Hackpacking: Vodka’s many uses

| August 17, 2010 | 19 Comments
lightbulbhack Hackpacking: Vodkas many uses

We share some of our favourite hacks for backpackers and vagabonds...

Occasionally, Kathryn and I come across some great travel ‘hacks’—tips and shortcuts that help backpackers, vagabonds and long-term travellers get things done smarter, cheaper and more efficiently. So, with no further ado, here’s an inexpensive solution that might be deserving of a place in (or on) your backpack.


Backpackers have become quite adept at stretching a few things as far as humanly possible while on the road—money, for instance, and, of course, the days between loads of laundry. When faced with a lack of laundry facilities—or a prohibitively expensive laundry service—Kathryn and I have learned to do what many backpackers have before us—we turn to the bottle for relief. Vodka, of course!

Unlike the beverage itself, the origins of vodka are a bit cloudy—more than a few nations lay claim to vodka’s birthplace; although, according to recent research, the two countries likely to lay legitimate claim to one of the world’s most popular liquors are Poland and, of course, Russia. The drink is so ubiquitous that the Russian word ‘voda’—believed to be the root from which vodka originated—means ‘water’. Regardless, vodka is just as popular in Poland.

Originally produced for medicinal purposes, this crude anaesthetic and disinfectant was distilled from rye. However, it was not until the middle fourteenth century that vodka was distilled to sufficient potency to cause intoxication. Shortly thereafter, communities were producing the drink—to serve as both medicine and beverage!

For the purposes of this post, however, Kathryn and I aren’t interested in either of the more common applications for everybody’s favourite alcohol. In fact, vodka has a great many uses besides imbibing.

If you have clothing that is starting to get a little ripe, you can keep your clothes smelling fresher with vodka. Really! Simply spritz your duds with the stuff, then hang to dry in a well-ventilated area. Pick up a spray bottle from the dollar store and make a solution of water and vodka—then spray your clothes with the solution. Vodka kills odour-causing bacteria but, amazingly, doesn’t stain or leave a scent when dry. The alcohol in the vodka evaporates, killing odours while disinfecting!

If you turn to vodka on a regular basis, you also help your clothes last a little longer as they will not be washed as many times. In fact, vodka works better than commercial fabric sprays such as Febreeze since vodka kills smells on clothing but commercial alternatives only serve to mask odours. Also, vodka costs less and you need to use less on clothing when eliminating smells.

It’s an elegant, cheap and widely available alternative—the perfect hack!

More vodka hacks for the backpacker

    • Try this remedy for healthier, lush hair—add a jigger of vodka to a 12-oz bottle of shampoo.
    • To remove a bandage painlessly, saturate the bandage with vodka. The solvent dissolves the adhesive.
    • If you have a blister that has opened, pour vodka over the raw skin as a local anaesthetic that also disinfects the exposed dermis.
    • To cure foot odour, wash your feet with vodka. Comparison of a commercial foot powder wash vs a vodka wash showed that the odour was eliminated on both feet.
    • Vodka will disinfect and alleviate a jellyfish sting.
    • If all else fails, just turn the bottle upside-down and enjoy.

      In the comment stream below, Uncornered Market’s Audrey Noll offers up a few additional uses for vodka, writing: “When I lived in Estonia as a Peace Corps volunteer, vodka seemed to be an important ingredient in every remedy.” Here are a few more of Audrey’s tips to add to the list—thanks Audrey!

      • If you can’t break a fever, soak your socks in vodka and put them on.
      • Vodka mixed with pepper is good for stomach issues.
      • Vodka rubbed on mosquito bites help takes the itch away.

      Have your own creative backpacking hacks to share—tips which may help someone to overcome a problem or limitation quickly and cheaply? Leave ‘em here. Or sound off in the comments below! Check out our collection of travel hacks by clicking here.


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      About the Author ()

      For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Check him out on Google+.

      Comments (19)

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      1. When I lived in Estonia as a Peace Corps volunteer, vodka seemed to be an important ingredient in every remedy. Here are a few more to add to your list.

        - If you can’t break a fever, soak your socks in vodka and put them on.
        - Vodka mixed with pepper is good for stomach issues.
        - vodka rubbed on mosquito bites help takes the itch away.

        Never knew that vodka takes away foot odor and is good for hair. Amazing!

        • Daniel says:


          Thanks, Audrey — if it’s okay with you, I’ll be sure to add your suggestions to the post! And guess what? Besides being incredibly insightful, your comment is notable for another reason—a big milestone! For weeks, we’ve been watching the number of comments on Two Go Round-The-World climb toward quadruple digits—and finally, it’s happened! Excluding the thousands of spam comments we’re constantly deleting, a total of 1,000 comments have been left here in the 14 months since we launched our site! We’re sure a good portion of these comments are our replies to questions and comments but the bulk are from visitors! Kathryn and I would like to thank our readers—and especially everyone who’s left a comment. Let’s see if we can get to 2,000 before the end of the year!

      2. Phil says:


        Discovered your site by way of twitter and now this post. This article is brilliant and I will most likely be putting it to use within 24 hours in one way or another. On my way to subscribe now. Keep up the good work. Take care, phil

      3. Candice says:


        Feels like a crime to use vodka for feet washing…but had no idea itw as such a useful beverage!

      4. Gray says:


        Awesome! I had no idea vodka had so many uses other than the obvious. I feel like I should buy some on my way home tonight. :-)


      5. Coolio! I never knew these things about Vodka!

        We use baking soda and vinegar a LOT as they are natural cleaners, disinfectants and super cheap.

        We use baking soda to brush our teeth. Also mix a little baking soda and water to make a great, healthy and cheap shampoo! Vinegar makes a great conditioner and both are good for any kind of cleaning. If you run into mildew, use vinegar to clean.

        • Kathryn says:


          Cool! Thanks soultravelers3! Didn’t know baking soda make for a great shampoo…think I’ll start using it now, before we hit the road!

      6. Miley says:


        Vinegar as a conditioner ? Although it might be good for your hair.. but as conditioner is the last thing youwould put on your hair, would it not reek as though you fell is a pot of fish and ships ?

      7. Anil says:


        Quick relief from poison ivy too.

      8. Rick says:


        Good tips to know. I always love to read about additional uses for a product. And natural cleaning items are often cheaper than chemical cleansers.

      9. Mimi says:


        This is the second time in a week I heard about doing a vodka treatment on your hair. I think the universe is conspiring to tell me something. (Something like, buy some vodka.)

      10. Tom says:


        Wow I never heard about vodka treatment on your hair but I’ve heard many times that girls are using beer on their hair to strenghten it. I guess it’s the alcohol that helps

      11. Flip says:


        never thought vodka has many uses… amazing!!! but then again i just might end up drinking it all LOL


      12. I love the tip about removing the band-aid with it – I will try that the next time I have a boo-boo :P

      13. Marysia says:


        Ha ha ha I love this article. You know English say that cup of tea is good for everything. In Poland we say shot of vodka id good for everything. Literally for everything, from upset stomach ( we have a special vodka called Stomach Vodka) to disinfection and even such characteristics as shyness :)
        Great article!

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