18 September 2011

Prep30: Store Less, Accomplish More, part 4: Vodka (or Rubbing Alcohol)

This is another in the Store Less, Accomplish More (SLAM) sub-set of posts within the Prep30 series. Each post in the SLAM "mini-series" focuses on a single preparedness item that you can stock and use in many different ways. Whenever possible, we've selected items that store very well, either lasting indefinitely or at least several years.

Use your Prep30 time to become familiar with today's SLAM item, which is Vodka (or Rubbing Alcohol).

We've actually listed both vodka and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) because you can use them in similar ways, and most of the uses below will work with either one. (If that's not the case for the tips below, it's noted.)

Clearly, the most obvious difference is that you can consume vodka, whereas rubbing alcohol should not be consumed, or used in anything that will be consumed. Still, there are a number of helpful preparedness and self-reliant applications for either/both liquids. For brevity, we've referred only to vodka, unless a particular application requires rubbing alcohol:
  1. Pain relief pack: Mix equal parts of vodka and water in a resealable plastic bag, and then put it in the freezer. The vodka will lower the freezing point, so you'll wind up with a slushy ice pack that can be used to ice down sore or swollen body parts.

  2. Relieve toothache pain: If you can't get to a dentist immediately, but have a toothache: swish some vodka in your mouth, focusing on the pained area. The vodka should reduce the pain, while helping to keep the area clean. (Note: this is an instance where you should stick with vodka, and not use rubbing alcohol.)

  3. Earache relief: Put a few drops of vodka in your ear to treat an earache. After letting the vodka sit there for a few minutes, drain it.

  4. Lavender pain relief: Fill a clean jar with fresh lavender flowers, then add vodka until all the flowers are covered. Seal the jar's lid tightly, and set it in the sun for three days. After, strain the liquid through a coffee filter. Use the tincture in a spray bottle to apply to aches and pains.

  5. Another poison ivy treatment: Douse the infected area with vodka, which will wash away the oil that's causing the pain. Reportedly your vodka will need to be 100-proof (50% alcohol) to for this application. This is a case where rubbing alcohol would probably work better.

  6. Emergency disinfectant: Pour vodka over minor cuts and scrapes to kill potential infection.

  7. Disinfectant your razor: After shaving, soak your razor in cup of vodka for 10 to 15 minutes to clean the blade and prolong the blade's life.

  8. Glass cleaner: Put some vodka on a soft cloth and use it to clean mirrors, glass, or even eye glasses and let them air dry.

  9. Insect repellent: Lightly spray vodka on your body to act as a natural bug repellent. You can also spray the bugs directly to kill them.

  10. Loosen rusty screws: Spray a little vodka on a rusty screw to dissolve some of the rust and help loosen it. This isn't as good as WD-40, but it helps a bit.

  11. Adhesive remover: Vodka will work as a solvent, so you can use it to remove any sticky residue after removing tape and the like. This works on a variety of surfaces, including skin; you can use vodka to help loosen an applied bandage, or remove any leftover adhesive on your skin.

  12. Vanilla extract: To make homemade vanilla extract, place four vanilla bean pods in a jar and add a cup of vodka. Seal the jar tightly and put it in a cool, dark, dry location for about 2 months. Be sure to shake the bottle occasionally (every few days is preferable). As you use it, you can add vodka to replenish the extract, and more bean pods when the flavor starts to wane. (Note: this is another instance where you need to use vodka, and not use rubbing alcohol.)
If you'd like to read more tips on alternate uses for vodka, you can find 10 here, 21 here, and 30 here, as well as 25 uses for rubbing alcohol here.

Vodka, especially any that's 100 proof or more, should last indefinitely. On the other hand, rubbing alcohol typically has an expiration date of about 3 years for unopened packages. Rubbing alcohol will eventually oxidize and turn into acetone, and this process is accelerated after the bottle is opened.

On the plus side, it is possible to make your own grain alcohol and/or vodka, which might prove very useful in any period of extended emergency (meaning months or years). However, this does require building or buying a still, and a license/permit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF).

If you're interested, I recommend reading up on distilling at Make Your Own Fuel or Distilling Homemade Vodka. You may want to buy The Secrets of Building an Alcohol Producing Still by Vincent R. Gingery.

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