Is whiskey a good disinfectant in an emergency situation while in the outdoors?
Ideally any strong alcohol, whether whiskey, vodka, tequila or some other strong liquor should not be used to clean wounds. But in an a survival situation, I would not hesitate to use whiskey or some other strong liquor such as vodka on a wound while in the great outdoors.
Alcohol of any kind should never be used on an open wound. Alcohol has the ability to kill exposed tissue as well as germs. This may delay healing. However, in a situation where standard first aid equipment is not available, vodka (or whiskey) may be used to clean dirt from the surrounding area of a wound. Vodka may also be used to disinfect equipment used to treat an open wound.
Our modern whiskeys are rather weak in comparison to the whiskeys used to clean wounds in the good old days of the American Civil War or the wild West.
Care for Cuts
Now imagine you’re injured—does the old cowboy “whiskey in the wound” method work? Modern liquor, including bourbon, clocks in at 40 percent alcohol, only half the punch of the Wild West moonshines, but it still kills topical germs, Tilton says. It might also kill healthy cells, however, and it burns like hell, making clean water a better option. Whiskey does work to sterilize instruments and to blunt pain—drinking two ounces of 90-proof George Dickel reduces pain roughly 50 percent for two hours.
What is the best percentage of alcohol for being affective as a disinfectant?
There are plenty of other uses for alcohol aside from drinking and burning it. For example, high strength ethyl alcohol (the kind produced by fermenting sugar and then concentrating it with a still) is a versatile product that doubles as an antiseptic as well as a disinfectant. This means that it’s effective at cleaning wounds but can also be used to clean hard surfaces. It’s a broad-spectrum antimicrobial and is highly effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Antiseptic and disinfectants are very useful and should be considered highly valuable by SHTF preppers.
There is one very important piece of information that one should consider when producing antiseptic: the strength of the alcohol greatly alters its effectiveness and stronger is not always better. Generally, the antimicrobial activity of alcohol is significantly lower at concentrations below 50%. So, when producing antiseptic, make sure that it’s at least 50% alcohol. Also, the optimal strength is in the 60 to 90% range. That’s where the “stronger is not always better” rule comes into play. Interestingly enough, applying alcohol stronger than 90% to a wound actually disrupts the body’s natural healing process.
As a side note, whiskey could be used to purify iffy water against giardia.
Treat Iffy Water
Early settlers in Canada’s Red River area who mixed a little whiskey into their drinking water had fewer incidences of waterborne illness than their counterparts, reports BACKPACKER columnist and wilderness-medicine expert Buck Tilton. Add a shot to your liter of water, then wait 20 minutes. You want dead, not drunk giardia.