It doesn’t taste very good, and the smell is even worse, but vinegar can be quite useful when it comes to cleaning. It is a common item found in most household cupboards, so most of us already have some on hand. Beyond uses for cooking like salad dressings, poached eggs or to tenderize meats, you will find that vinegar can be quite handy as a replacement for many common cleaners you are using right now. It is an effective product that will clean many messes on a variety of surfaces, without the use of harsh chemicals. It is an inexpensive option that can clean, deodorize and disinfect just as well as traditional cleaners in many cases, but without any risk to the environment or your health. Vinegar is not a miracle substance that can clean everything perfectly, but it will produce outstanding results for a wide variety of uses. It can be a great product to try when you don’t have anything else suitable, and it is one of the most simple and natural cleaners available. So weather you are in a pinch because you don’t know what to use, or you just want to try something without dangerous ingredients, give white distilled vinegar a try before you run out to the store.
WHAT IS VINEGAR ANYWAY?
Well, according to wikipedia, it is essentially just a liquid substance that contains mostly acedic acid and water. The acid comes from fermenting ethenol with the use of acedic acid bacteria, and that is mixed with water to form the familiar vinegar substance. In commonly used versions, the fermentation process will be relatively slow, and will last for weeks or months, at which time a nontoxic slime composed of acetic acid bacteria will accumulate. White vinegar specifically is usually malt based due to the lower cost of procuring the ingredients. Malt vinegar is made by using barley and a process that causes the grain to turn to maltose. An ale is then brewed from the maltose which is then allowed to turn to vinegar. Malt vinegar has a light brown color. In order to make the white distilled variety we see on store shelves, they will take this malt vinegar and turn it into a colorless solution of about 5%-8% acid in water via the distillation process. The end result is the totally clear, and mildly pungent bottle of liquid we know as vinegar.
White or Apple Cider?
When cleaning with vinegar, you always want to make sure to use the white kind that has been distilled. More natural, unfiltered versions can be better for consumption, but for any type of cleaning, white vinegar has proven to work the best. It has become popular as a household cleaner because it works to remove basic dirt, but is also effective for killing mold, mildew, bacteria and germs.
WHAT CAN I CLEAN WITH IT?
All kinds of stuff really. Because it is essentially just a mild acid, vinegar has many practical uses when cleaning your home. It can be used on floors, walls, furniture, your tub, windows and so much more. It is not fool-proof for any job imaginable, but it is a very effective natural cleaning solution that will produce good to excellent results for a variety of jobs. Below we will list some of the common ways to use vinegar for cleaning. By following the recommended amounts and directions for use, you can have great results without buying anything fancy at the store and without using any harsh chemicals. It was used more widely some time ago, but over the years people have chosen more toxic cleaners to do the jobs that vinegar works well on. At this point we recognize it as more of a kitchen or food item and less of a tool for cleansing, deodorizing and disinfecting. Try some of the techniques below, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how effective, simple and easy it can be to clean naturally with vinegar.
IN YOUR LAUNDRY ROOM
- Clean Your Washing Machine and The Hoses – Because water is never fully drained, and because we use them so frequently, the inside of your machine and all of the other places water goes can get dirty and more importantly, stinky over time. To clean and deodorize your washing machine, use one pint of distilled white vinegar and run the machine with no clothes for a full cycle. This will clean build-up and remove any musty odors.
- Decontaminate New Clothes – Do you hate that stiff, sometimes stinky new clothes condition? Do you worry about left over residues and manufacturing chemicals. Wash them prior to wearing the first time, and you can eliminate much of this, to make them safer to wear, and non-irritating to sensitive skin. Simply add 1-2 cups of vinegar into the load and wash like normal before wearing.
- Remove Perspiration Odors and Sweat Stains – Rejuvenate your favorite shirt, or make that gym shirt wearable again. We all sweat from time to time, and most of us don’t smell good when we do. Traditional detergents can have a hard time removing the stains and smell, but adding a little vinegar into the mix will usually do the trick. Put the effected clothing in a sink to soak overnight. Make sure the water is completely covering it, but not much more than that. Add in a half cup or less of vinegar and let it soak the whole night. The next day, send it through the wash like normal, and you should be left with a much cleaner and more pleasant smelling shirt. If you are concerned about the degree of staining, you could also add some vinegar to the load when you wash. If this does not do the trick, then try something just a bit more powerful.
- Give Clothes a More Thorough Rinse – Are you concerned with lint and static when washing your clothes? Adding a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle can decrease linting by rinsing more of it away, and it will also help to eliminate static.
IN YOUR KITCHEN
- Soften and Disinfect – Great for any load you wash, but also ideal for diapers or people with sensitive skin. Regular old vinegar can replace the toxic fabric softener you are using now. These unnecessarily put chemicals on your clothes which are not great for you to breathe and can be harmful or irritating to your skin. Add in just 1/4 cup to any load you wash to soften fabrics and kill germs. It is a safer additive that is less irritating to skin and has no known side effects.
- Remove Grass Stains or Fruit Juice Stains – This technique can be quite effective if you act fast enough. If you are too late, or the stain is too tough, then try this more powerful method. These types of stains are tough, so many detergents alone will not do the trick. If you act quickly to pre-treat a grass stain, then vinegar can prevent it from sticking. Dab some right onto the stain to try and work the color out. Most should lift out right there, but some may need washing to completely disappear.
- Freshen Stinky Clothes Without Washing – If you have a piece of clothing that doesn’t look dirty, but does smell like it needs to be washed, then this method might save you some time and/or embarrassment. Simply sprinkle or spray with a spray bottle and then press. This works great for suits and dress shirts. Mix a bit of vinegar into a spray bottle with water and spritz the shirt all over lightly. After that, simply take your iron and press like normal. You shirt will look refreshed, and the vinegar will take away any musty smell that was there.
- Prevent Spotting on Glassware – Weather hand washing or using the dishwasher, glasses can often dry with unsightly spots on them. To prevent this when washing them by hand, add a 1/2 cup of vinegar to your dishwater prior to washing. To prevents spots on glasses washed in the dishwasher, all you need to do is stick a cup of white vinegar on the bottom rack before you start the cycle. It will mix in as the dishwasher runs to prevent any spotting form occurring.
- Freshen Drains and the Pipes Below – Because vinegar is such a good deodorizer, it is espe3cially useful for a job like this. If you want to take the yucky smell out of your drain and also clear blockage to keep it free flowing follow these easy steps. First you will dump in a third cup of baking soda. Follow that up with a cup of white vinegar, and then cover the drain opening completely with a plate or something similar. Let it sit like this for an hour or more, and then flush with cold water. You will wash away minor blockage and build up, and you will eliminate any stale odors. This type of regular maintenance can keep your pipes flowing fast, and prevent stinky odors from forming over time.
- Clean Your Garbage Disposal – Keep this appliance always clean by doing a simple maintenance routine on a regular basis. Once every week, grind up some ice cubes made from water and vinegar. Use and 80/20 blend of mostly vinegar to form the cubes. As you grind, it will clean the interior and deodorize the parts. This will help it to function better and last longer, and will also keep it smelling better.
- Clean and Disinfect – Because it is safe for pretty much any surface in your kitchen, it is great to use for general cleaning and disinfection. Use a damp sponge or microfiber cloth and wipe down counters appliances, sinks and more. You can apply it directly to a damp cloth or make up a spray bottle with vinegar and water to spray the surfaces you want to clean directly. When used this way white distilled vinegar can help to remove dirt and germs more easily. It does not contain anything dangerous unlike other common sprays, so you can feel safer using it to clean where you prepare food. It is a great tool to use with your microfiber cleaning supplies because it will be a little more powerful than just water alone, but will still allow you to clean without chemicals.
- Degrease – Cabinets, stove tops, counters and more can get greasy while you are cooking. If you try to just wipe it up, then in most cases it will only smear and spread. You could use some sort of toxic grease cutter, or you could choose a simple solution of mild soap and vinegar to cut through the greasy build up so that it is easy to wipe away. Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar into 2 cups of hot water. Add in just a little bit of soap and you are good to go. Apply this solution with a good scrubbing cloth or scrub sponge and you will be able to cut through and remove the grime more easily. If you have a real mess on your hands, or you have tried vinegar but it did not do the trick, then try Quick n Brite. It is a powerful and natural cleaner that is ideal for grease and oil build up.
- Disinfect Sponges and Dish Rags – Because it is not always easy to throw out a sponge until it completely deteriorates, it is good to have a way to at least kill the germs. It is hard to clean anything with an old, germy sponge or rag, and who would want to eat off of a hand washed dish when the sponge used to clean it has been in constant use for months? You can take care of the germs and remove any musty smell by using some vinegar. Soak your rags and sponges over night in a solution of 1/4 cup vinegar for every quart of water. For best results, make sure the water is hot before you begin the soak.
- Disinfect Cutting Boards – For this job, simply take full strength vinegar and wipe down the board completely. After it is thoroughly cleaned, just let it sit overnight. Remove any dirt or other contaminants and make the board safe for food preparation again.
- Polish Pots and Pans – The metal on your cookware can dull over time, but a simple technique can make them look more new again. Take some baking soda and mix in some vinegar to form a paste. Use this paste as your polish to remove tarnish and bring back the shine. After polishing rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.
- Remove Stuck Food – The worst part about a good meal is cleaning up afterward. This is especially true when there is stuck on or stubborn food involved. We have all encountered crusty leftovers in the pan, and many of us will scrub and scrub trying to remove them. A simple soak in half water, half vinegar will do all of the hard work for you. Soak overnight if necessary, and when you go to wash the pan all of the food will wash off easily because the vinegar solution will have broken it down during the soak.
IN YOUR BATHROOM
- Wash Sinks, Tubs and Showers – For general cleaning of these surfaces, vinegar can work great as a natural option. For a natural cleaner that is a bit more powerful when it comes to scum and hard water, try Scum Off. When using vinegar for a job like this mix up an 80/20 blend of mostly white vinegar and some water. Spray it on the areas you wish to clean and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. Once it has had time to sit, come back and scrub and then rinse clean. It is safe for pretty much any bathroom surface and can clean most of the dirt you find there.
- Cleaning The Toilet – This can be a tougher job, so use straight vinegar. Pour about a half cup straight into the bowl and let it sit for an hour or more. After it sits, just flush the toilet and most standard dirt will wash away. For bad staining you will probably have to resort to something else like Quick n Brite. When left to sit on any organic staining, it will break it down naturally so it is easy to remove.
- Clean and Polish Chrome or Stainless Steel – Disinfect and polish all of your bathroom fixtures using straight white vinegar. Apply it all over with a sponge and then buff clean with a polishing cloth or other good quality microfiber cloth. This process will disinfect, clean water spots and leave your fixtures looking shiny and newer.
- Disinfect Garbage Cans and Other Surfaces – To remove germs from the can between bag changes, use a warm water and vinegar solution. Wash down the whole interior and then let it dry for an hour or more. You can use it on metal or plastic cans, and it will clean dirt as it neutralizes the germs.
- Clean Shower Curtains – Remove spotting and soap scum and prevent mold growth by washing your shower curtain. You can do a general washing in your washing machine. Simply put it through the rinse cycle and add in some vinegar, about 1-2 cups. You can also use a 50/50 solution as a maintenance spray. Keep it in the shower and spray down curtains and walls to prevent mold and mildew growth between cleanings.
WALLS & FLOORS
- Mopping Floors – Use a PVA Mop and a solution of 1 cup of vinegar in a bucket of warm water, or use a microfiber mop and spray on a 50/50 – 80/20 solution of vinegar and water directly to the pad. It will clean common dirt and stains, but also remove residues left by other harsh floor cleaners. The PVA mop offers a higher volume of liquid style mopping technique, so it is good for tile linoleum and concrete. A microfiber mop allows you to clean with very little liquid, so it can be better for hardwood and marble. Either tool will work on all flooring surfaces, so it really comes down to preference as far as which one would be better for you.
- Remove Stains From Carpet – Vinegar will work for light stains. For any tough staining, try Quick N Brite because it has proven to work well on just about everything, and it is safe to use on any type or color of carpeting. When using vinegar for a stain on carpet mix a paste with 2 Tbsps. salt and half a cup of white vinegar. Rub the paste into the stain and then let it dry completely. Once dry, go over the area with a vacuum and suck up the dried paste along with the stain.
- Vinyl Surfaces – Wipe them down with 2 Tbsps. liquid soap and 1/2 cup white vinegar. After wiping, rinse thoroughly and let dry.
- Windows – Clean windows, mirrors and shower doors with this same technique. Ditch the blue stuff for a 50/50 vinegar water solution. Simply spray down the area and then wipe clean using a squeegee or microfiber cloth. For an even easier method, try just using a window cloth and there is no spray solution needed.
- Clean and Rejuvenate – Take the haze out of wood furniture and clean and polish it at the same time. Mix 1 Tbsp of vinegar into a quart of warm water to use as your cleanser. Apply to any wood surface and then buff with a good cloth. A polishing cloth can make the job easier and also allow for better results.
- Remove Minor Scratches – To take out slight scratching or white rings, use a combination of olive oil and vinegar, or try just olive oil alone. Simply work it into the the scratched area with a good cloth. Use a sort of buffing action to work the area and remove most of the solution. After that, just let dry.
- Clean Used Paint Brushes – after painting it can be hard to clean the brushes and remove all of the leftover paint. If allowed to dry on, it will leave the brush useless so you won’t be able to use it for your next project. When cleaning brushes with vinegar, it will remove all of the paint, and also the odor. Simply soak the dirty brushes in boiling straight vinegar. One clean, take them out, rinse with plain water and allow to dry.
- Wash Your Car – Dissolve bumper stickers and other decals by applying straight white vinegar. It will take off the picture and also the sticky residue underneath. To prevent windows from frosting up, use a 50/50 vinegar water solution and coat them with it. Wipe it off to clean your windows and also leave them protected from severe frosting conditions.
These are just some of the great ways you can start cleaning with vinegar. It is not the most powerful natural cleaner out there, but it is quite effective for many tasks, and it is about the cheapest and most simple solution available. By mastering the techniques above, you will begin to discover other similar ways that you can use them to clean other stuff. Instead of using harsh chemicals to clean your home, and before you reach for that stuff you have always used just because you have always used it, give white distilled vinegar a try. It is an all natural cleaning product that most of us have around the house already, but very few use for actual cleaning. You will find that it works great for certain things, and less so for others. If you are interested in other eco friendly cleaning tools and techniques then check out all of our Good Stuff For Cleaning.