Camping & Survival

45 Survival Uses for Alcohol

Picture shows a molotov cocktail made with a liquor bottle.

I have read that ethanol alcohol—the kind of alcohol that makes us drunk—was the first synthesized product that humans made. Originally made from honey, fruits, berries, grains, and other plants left in the sun to ferment, alcohol and its first use documented as far back as 10,000 B.C. Historically, fermented beverages:

  • Acted as a substitution for water
  • Fixed nutritional deficiencies
  • Served medicinal purposes

Alcohol also had its place in religious ceremonies and even used as currency. Supposedly, vodka was an ingredient in early European gunpowder. And of course, people drank alcohol in order to become intoxicated.

When shopping for liquor, you will find two different numbers on the bottle. One is the percentage and one is the proof. The percentage is the amount of true ethanol alcohol content, while proof is the official government designation of how much alcohol content is in the beverage. Divide the proof in half to get the actual percentage of alcohol.

Picture shows a molotov cocktail made with a liquor bottle.
Use number six: Molotov cocktail for zombie and other hostile elimination.

The term proof comes from 18th century distillers. To prove the correct alcohol content in their distilled beverages, they added gunpowder. If it did not ignite, there was not enough alcohol. If it burned blue, they declared the alcohol 100 percent proof, or 50 percent ethanol alcohol.

Liquor has its place in a post-apocalyptic world even if you are a teetotaler. Stock up on cheap, high-alcohol content liquors and add it to your long-term food and gear storage. The best liquor for its many different purposes is Everclear. Everclear, made by Luxco, is pure grain alcohol. You can purchase Everclear in 95 percent alcohol content or 75.5 percent. The higher alcohol content is more popular and more effective for survival use. Everclear is illegal in Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and banned in Chicago (of course.) If you live in a state that restricts the sale of Everclear, you may substitute high-proof vodka. Of course, after SHTF and no laws exist you can start moonshining.

If you choose an alcohol other than vodka or Everclear, such as whiskey or gin, purchase at least 70 proof or higher. This ensures the alcohol will burn.

To store alcohol—Everclear, vodka, whiskey, brandy, gin, or rum—purchase glass bottles. These liquors will store indefinitely in the right conditions. Keep your alcohol in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. Keep the bottles upright and do not open them. Once opened, the liquid will evaporate and lose its flavor after six to eight months.

Here are my 45 suggestions for survival uses of alcohol:

  1. Fire starter
  2. Barter and trade
  3. Alleviate boredom
  4. Calm anxiety
  5. Sleep aide
  6. Molotov cocktail
  7. Antiseptic for wounds
  8. Sterilize needles, tweezers and other instruments
  9. Disinfect questionable water
  10. Relieve poison ivy
  11. Kill odors
  12. Refresh clothing
  13. Bug repellent and killer
  14. Surface cleanser
  15. Anesthetic for tooth pain
  16. Lamp fuel
  17. Make herbal tinctures and elixirs
  18. Facial astringent and toner
  19. Topical treatment
  20. Clean skin before an injection
  21. Fuel for vehicles
  22. Stove fuel
  23. Gun cleaner
  24. Solvent
  25. Mouthwash
  26. Rust prevention
  27. Clean optic glass
  28. Clear congestion and sinuses
  29. Stop the itch of bug bites
  30. Fire accelerant
  31. Numbing agent
  32. Starter fluid for IC engines
  33. Hygienic soak for razor blades and brushes
  34. Weed killer
  35. Chemically cook food
  36. Deodorant
  37. Make perfume
  38. Clean electronics
  39. Kill mold
  40. Remove stains
  41. Dry wet clothing
  42. Break the bottle and use the glass shards as a weapons and cutting tool
  43. Cough suppressant (warmed whiskey mixed with honey and lemon works best)
  44. Help repopulate
  45. Muscle relaxer

Am I missing any other uses? Tell us in the comment section.

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Comments (34)

  1. I think most people that comment here have missed the point. Alcohol is one of the few items that can be stored for a very long time and still maintain its value. (Try storing butter.) It does have some medicinal properties. I have dipped my finger in Everclear and rubbed it on an open mouth sore. It hurts for a few seconds and then becomes numb. In a couple of days the site is healed. Granted it is not the best anti-bacteria medication but it does some activity. I have never heard of alcoholics having thrush on the other hand. Might be wrong but just what I have seen. If you have more of a dental problem, for heaven sakes see a dentist.
    Under survival conditions drinking to get drunk is stupid and can be suicidal. Drunken armed people are to be avoided.
    When used in small amounts it can lighten ones mood and make life more enjoyable if done responsibly. Getting drunk just means that when you wake up the next day you have another problem to deal with.
    Using booze as a fuel under survivor conditions is wasteful. Maybe for starting a fire it might be good.
    Whiskey and honey was used as a cough medication in the 1800s until around 1960 by some people. My wife thought that honey burned her throat until she was twenty three when I convinced her that the whiskey was the burning agent. If they had used it on George Washington instead of bleeding he might have lived longer and not had such a painful death.
    Alcohol has had a long and mixed history with people. It will always be in demand. I would not use it as a weed killer but I am fond of it. Don’t drink much, but it can be useful.

  2. I love number 6. Yes you could use it against a zombie horde, however, I think you’d better have a backup plan as I don’t think it will be that effective.

    Didn’t know it could kill my weeds. Will give it go this weekend 🙂

  3. I must agree with one of the comments that the comments are more educational than the article itself,LOL but it did open up a very interesting forum. One point that I feel that is worth mentioning is that one must put stock in the fact that the Holy Bible speaks of the use of alcohol and its benefits,in the form of wine for example at Psalms 104:15,1 Ti 5:23 although it is as with all things to be used in moderation Proverbs 23:20-21,1 Corinthians 6:9-10. I guess I just took my turn on the pulpit.;)

  4. When the editor/moderator gets time I would research all the “uses for alcohol” listed, and post a list that’s based on Scientific facts and not full of old wives tales. As for the author, I’ve read several of your articles in the past that have been great, but this one is irresponsible and could cause injury or even death. You have three bulleted sentences before you start your “list”. “Historically, fermented beverages:
    •Acted as a substitution for water
    •Fixed nutritional deficiencies
    •Served medicinal purposes”
    No where does it say that they were also “historically stupid” ideas! After about 7-10 days after replacing drinking water with alcohol only you’d be severely dehydrated and in Renal failure. Alcoholics are notoriously nutritionally lacking, they take in calories but booze isn’t exactly loaded with Vitamins and minerals and it serves no medicinal purposes. It prevents R.E.M. sleep, hence your more tired the next day. If you use it for a teething baby all your doing is making them drowsy from the alcohol! I also read a comment that “Everyone from up North knows a shot warms you up” That’s true, but if your in a cold weather SHTF situation don’t consume alcohol!! Alcohol is a vasodialator. That means when you drink it your blood vessels expand. That rush of extra blood makes you feel warmer but in reality because more blood is closer to your skin surface, it cools rapidly as it circulates and speeds up hypothermia. There’s also NO way to use Alcohol, no matter what proof, to sterilize water. The pH (Percent Hydrogen) of water is 7.0 as is the pH of pure alcohol, Microbes thrive at a pH between 6.5 and 8.5, also the reason why when you travel out of the country your told not to use ice when you go out to a bar or a club, Pepsi or pure grain your going to be sick. Freezing will not kill microbes. I have it for trading and getting drunk. I’m not going to even comment on the rest of the list. I better get to the bar incase there is a nuclear strike tonight.

  5. I live in Iowa, and we do see Everclear for sale at Walmart and liquor stores. I havent seen the 95% stuff, so maybe thats the only Everclear banned here. I do see the 75.5% on the shelves though.

  6. Pain killer. You can go along way towards relieving pain from an injury even without being drunk. One on the first effects of alcohol consumption is feeling numbness or less pain. You can mix everclear with just about anything to drink and not taste it.

  7. 70% Isopropyl alcohol (common rubbing alcohol) is used to clean lenses for glasses, scope lenses and anything else made of glass. Zeiss sells sealed paper pads soaked in isopropyl for lenses, but you can bby the stuff in both large and small bottles for very little money. Just don’t drink the stuff.

  8. A very high blood alcohol content can also help protect you from radiation. A russian physics professer told me about a wedding party near Chenobyl in the zone where everyone died within days; most of these people survived except for some of the younger children. If you have a suffiently high BAC during exposure, the free radicals formed in your body by the impact of ionizing radioactive particles on the atoms in your cells are more frequently neutralized before they can cause further tissue damage. Of course, you would still have to eliminate inhalation of fine radioactive particles which would continue to decay & emit from within your body, wash down afterwards, discard all clothing & respirating filters, limit exposure, etc. This effect is not the same as drinking red wine, taking iodide, etc., (i.e., things to do after exposure to radiation which have some limited effect in preventing damage to specific organs & replacing radioactive isotopes of certain key elements the collect in certain tissues with stable isotopes). Unfortunately, there is little useful information re this effect online; search chenobyl + alcohol and all you get are topics relating to how the whole nuclear accident should be blamed on alcoholics operating a poorly designed reactor plant.

    I don’t drink much anymore but I think alcohol would be a good thing to keep on hand; if the SHTH I would be so depressed I think I’d want a drink…there should be plenty of abandoned cars whose tanks I could drain for molotovs before I’d waste good bourbon and vodka.

  9. LM has it right. I read through the list quickly and recognized the repeats and dual usages which should not be counted. The only take away for me from this “article” is to stock up. The comments were more informative than the author!

  10. After looking over your list of 45 things to do with alcohol I am disappointed. It is a list of abut ten things listed over and over. Antiseptic covers everything you have listed that includes killing any germs, bacteria, or sterilizing listing each separate item you can use it on is not the same as coming up with a list of different uses. This is just one example. The list heading really should have said ten things you can do with alcohol. It is not good for a toothache. And for GOD’S SAKE don’t advise people to drink alcohol in place of water. Alcohol dehydrates you the only benefit there is you won’t care your killing yourself.

  11. Everyone up north knows what a great de-icer alcohol is. A shot is a great way to warm up after being in the cold woods all day too.

  12. Jack has it right. Eugenol works only with an open cavity (called “carious lesions”), and then only on a temporary basis….provided that the tooth isn’t abscessed…in which case it must be treated with root canal therapy or extraction, depending on how much destruction the tooth has undergone, the condition of the bone, general oral condition, value of the tooth, general patient’s physical condition, whether or not he or she can afford root canal therapy (which almost always involves subsequent placement of cast restorations such as a crown), and so forth.

    If an abscess is involved, and the tooth is painful to heat (relieved by cold), using eugenol is going down the wrong road, and seeing a dentist is the answer to getting the problem diagnosed and treated.

    I’m digressing from the alcohol discussion, but don’t buy dental insurance you see advertised on TV. It is rip-off. You should get established with a dentist with whom you have some type of rapport so that if you do have an emergency, you can be seen quickly. And, above all, regular oral maintenance is something that you should count on. It’s far cheaper and more effective to get your oral condition into good shape and keep it there, rather than seek dental care only only “when it hurts.” By that time, it will be too late for an easy and inexpensive solution, and you can count on paying out thousands of dollars. Of course, you can always look forward to eating baby food.

    Above all, stay away from sugars, breath mints, and any other breath sweeteners that contain sugar. The bacteria will have a field day in your mouth by chewing up your tooth enamel. Smokers: you are prime candidates for periodontal disease, plus heart and lung disease.

    I’m now off my pulpit.

  13. I’ve got to say that I agree with the Dentist’s appraisal. Probably the most effective home remedy for tooth pain would be Clove Oil which is available in most drugstores. Clove Oil contains an effective topical anasthetic/antiseptic called Eugenol. It may burn a little initially, but it will turn off nerve pain in a tooth quite quickly.

    The danger presented with using such a strong topical painkiller is that it masks the problem. Finding some way to drain, clean, and treat an abcess or infection is the most important part of the process in dealing with tooth problems.

  14. Using alcohol for tooth pain is almost like pouring gasoline on a fire. It may seem as though the alcohol would dull the pain, however as a topical anasthetic it is not effective. Antiseptic, perhaps yes, but painkiller topically, no. As a matter of fact the alcohol can have quite the opposite effect on a severe dental situation. Alcohol is simply another form of sugar which is bad for teeth because it feeds the bacteria which cause problems for teeth. Also the cold and evaporative nature of alcohol will often exacerbate tooth pain.

    Gum pain from teething may benifit from topical application of alcohol. Usually this is done by soaking a small handkerchief with whiskey and giving it to a baby to suckle. This acts systemically more than topically, but it is effective so long as it is not used too often.

  15. Sorry, some of these ideas are just silly. “Hey my shirt got wet.” “No problem, let me just waste this vodka and pour it all over. Btw, need a light?” Weed killer? Seriously?

  16. I’m an anesthetist and am old enough to remember when our hospital pharmacy stocked beer for use as a diuretic, whiskey to stop premature labor, and vodka to sterilize instruments and catgut suture.

  17. I don’t agree with all the “benefits” listed. For instance, I fail to see how booze can lower tooth pain, unless the user becomes so drunk that he passes out. Alcohol cannot affect a tooth abscess, for instance. Alcohol’s curative powers (as well as many other over-the-counter “remedies”) for dental problems is largely mythical, IMO. I am a retired dentist (35 years in practice), and such money spent on toothache pain is largely wasted since only a few of these products provide any meaningful relief.

    As for being effective as a mouthwash: it isn’t, and may cause a condition called “monoliasis,” more commonly known as “thrush,” which is nothing other than an intra-oral
    infection caused by a fungus called “candida albicans.” You rinse often enough with alcohol and you risk killing off the more than 500 bacteria in the mouth that are beneficial to oral health, opening the door to fungal infections. Candida can also affect other areas of the body, including the groin area, if bacteria-killing soap is used too vigorously and/or too frequently. Dial soap was long one of the culprits.

    As for alcohol’s being a sleep aid, don’t count on it. Alcohol can actually inhibit a good night’s sleep.

  18. One of the reasons given my this post and others for the use of alcohol is to “barter with”. I question the sanity of giving (bartering) with it is: do you really want to give fire water to the people that may want what you have? Imagine the drunk courage it will give those that want your stuff. They may go sit in the woods or by their camp fire and get drunk and decide to come and get your stuff. I really question giving alcohol to a bunch of armed people in a state of emergency. I wouldn’t give armed or unarmed idiots booze so they can get false courage and decide to raid me for the rest of my stuff. If you have booze you have more “stuff” that they want including your women, arms, food, house, animals and YOU.

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