9 Awesome Uses for Alcohol When SHTF

Let’s face it. No celebration would be complete without booze.

From the regal temples of ancient Rome to present-day college dorms, alcohol has been universally used in just about any festivity. These fermented beverages come in many different names, each varying in shape, size, and strength. Whatever you call it, alcohol is bound to give you that characteristic buzz that kills your inhibitions. And often, lost inhibitions lead to tons of fun.

So, when disaster strikes and celebrations come in short supply, will alcohol still have a place on your shelf? Or will it just be a waste of space?

Don’t throw those bottles out just yet. Thankfully, alcohol’s functions go beyond merry-making and getting wasted.

Here are 9 uses for alcohol in a survival situation:


In an SHTF situation, booze can be used as an antiseptic to clean wounds. The compounds in alcohol presumably kill bacteria by destroying their cell walls. The higher the alcohol concentration, the better. 40-60% alcohol content can deter the growth of bacteria, while stronger varieties of around 60-90% have been known to kill it altogether.

That said, you’d want to stock up on hard liquor to achieve this antiseptic effect.

Vodka and whiskey hit an average of 40-70% alcohol content, so they’re ideal for emergency wound dressing. Even better if you’ve got a bottle of Everclear, which clocks in at a whopping 90%. The 5% alcohol content of beer, on the other hand, won’t do much against those nasty germs. That being said, it’s not a good idea to stock anything under 40%.

Related: What Should Be Inside Your First Aid Kit?


Next on our list of survival uses for alcohol is as a disinfectant.

Now, if you’re wondering what the difference between antiseptic and disinfectant is, here’s the answer: a substance is considered an antiseptic when it’s used on living tissues. Meanwhile, it’s considered a disinfectant when used on non-living things or inanimate objects. Some substances are only efficient when they’re used one way but not the other.

Alcohol, thankfully, can be used to kill germs both ways.

Use alcohol to disinfect tools and objects, especially those you use to prepare food or those that come in direct contact with your body. These include eating utensils, knives used for preparing game, needles for emergency suturing, and the like.

Related: Building the Ultimate First Aid Kit

Fuel for Fire

Fire is essential for survival. It allows you to keep warm, cook food, purify your water, ward off bad guys, and even signal for help.

One of the best uses for alcohol is fuel for starting fires. The ethanol found in most alcoholic beverages is highly flammable. You don’t even need a huge amount. You can simply dab some alcohol on a piece of cloth before lighting it up. When used correctly, a bottle of vodka can also serve as a bottle of fuel. You’ll have a crackling fire to keep you warm in no time.

Related: 9 Emergency Fuels That Should Be In Your Survival Stockpile


Another one of the uses for alcohol is as a sedative.

Alcoholic beverages have been used as sedatives since the earliest days of civilization. Ever seen a period drama? They usually let a person take a swig of whiskey or rum right before starting an invasive surgical procedure.

Back in those days, alcohol was the closest thing to anesthesia, and it was usually enough to get the job done. For centuries, it was also the drug of choice for people suffering from toothaches. If you need to use it for anesthetic purposes, a serving or two can help relax the person and dull their senses, if only for a bit.

However, not all incidents warrant the use of alcohol as a numbing agent. You have to take necessary precautions in using alcohol for this purpose.

First, you’ll need a higher-than-normal dose for the sedative effect to kick in. This can cause dependency in the long run. For this reason, it’s not advisable to use alcohol for chronic pain. Second, alcohol can interact with other drugs. When mixed with pain medicines, booze can prove to be fatal, so it must be used as a pain reliever sparingly and only if there isn’t any other alternative.


Some people would think twice about dousing stinky surfaces with alcohol, but did you know that one of the uses for alcohol includes eliminating foul odors? Booze’s germ-killing properties kill the microorganisms that cause funky smells, so it can be used to deodorize places in the house or even articles of clothing. You can also use high-proof alcohol as a mouthwash or as an ingredient to make your own deodorant.

Mold Remover

Mold and other fungi grow in dark, damp places. They wreak havoc on food stores and on the house itself. Most of the time, they’re just a huge nuisance, but some mold varieties are actually dangerous. These toxic molds emit mycotoxins that cause problems like headaches, allergies, and respiratory ailments when inhaled.

Lucky for you, one of the most effective uses for alcohol is as a mold remover.

With some high-proof alcohol, fresh air, and lots of sunshine, you can easily get rid of mold. Simply apply the alcohol over the affected area and try to work out the mold until it’s completely gone. Alcohol is ideal to use because it evaporates quickly, so it won’t cause further damage to the affected area. If you can’t find hard liquor or ethyl alcohol, you can use isopropyl or rubbing alcohol instead.

Related: 7 Common Household Items with Survival Uses

Natural Bug Repellent

Insect bites aren’t uncommon, especially if you’re camping out. They’re inconvenient and itchy, but more than that, insect bites can also harbor serious medical conditions like Lyme disease. If you’re running low on bug spray or topical insect repellents, you’ll be glad to learn one of the uses for alcohol includes repelling bugs.

Mix a portion of hard liquor or rubbing alcohol with olive oil or lemongrass oil and spray it to keep those bugs away. Combining alcohol with some dried herbs like peppermint, lemongrass, or lavender works, too.

Related: Mosquito Trap DIY

Treatment for Poison Ivy Rashes

Poison ivy is a huge pain in the behind…or any other body part that it touches, for that matter. What makes this plant itchy is the substance called urushiol, which induces allergic reactions and dermatitis. Hot water does nothing to help with poison ivy rashes. If anything, it only dilates the pores and lets more of that urushiol into the system. Instead, you can use some alcohol—vodka would do nicely—to eliminate the irritating substance.

Barter Item

Last but definitely not least on our list of survival uses for alcohol

In the wake of a major disaster, money would cease to be a currency. Instead of cash, people would want to get their hands on valuable supplies like fuel, water, or food. With its multiple uses, it shouldn’t surprise that alcohol would also be considered a prime commodity.

If you’ve got a bottle or two of hard liquor, you can barter it for other survival items. The higher the proof, the more useful and shelf-stable the alcohol, so stock up on vodka or whiskey. Beers, as mentioned earlier, won’t be worth much in a survival situation.

Related: Make Bartering Part of Your SHTF

Final Thoughts

Alcohol is a fixture in many celebrations around the world. A party is simply not complete without it. However, its role isn’t limited to festivities. In a dire survival situation, a bottle or two of quality booze can save your neck. You can use it to make fire or clean nasty wounds, among other things. Most of all, you can use it to barter for other survival items.

Keep one or two bottles of hard liquor in your survival pantry, and these might just see you through some tough times.

Know other uses for alcohol in a survival scenario? Drop them in the comments below!

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