31 Cleaning Uses of Vinegar
Every kitchen has a bottle of vinegar.
It’s great for your recipes, but it’s also a cheap, non-toxic and biodegradable household cleaner, deodorizer and disinfectant.
Although some tough germs will have to call for commercial disinfectants, vinegar is more than capable to meet the hundred simple cleaning needs of your home.
Undiluted vinegar is also proven to be effective against a range of pathogens, including Salmonella typhi and Escherichia coli.
The acetic acid in vinegar (whether white or apple cider or another), usually at 5%, is what makes it effective against germs.
So here, unless otherwise mentioned, we will be using the very affordable white vinegar. Leave the expensive ones to your dishes.
1. Cleans and deodorizes the fridge
You can use vinegar to safely clean the interior and exterior of your refrigerator.
Would you risk your family’s health with a chemical based cleaner?
Just mix equal parts vinegar and water, and use this with a sponge to wash the surfaces, including the door gasket and bins.
If you’re looking to battle mildew growth, use undiluted vinegar instead. You can also use full-strength vinegar to combat tough accumulations of grime on your refrigerator. When you’re done, leave an opened box of baking soda inside to keep it smelling clean and fresh.
2. Cleans and deodorizes the microwave
Sauce explosions in the microwave can look daunting, but it’s really very easy to clean up.
Practically Functional shares this quick steam-cleaning method for it. Microwave a bowl with 1 to 2 cups water and 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar for 5 minutes.
When it’s done, don’t open the machine yet. Leave it for 2 minutes or so to let the steam completely loosen up the caked splatters of food. Then, carefully take out the bowl and turntable plate to wash, and wipe down the inside thoroughly.
The dirt should come right off. If it doesn’t, or if you don’t have enough splatters to need steam-cleaning, just dampen a cloth with equal parts vinegar and water and wipe the microwave interior clean.
3. Cleans and disinfects your coffeemaker
A study by the National Sanitation Foundation in 2011 showed that the coffeemaker reservoir is one of the top germ hot spots in the home. This is because of its normally moist environment.
To avoid germ breeding, wash the removable parts after every use with warm and soapy water and open the reservoir’s lid so it can dry out.
According to Good Housekeeping, you should also clean it out with white vinegar once a month. Fill the reservoir with equal parts vinegar and water, put in a filter and pot, and then “brew” the solution.
Halfway through the brewing, turn off the coffeemaker and let everything sit for 30 minutes. Then, turn the machine back on, and finish the process.
Once you’ve dumped the vinegar-water from the pot, rinse the machine out by putting in a fresh filter and running another cycle with just plain water. Do this rinse twice.
4. Descale your baby bottle sterilizer
Mineral deposits from water build up as you use your baby bottle sterilizer over time.
For most electric steam sterilizers, you can use vinegar to descale.
Different brands have different methods, so it’s best to check your product guide for directions on the descaling process.
5. Cleans and descale your electric and steel kettles
Cleaning electric kettles is often neglected because all they’re really used for is just boiling water.
But, the build-up from mineral deposits can slow down the process of heating in electric kettles. So to keep your kettle in good working condition, descale it once every one or two months.
According to Top Cleaning Secrets, all you need to do is fill the kettle halfway with equal parts vinegar and water, and bring it to a boil. Turn off the kettle, and leave the mixture inside for 15-20 minutes before throwing it out.
Now, rinse the kettle repeatedly until no trace of vinegar is left. Wipe the inside with a clean cloth and leave it to dry. Once dried, boil plain water and discard it just to make sure you get rid of any possible aftertaste.
If your kettle is stainless steel, you can clean it using the same process. The only difference would be that you can use a non-abrasive scrubbing pad to get rid of the stains it may have inside.
6. Cleans your barbeque grill
To avoid leaving chemical residue on your grill, She Knows advises to use vinegar for cleaning it.
Spray equal parts vinegar and water onto the grill while it is still warm (not hot), and let sit for about 10 minutes. Then, scrub it clean with full-strength vinegar and aluminum foil.
Rinse and repeat as necessary.
7. An all natural fruit and veggie wash
Avoid sicknesses from food contamination by washing your fruits and vegetables carefully. SFGate recommends keeping a solution of 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water in the kitchen for this purpose.
For smooth-skinned produce like tomatoes and apples, spray the solution on to completely coat the exterior. Leave it on for about 30 seconds, and then gently rub with your hands and rinse well.
For rough-surfaced and leafy produce like broccoli and spinach, soaking in the solution is better. Let it sit for about 10 minutes or so, and then rub or brush and rinse.
8. Disinfects your cutting board
Use vinegar to disinfect your kitchen cutting boards without the danger of exposing your food to dangerous chemical cleaners.
First, scrub away any organic material, like meat or the slimy film it leaves, from the board with warm, soapy water. Then, wipe the board down with full-strength vinegar, and leave it on to dry.
Reader’s Digest, however, advises against using dish washing detergent on wood cutting boards, because it can weaken the wood surface fibers.
9. Deodorize and sanitize sponges and dishrags
Sponges and dishrags constantly come in contact with the slime and grime of your kitchen, so it’s important to keep them clean and smelling fresh. Do this with another kitchen mainstay—vinegar.
After a normal washing with soap, soak your sponges and dishrags in undiluted vinegar for a few hours. Rinse well and let dry.
This very easy procedure will help kill germs from spreading in the kitchen and keep diseases at bay from your whole family.
If vinegar isn’t enough, you can add a bit of lemon to increase its anti bacterial properties and according to the USDA doing so will clean up to 80% of bacteria.
10. Remove unwanted odors from plastic food containers
Keep your plastic food containers smelling fresh after every use by deodorizing them with vinegar.
Wash them as usual, and then apply undiluted vinegar with a cloth. Let them air dry and wash again.
11. Deodorize the kitchen or any room in your home
Sometimes some smells just linger. An effective way to get rid of the stink from the air is to simmer undiluted vinegar on the stovetop. About a cup of it in a small pan will do.
The release of the vinegar steam into the air might be a bit overpowering to some, but after a little while you will notice that only a clean, fresh smell is left.
In the kitchen, take the deodorizing further by wiping down counters (except the granite or marble kind) and garbage bins with full-strength vinegar.
This will not only get rid of any bad smell, but the vinegar will sanitize the surfaces too.
12. Deodorize kitchen and bathroom drains
Get rid of the funky smell coming from your kitchen and bathrooms drains by dumping into them 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar.
Let the mixture sit for a 5-10 minutes, and then rinse it down with hot water.
13. Clean mold and mildew from bathroom surfaces
Mold and mildew are types of fungi that thrive on the surface of moist areas, like in the bathroom.
Mildew looks gray or white, while mold looks black or green. You might find them on your bathroom walls, tub, and shower door or curtain. To get rid of these health hazards, spray them with undiluted vinegar.
Use a household spray bottle to do this, leaving the vinegar to sit for one or two hours. Then, scrub the surface clean with a damp cloth or brush and rinse with water.
For stubborn mold and mildew, Aiden Summer of SFGate recommends a paste made from 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water.
Apply this paste on the affected area, spray vinegar over it, and scour with a brush or scrubbing pad. Rinse with water. Repeat if necessary.
14. Clean your showerhead and faucets
If your showerhead has started to spray unevenly, that means the holes have already gotten plugged with mineral deposits.
To de-clog them, soak the showerhead in vinegar. If you can’t remove the showerhead from the arm, you can still soak it by using a plastic bag and a rubber band.
Fill a plastic bag with vinegar and wrap it around the showerhead so that the holes are completely soaked.
Hold the bag in place by looping the rubber band around the arm, and leave it for one or two hours.
Remove the plastic bag and rubber band, and turn on the shower to flush the loosened debris. This same idea applies to battling mineral deposits on your faucet.
Better Home and Gardens point out that if the showerhead deposits prove stubborn, you can scrub the showerhead with an old toothbrush or poke out the deposits with a safety pin or toothpick, and then repeat the soak cycle.
15. Clean and de-gunk your toilet
An effective yet cheap way to get rid of germs and stains from your toilet is by using vinegar. There are some variations in how people out there do it, but according to Martha Stewart, this is how it’s done:
First, add half a cup vinegar to the bowl and let stand for about 30 minutes to 1 hour; second, scrub around with a toilet brush and flush;
And third, to remove stains, swish around ½ cup borax in the water and let soak overnight before flushing.
You can also improve your toilet flush performance by using vinegar to get rid of the water mineral deposits. Visit DIY Plumbing Advice for the how-to.
16. Deodorize the washing machine
You wash clothes in your washing machine. You put in detergent, bleach and even scented fabric softeners.
It’s supposed to be clean inside, right? So where is that smell coming from?
If you look closely, you will most likely find bits of dirt, grime, and other kinds of residue wedged into gaps inside your washing machine. There’s also the general gunk and scum build-up from all that goes into it.
Mrs Clean offers a thorough step-by-step guide on how to clean your washing machine here, and recommends using vinegar to deodorize it.
To start the deodorizing process, set the cycle to “whites” or “hot.” Add 4 cups of vinegar to a top loader or 2 cups of vinegar to a front loader.
Don’t mix in any other cleaning solution like detergent or bleach. Let the washing machine fill and run long enough to allow the water-vinegar solution to splash around inside, and then “pause” the machine.
Let the solution sit or “soak” for about 30 minutes, and then start it back up to complete the cycle.
17. Remove coffee stains
It’s all too easy to spill some coffee on yourself in the rush of juggling everything in the morning…or whenever.
But detergent maker Persil says you can use good ol’ vinegar to get rid of the stain.
Before beginning, try to absorb as much excess coffee from the fabric as possible by using a paper towel.
Then make a thick paste out of equal parts vinegar and water plus some laundry detergent.
Test this paste first on a tiny, discreet area for discoloration before applying on the stain directly. If the fabric can handle it, use a toothbrush to gently work the paste into the fibers and draw the coffee particles out.
Let the mixture soak in for about 30 minutes, and then rinse with cold water. Don’t use hot water—it will only set the stain. Now wash the whole article of clothing in the washing machine or by hand.
18. Remove juice stains
For homes with young children, this will come in very handy. One of the most important factors to getting juice stain out effectively is getting to it as quickly as you can.
The longer it sits, the harder it’ll be to get out. So first, blot at the stain with a clean cloth to absorb as much juice as you can. Be careful not to scrub or spread the stain.
Next, spray it with a solution of 1 part vinegar and 3 parts water. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you may just blot the solution onto the stain.
Continue spraying or blotting until no more stain is seen. Then, wash with cold—not hot—water and air dry. Air drying is better than machine drying at this point because any unnoticed, remaining stain will only get set by the heat.
19. Brighten and soften fabrics
White vinegar is a cheap and safe way to brighten and soften up your clothes.
Its mild acetic acid is able to dissolve the residues left by detergents and fabric softeners, giving the light-colored fabrics brighter colors and whiter whites.
It also gives them a softer feel. Just add 1/2 cup to your laundry’s final rinse. This is also great for children’s clothing, as vinegar contains no harsh chemicals and is hypoallergenic.
20. Remove tarnish and rust from metal
First, let’s talk about the difference between tarnishing and rusting.
Tarnishing is what happens when the surface of a metal, like silver, aluminium, brass or copper, gets discolored by corrosion. It doesn’t destroy the metal—it only affects the surface.
Rusting is different.
It happens to iron and its alloys, like steel. The process is also corrosion, yes, but it not only affects the surface—it will destroy the metal eventually as well.
Vinegar can be used to get rid of both tarnish and rust. If you have small pieces like tarnished silver jewelry or rusty hand tools, submerge them in vinegar—a few hours to remove tarnish and a day or so to remove rust.
After taking the tarnished items out from the soak, run them through water and wipe dry.
If your jewelry has embedded precious stones, it may be best to take them to a professional instead to avoid damage.
Now for items with rust—after the vinegar bath, scrub them off with steel wool or an abrasive pad, rinse off the dirt and vinegar with water, and wipe to dry completely.
If your items have aluminium parts, soak them in vinegar for only a few hours. Aluminum cannot handle the acid as well as steel.
If you have metal items that cannot be submerged, like brass, copper or pewter collectibles, clean them with a paste made up of 1 cup vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and some flour.
Using a non-abrasive cloth, rub this onto the pieces in circular motions, and let it stand for about 15 minutes. Then, rinse the paste off with clean warm water, and polish dry with a soft cloth.
21. Disinfect your baby’s toys
Using chemical cleaners on toys could mean your little one’s sucking off the residue on it. Vinegar is a safe, non-toxic way to disinfect those toys.
First, wash them with warm, soapy water. Then, dampen a clean cloth with vinegar and wipe them down, don’t worry the smell will dissipate when they dry.
22. Remove crayon and pen marks from walls
If you have young kids at home, discovering crayon and pen marks on your walls might not be an unusual occurrence. But don’t despair. You can painlessly remove them with vinegar.
Erin Huffstetler of Frugal Living explains that this is because the acetic acid in vinegar can break down the wax and pigment components left by the marks. Just dip an old toothbrush in vinegar and scrub the mark away.
Be careful to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first, though. The paint or finish of your wall might not react well to the treatment.
23. Cleans no-wax floors
Maintain the shine of your no-wax floors by mopping it up with a water-vinegar wash at least once a week.
To make the solution, mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one gallon warm water. You may leave this on for a few minutes if the floor is especially dirty before you mop it dry [source].
24. Remove stickers and wallpapers
Adhesive removers for stickers can be expensive, so before heading out to buy one, try using vinegar first.
Apply the vinegar using a cloth or paintbrush and let it soak through the sticker.
After 5 minutes or so, wipe off the excess vinegar and start scraping off the adhesive. You may have to repeat the entire process depending on how strong it’s stuck.
The same idea applies to removing wallpapers, except that you should use a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water, and then scrape off with a putty knife.
25. Neutralize pet odor
Full-strength vinegar or mixed half-and-half with water can effectively neutralize pet odors in your home.
Once the smelly surface is cleaned from the offending substance, like urine, test a small hidden area with a wipe-down or spray of vinegar (or vinegar-water) for colorfastness.
The smell of the vinegar will be strong at first, but it will fade away along with the pet odor.
26. Clean your dog’s ears
Dogs Naturally recommends unfiltered ACV or apple cider vinegar mixed half-and-half with water to clean your dog’s ears.
Use a cotton swab dipped in the solution to get the dirt out. This solution may also be sprayed on your pet’s itchy spots (but not on open wounds) as treatment and as flea and tick repellent.
Just be sure to monitor for adverse reactions, though.
27. Clean computer peripherals
Simple white vinegar mixed with equal part water can be used to safely clean your gadgets.
Life Hacker recommends cleaning your LCD screen by applying the solution gently with a microfiber cloth.
Avoid using something paper-based, like paper towels, as it can scratch up the monitor. You can also do the same to clean the surface of your touch screen device, keyboard (use swabs to clean in between keys), and mouse.
28. Clean windows and glassware streak-free
Keeping your windows and glassware clean and streak-free is easy with vinegar. First, make a solution from equal parts vinegar and water.
For windows, start by dusting them off well. Then, lightly wet the windows with a sponge. Don’t drench them that they drip. With a wet squeegee, draw straight strokes. If you don’t have a squeegee, wiping with newspapers will do.
For glassware, soak them in the solution and let air dry. You may also just wipe the solution on using a cloth, as long as it’s lint-free.
29. Clean and deodorize your carpet
Sayward Rebhal for Networx says she has perfected cleaning carpets with vinegar by using this method.
First, blot away the stain as soon and as much as you can to get it off the carpet.
Then, spray vinegar onto the area liberally and leave on for about 5-10 minutes. Lastly, blot away again (or scrub now if you want) to get the remaining vinegar out and let dry.
This should leave you with a fresh smelling carpet once again.
30. Clean and condition wood furniture
To clean and condition wood furniture, Leslie Reichert aka The Cleaning Coach recommends mixing 1/4 vinegar with 1 cup olive oil.
You may also add a few drops of lemon or orange oil, if you wish. Simply use a clean cloth to apply it and wipe.
31. Clean and disinfect general surface areas
The possibilities for using vinegar as a general household cleaner are endless.
You can practically use it on any nonporous surface safely, with few exceptions.
So keep a general cleaning and disinfecting solution of equal parts vinegar and water handy in a spray bottle.
What NOT to clean with vinegar
While vinegar seems like a magical all-purpose cleaner, there are still some things you just shouldn’t use vinegar on. According to Good Housekeeping, you should skip it on these spots:
Granite and marble countertops and floors – Acetic acid can etch natural stone. Use a mild dishwashing liquid instead.
Egg stains – Vinegar will only cause it to coagulate, making it harder to remove.
Clothes iron – Contrary to what some advise, pouring vinegar through it can cause damage.
Hardwood floors – Feedback from homeowners vary on this one. So to be on the safe side, use a special hardwood cleaner for your floors or at least test diluted vinegar in an inconspicuous area first.
Certain stains – Fabric stains from grass, ink, ice cream, and blood are among some that don’t respond well to acid. Choose a special stain remover instead.
Have you found success using vinegar to clean anything? Please share it in the comments section below or contact me. My personal favorite is using it as a produce wash. It’s cheap, safe and easy to use.