A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

17 Uses For Alcohol (Besides Drinking It)

Updated: Mar. 06, 2023

'To alcohol, the cause of and solution to all life's problems,' opined that great opiner, Homer Simpson. To prove Homer's point, check out these everyday hassles you can solve with booze.

1 / 17

Problem: Your feet stink

Next time you’re taking a sip from the Kettle One, make sure to pour a little on your tootsies. The high alcohol content will kill the odor-causing bacteria, says Cracked.com.

2 / 17

Problem: Your car battery died

While you should never drink and drive, it’s perfectly okay for your car battery to do so. In fact, if it’s dead, red wine could bring it back to life. As Joey Green tells us in his book Last Minute Travel Secrets, “Red wine is an acidic liquid that allows the electrons to flow freely between the positive and negative terminals of the battery, providing sufficient energy to start the engine.” Here’s what you do: Wearing safety goggles and rubber gloves, carefully pry the cell cover off the battery with a screwdriver (without getting battery acid on yourself). Using a funnel, pour a little red wine into each of the battery cells. Then reseal the cell covers. Let the car sit for no more than one hour, restart the engine, and drive directly to a service station to replace the battery.

3 / 17
istock/George Clerk

Problem: You ran out of windshield wiper fluid

While you’re in your bar grabbing the red wine for the car’s battery, might as well pick up the vodka, too. It’ll come in handy if your windshield-washer reservoir is empty. In a screw-top gallon jug, mix 3 cups vodka with 4 cups water and 2 teaspoons liquid dishwashing detergent. Shake well. Then pour the mixture into the reservoir.

4 / 17

Problem: Where’s the vanilla?

There you are, wrist-deep in cookie dough and you discover you’re out of vanilla extract. Don’t fret. Substitute an equal amount of Frangelico or Bailey’s Irish Cream.

5 / 17

Problem: You’re stuck on a plane next to Gaseous Clay

You’re 30,000 feet up in the air, and your seatmate rips one. Where are you going to go? There’s only one thing to do: Order a whiskey from the flight attendant and ask for a napkin. Dampen the napkin with the whiskey, and breathe through it. “Whiskey masks the scent of the sulfur compounds responsible for the foul-smelling odor,” writes Joey Green in Last-Minute Travel Secrets (Chicago Review Press).

6 / 17

Problem: Gastropods have turned your lawn into a gastropub

The only good snail is one cooked in butter and garlic. To rid your yard of the slimy invaders, bury a jar lid so that the rim is level with the soil, then fill it with beer. Slugs and snails are attracted to the yeast in beer and overindulge until they drown.

7 / 17

Problem: You overdid it with the perfume

Ughh, you smell like a refuge from the Chanel factory. Quick, dab a little vodka on the places you applied the perfume or cologne. The nearly odorless spirit will knock out the scent.

8 / 17

Problem: The baked chicken smells great, but doesn’t look it

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to take it out of the oven, brush the skin of the chicken or turkey with white vermouth. The sugars in the fortified wine will give the dish a rich brown color.

9 / 17

Problem: You’re missing a key ingredient

You’re in the middle of cooking dinner and the recipe calls for lemon juice. But you don’t have any lemon juice. Here’s what to do: move that glass of white wine you’re sipping away from your lips and substitute it for the lemon juice using the same amount called for in the recipe.

10 / 17

Problem: Lackluster hair

To add body, shine, and volume to your mane, have a hops shampoo. In an enamel-lined saucepan set over medium heat, bring ¾ cups of beer to a boil, then simmer briskly until it reduces to ¼ cup. Cool, then mix with 1 cup of your regular shampoo. Transfer it to a jar with a lid and shake before using.

11 / 17

Problem: That armani you haven’t worn since the 80s smells like it

That suit was all the rage 30 years ago is back in vogue. Get rid of the musty odor by misting it with unflavored vodka. The alcohol will kill the odorous bacteria without imparting any unwanted smell of its own.

12 / 17
istock/Catherine Lane

Problem: It’s Easter, where are the dyes?

Okay, you bought the eggs, put on the apron, and corralled the kids. All you need now are the dyes. Well, here’s how to get purple: dip your white eggs into a glass of red wine.

13 / 17

Problem: Your yard is overrun with poison ivy

First, the good news: Your backyard is looking awfully green. The bad news: that green is poison ivy. Kill the noxious weed with a mixture of 2 tablespoons vodka and 2 cups of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spritz away. Vodka’s dehydrating action will kill poison ivy soon after the leaves are saturated.

14 / 17

Problem: Your patio looks too new

Great patios often look like they’ve been around awhile (think ancient Roman villas). Age your new patio with homemade moss. Here’s how you do it: find 8-12 ounces of moss and place in a pail. Add a 12-ounce bottle of beer as well as ½ teaspoon of sugar, then puree the mixture until smooth. Using a paintbrush, spread the mixture on masonry planters. The moss should appear in four to seven days.

15 / 17

Problem: Your zestless salad needs a little help

Is your salad wanting a certain something, say, taste? Make a wine vinaigrette by combining old red or white wine with the same amount of vinegar.

16 / 17

Problem: A dull-looking lawn

You’re not the only one whose spirits are lifted by beer. Lawns like it, too. Add brewski to the reservoir of a 10- or 20-gallon hose end sprayer and water your lawn with the mixture every three weeks or so. The sugar in the beer stimulates microbes that help to break up the soil.

17 / 17
istock/Lauri Patterson

Problem: Your grilled steaks always turn out tough

Old red wine makes for a great meat tenderizer and marinade. Put the meat in a self-sealing bag and pour the leftover wine in with it. The cooked meat will have a juicy, tender texture.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest