This month, VinePair is exploring how drinks pros are taking on old trends with modern innovations. In Old Skills, New Tricks, we examine contemporary approaches to classic cocktails and clever techniques behind the bar — plus convention-breaking practices in wine, beer, whiskey, and more.
As the best-selling spirit in the U.S., you may not be surprised to find a bottle of vodka in most household liquor cabinets across the country. Perhaps more surprisingly, though, is the clear alcohol’s place in the laundry room.
The well-kept secret that dry cleaners and starch manufacturers would love to hide is that mixing vodka with distilled water creates a simple, do-it-yourself spray starch that is cheaper and performs better than many store-bought options.
Traditional spray starches contain unpronounceable chemicals that allergy sufferers and conscious consumers might prefer to avoid. Not to mention the fact that many leave clothes feeling scratchy and uncomfortable, and cause fabrics to break down over time.
But these pitfalls are avoided with a vodka and water mixture. To create your own, fill a spray bottle about a third or half of the way with vodka (the cheapest stuff you can find), and top it off with distilled water (tap works too, in a pinch). The more vodka used in the recipe, the heavier the starch.
The science behind the hack is elusive, but some say it is the starchiness of the potatoes used in the distillation process that contributes to vodka’s unique laundering abilities. As all of the carbohydrates are converted into ethanol during distillation, this is seemingly questionable, but some claim that grain-based vodkas are not as effective.
As the vodka is cooked off by the hot iron, there’s no need to fear that a colleague might be suspicious of lingering aromas, as only a crisp, clean scent remains. And a drop or two of a favorite essential oil can be added to the mixture for those who might prefer a fragrance.
While the thought of ironing clothes might be hard to fathom right now, the odorless alcohol’s pressing skills are impressive enough to give it a shot. So the next time you’re getting ready, whether off to work or for a hot date, add a little vodka to the routine, and it’ll go a long way toward helping you stay sharp.