Why Vodka Belongs on Your Survival Items List

Using Alcohol as an Emergency Essential

Why Vodka Belongs on Your Survival Items List

Even if you don’t drink, vodka belongs on your survival items list. It has value without ever being consumed.

As someone who doesn’t drink, by religion combined with personal choice, I paced the alcohol aisle with trepidation. I’d just read an article on homemade vanilla extract and wanted to try it. But I didn’t know which to grab: the cheap stuff, the brand described as jet fuel or the one with a pirate on the label? I grabbed a plastic bottle of clear liquid and shoved it under the potato chips in my cart.

We’ve evolved a little since the first vanilla extract excursion. Though we still don’t drink alcohol, we keep vodka in stock after we recognized its many uses. Mixing it half and half with water then filling a squirt bottle and adding a couple drops of essential oil makes a clothing deodorizer that doesn’t set off allergies. A dribble of vodka and a drop of gel food coloring makes “watercolors” for painting on fondant and cold, solid frosting.

Then there’s its value on a survival items list. If we experienced TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World as We Know It), we’d be grateful we had this liquid. Without ever taking a single numbing sip.

Medical Uses

A disaster doesn’t have to be an apocalypse. It just needs to disrupt our world enough that we can’t go on living in the way we’ve become accustomed. Instead of driving to work in our cars and returning to safe homes, we may be living in evacuation centers. And hospitals may be so busy they don’t have resources for everyone. If we’ve prepared and filled a survival items list, we can care for most needs ourselves.

For small medical needs, like home remedies for poison ivy, ethyl alcohol is valuable. As a topical treatment, it can be an antiseptic for open wounds or a sterilizing agent to clean skin before injections are administered. A little vodka dabbed on a cotton ball can stop the itching of bug bites or numb the skin. If you have knowledge of healing herbs, use it as a base for tinctures. Warmed alcohol, mixed with honey and lemon, serves as cough syrup.

Use it as bug repellent. Cosmetically, vodka can also serve as deodorant, facial toner or mouthwash. But when teeth get painful, holding alcohol over the affected area temporarily numbs the nerves.

Vodka with a high level of alcohol by volume can sterilize needles and tweezers for minor first aid applications. Or it can clean knives or razors when medical treatment can’t be found soon enough and you must administer treatment yourself.

Photo by Shelley DeDauw

Keeping Warm

Though the highest-proof vodka is outlawed in several states, it’s what you need to start fires. In fact, in the 1800s, “proof” was tested by soaking a gunpowder pellet in the spirits. If the gunpowder could still burn, the vodka or rum was taxed at a higher rate because it contained more alcohol by volume. The highest-proof products make great homemade firestarters. Soak old wine corks in a mason jar of vodka and remove a couple corks to light dry wood.

High-proof vodka can also replace lamp/stove fuel or burn within internal combustion engines.

On the other end of the spectrum, alcohol also cools in the same way sweat does, but faster because it evaporates at a higher rate. Swab skin with vodka if you are in danger of heat stroke.

Mechanical Uses

Unless you’ve bugged out into the woods with only your clothes and what’s on a survival items list, TEOTWAWKI will mean maintaining equipment and machinery. Vodka cleans surfaces which may be necessary for cooking food or caring for people. It also cleans guns and electronics.

Run cheap vodka through air or water filters to kill bacteria. Or use it to maintain your last razor blades by disinfecting them and preventing rust.

Alcohol evaporates fast. And when it does, it also helps water evaporate. Spraying vodka on damp clothing dries it faster and deodorizes fabric.

Environmental Uses

Sometimes, you just need to be in a better place even if you can’t change your physical location. Vodka is often used in costume shops, kept in spray bottles and spritzed on returned clothing. It removes odors while leaving a crisp smell that’s not unpleasant. Vodka does the same for unwashed bodies, bedding, shoes and moldy corners. It kills odor-causing bacteria and eliminates moist areas which allow both mold and bacteria to grow.


What if a disaster means we can’t go home for a long time? What if we need something that others have? Survival items lists often suggest cigarettes for trading, even if you don’t smoke. Alcohol can serve the same purpose. Trade directly or use the vodka to make tinctures, flavorings, or perfumes to trade with someone who could use them.

Whether you offer vodka in exchange for necessities or simply to soothe the temper of someone who may become dangerous, it can provide leverage for interactions with others.

Vodka For Survival

How to Include Vodka with Your Survival Items List

When packing a bug out bag, alcohol takes a little more consideration. First, think about the bottle. Though some prepper sites advise carrying glass bottles of vodka because the container can be shattered and used as a weapon or sharp tool, the shattering can cause more problems than it solves. Plastic bottles avoid breakage. Use airtight caps to avoid leakage or evaporation. Also, do not open the alcohol before storing it in a bug out vehicle. Getting in trouble for an open container in a vehicle complicates matters when you can simply store the product until you really need it.

Don’t just include the alcohol. Also pack gauze, cotton balls, matches or other lighters, spray bottles, plastic bags, and ingredients to make tinctures or medicines. Store these in waterproof containers.

Do you include vodka on your survival items list? Have you used vodka for purposes other than consumption? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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