or toxic qualities of Ethanol (Alcohol) in the Vodka and is hardly “news”, it’s ancient (i.e. pre 1800) chemistry

    In fact “Rubbing Alcohol” (Isopropyl Alcohol or Propan-2-ol) is used for all these purposes (but mainly to cure smelly feet) and has a higher ‘alcohol effect’ content (DONT DRINK IT, IT WILL KILL YOU)

    Isopropyl Alcohol also works much better for cleaning glasses than Smirnoff.

    I wouldn’t bother diluting the Alcohol to make a cold compress either, just stick it in a plastic bag and allow to cool in the freezer. It wont form an crystals (to make a slush) but will thicken up and be just as good. Given the Tax on alcohols it’d be cheap to buy a cold compress from the shops than a bottle of scotch.

  2. This is off your main topic but is a forwarded Email I just received (I cut and pasted the message):
    Payback is fun!!!!!!!!!!!
    You may have heard in the news that a couple of Post Offices in Texas have been forced to take down small posters that say
    ‘IN GOD WE TRUST ,’ The law,they say, is being violated.
    Anyway, we heard proposed on a radio station show, that we should all write:
    ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’
    on the back of all our mail. After all, that’s our National Motto, and it’s on all the money we use to buy those stamps. We think it’s a wonderful idea.
    We must take back our nation from all the people who think that anything that offends them should be removed.
    If you like this idea, please pass it on and DO IT. The idea of writing or stamping!
    ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’ on our envelopes sounds good to us . WE’RE HAVING A STAMP MADE TOO! Heck,lets use it as our signature on e-mails too!
    It’s been reported that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, we have a very hard time understanding why there’s such a mess about having ‘In God We Trust!’ on our money and having God in the pledge of Allegiance.
    Could it be that WE just need to take action and tell the 14% to ‘sit down and shut up’?

  3. Hmmm, #15. I have tried this with whisky and it worked a treat, or at least it may have. I sat with a glass of whisky and dipped my finger into it and rubbed it on the painful area, of course eventually the continual finger dipping led to a build up of bits of random stuff from my finger (sofa fibres etc.) and the glass was drunk and replaced. The pain was releived, but from a skeptical perspective it is important to remember that I basically spent the day drinking good whisky and watching bad day time TV. And it was awesome.

  4. “3. To clean your eyeglasses, simply wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth dampened with vodka. The alcohol in the vodka cleans the glass and kills germs.”

    This works (better than cold water anyways) – we have ethanol knocking around at work.

  5. Sorry. Ethanol’s (and Meth-, Prop-, Isoprop-, But- etc) Polar Solvent chemistry is pretty much well documented in standard chemstry textbooks (McMurry or Sykes for example)

    Any evidence as to Ethanol’s ability to improve dancing skill etc is entirely anacdotal

  6. 7. Add a jigger of vodka to a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo. The alcohol cleanses the scalp, removes toxins from hair, and stimulates the growth of healthy hair.

    Toxins? In hair? For the love of Jebus, what does dead matter care about toxins?

    Honestly, I get the feeling that a lot of these tricks would simply not be cost-effective. If you’re just looking for a polar solvent, why not buy a bottle of isopropanol and just be done with it?

  7. “15. Swish a shot of vodka over an aching tooth. Allow your gums to absorb some of the alcohol to numb the pain.”

    Well, if you swish enough shots, and allow your bloodstream to absorb some of the alcohol, that will numb the pain.

  8. ah…found them. Mythbusters Vodka series 1,2 and 3.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_(season_3)#Episode_41_.E2.80.94_.22Compact_Compact.2C_Vodka_Myths.22

    Vodka Can
    …can clean the odor off feet. – Confirmed
    …can kill bad breath. – Confirmed

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_(season_4)#Vodka_Myths_II
    …can remove cigarette smoke smell from clothes. – Plausible
    …can kill bees like an insecticide. – Busted
    …can be used as a bathroom cleaner. – Plausible

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MythBusters_(season_4)#Vodka_Myths_II
    …remove poison oak – Busted
    …painlessly remove plastic bandages. – Plausible
    …be turned into high-quality vodka through charcoal filtration. – Busted

  9. #2 might work, but a couple tablespoons of bleach diluted in a gallon of water is much more effective (and cheaper).

    #6 I used to use witch hazel to clean my face, when I was a pimply teen. But I’m pretty sure it was mostly rubbing alcohol. So I guess this is plausible.

  10. I use 95-100% ethanol to preserve insects for DNA extraction. I kill them by drowning them in the alcohol, and sometimes they take a while to die. I’m not sure how effective just spraying them with some vodka would be.

  11. Rubbing vodka on your skin (or gums) will get you drunk! Some of the alcohol will evaporate, but some will be absorbed into your skin. (q.v. “vodka rubdowns”).

    In some states, you can also buy grain alcohol over the counter, which is useful for all the usual cleaning tasks, and doubles as a drink additive. (Warning: Never drink pure ethanol straight — it’s way too easy to OD.) I’m not sure what else it can do that isopropyl can’t, which is part of why I’ve still got half a 750 of 190-proof kicking around from my college years. (Yeah, I’m not much of a drinker. So? ;-) )

    Spraying insects with EtOH seems likely to stun but not kill them. Yeah, they’re affected, but high surface-to-volume ratio means a quick recovery. Regarding mold and mildew, concentrated alcohol may kill such, but so will dilute bleach or ammonia!

    However, ethanol (or isopropyl) is particularly good and cleaning grime off computer stuff.

  12. There’s a swarm of bees and wasps banging at my screen door, gazing forlornly over at the likker cabinet.

    Thanks, Rebecca.

    Me and the insects are gonna take a vodka schvitz Sunday morning.

    bug_Girl– Did you KnowtHat if yOU drimk enUFF vodka, you can UnnERstAnd the what the Beeeeez and waspS say to you? They have a trifiC sens of Humour, tooo.

  13. I have no expertise, just an anecedote. I lived in Moscow for a couple of years and was once bitten on the heel by a stray dog. The doctor gave me a jab of something and told me to go home and every few hours apply vodka to the wound. So I did (one for the wound, one for me … )

    It seemed superficially plausible to me just from the alcohol content but I have no idea scientifically of its efficacy so I’m interested too. At least I can tell you some high priced Russian doctors think it works …

  14. I don’t usually keep vodka around the house, but I can attest to the fact that scotch has the power to increase my IQ by about 50 points and give me the wit to share my superpowered insights with my friends.

    It also makes me and everyone within 30 feet of me a lot more attractive.

    But not even a superfluid like scotch can help me dance.

  15. AHHHHHHhh!!! Why is everyone WASTING the vodka?!? On wasps? On feet? NOOO.

    How about in the fridge, infusing with blackberries, thankyouverymuch.

    I discovered the wonderful hangover-less liquid several years ago when I made my first martini. Today, it helps me be very cheerful towards my kids after a rough day.

    Oh, I have personal experience with a jellyfish sting; I walked into a ten foot long floating sea nettle (?) in the Assateague sound in Virginia while crabbing. I rubbed wet sand all over my legs immediately and the tentacle-goo sort of all slid off. Then, I used Sea Breeze astringent. The pain passed quickly that evening. I was like 14 and on vacation at the time. It was memorable less so for the pain and more so for the great story I got to tell everyone when I got home.

  16. Well, there are brands (Herbs Vodka, Skyy, etc)which are completely undrinkable, so using them as a footbath or shower cleaner may actually make them taste better.

  17. Allegedly true story:
    Male British tourists in a cafe in Russia order tea.
    Tourist: Can I have some milk for my tea?
    Russian Customer: In my country, only women drink tea with milk.
    Tourist: Well in my country only women drink vodka.

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