Vinegar is an amazing household staple. The humble product cleans and sanitizes without harsh chemicals — and that’s in addition to all its uses in preparing food.
The stinky stuff has loads of uses, enabling it to replace various expensive and often more hazardous household products like chemical-ridden cleaners and pesticides.
Following are some of the most useful uses for vinegar to get you started. Note that unless otherwise specified, “vinegar” means white vinegar.
Vinegar excels at cutting through grime partly because it’s acidic. In fact, vinegar is basically diluted acetic acid.
Due to that acidity, vinegar can damage natural stone like marble and granite. So, use caution with such surfaces. Test vinegar on a small area first or consult the surface manufacturer as to what type of cleaner it recommends.
On other bathroom surfaces, though, here are six ways to put vinegar to work:
- Clean sinks and bathtubs: Scrub with full-strength vinegar. Then, rinse well.
- Bust soap scum: Spray a 50/50 mix of vinegar and Dawn dish detergent on the tub, wait a couple of minutes and wipe. Rinse thoroughly.
- De-gunk showerheads: Is mineral buildup impeding the water flow? Fill a sturdy plastic bag with vinegar, rubber-band it to the showerhead and let it soak, as we detail in “7 Tricks to Cleaning Your Bathroom in Minutes.”
- Shine fixtures: Use vinegar on a soft cloth — a piece of worn-out sheet or an old T-shirt works well — to wipe away soap scum.
- Clean shower-door tracks: Carefully fill the tracks with vinegar. Then, scrub with an old toothbrush.
- Bathe loofahs: Soak bath sponges in a 50/50 vinegar-and-water mix, then rinse well. If your loofah is old, however, consider replacing it instead. We cite loofahs in “11 Disgusting Household Items You Should Toss Today.”
Vinegar is probably most useful by far in the kitchen. Here are seven of the many ways it can stand in for more expensive household products in the heart of the home:
- Clean the coffeemaker: Run a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water through the machine. Then, run a full pot of water through to rinse well.
- De-lime the teakettle: If your teakettle has lime or mineral deposits, boil 3 cups of vinegar and let stand overnight. Rinse well.
- Clean the dishwasher: Once a month, run a cup of vinegar through your (empty) dishwasher.
- Scrub the fridge: Use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water to wipe down the inside of your refrigerator. Don’t forget the interiors of bins.
- Sanitize cutting boards: After washing cutting boards, spray with undiluted white vinegar to further disinfect the surface. Bonus: It’ll neutralize the odor of that fish you just cut up.
- Refresh lunchboxes: Wipe out the inside with vinegar to kill weird smells. Pour vinegar and water in the Thermos and let sit overnight to remove any odors.
- Kill fruit flies: Cider vinegar stinks to us, but it attracts fruit flies. Create a funnel trap by rolling a sheet of paper into a funnel and placing it into a jar with cider vinegar at the bottom. Fruit flies that are lured in won’t be able to find their way out and will drown.
Here are three ways you should put vinegar to use in the laundry room:
- Soften fabric: Add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle instead of using likely more-expensive and chemical-ridden fabric softener. For more vinegar-based recipes for homemade fabric softener, check out “Never Buy These 7 Overpriced Cleaning Products Again.”
- Rid clothing of musty smells: Sometimes stuff from the secondhand store or rummage sale has an odd smell. Launder with a cup of vinegar in the wash (not rinse) cycle.
- Clean the iron: Spray starch can build up on the faceplate of your iron, so wipe it with vinegar every so often. If you’ve got hard water, clean the iron’s innards every now and then: Fill the water reservoir with vinegar, stand it upright and turn on the “steam” setting. After 10 minutes, empty and rinse well.
Most any room of the house
We weren’t kidding when we said vinegar can save you money in every room of your home. Take these eight applications for example:
- Mop floors: Use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. The vinegar smell will dissipate, but you also can add a drop or two of essential oil to the water.
- Make your own all-purpose cleaner: That 50/50 mix of vinegar and water also works on counters, stovetops and the range hood, as well as bathroom fixtures and tile.
- Clear drains: Tap half a cup of baking soda down the drain, then pour in half a cup of vinegar. Enjoy the fizzing and bubbling for a few minutes. Follow with a teakettle’s worth of boiling water, then let hot water from the tap run down the drain for a while.
- Clean mirrors and windows: Mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle to clean mirrors and windows.
- Clean filters: Soak humidifier or air conditioner filters in a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Then, rinse and dry well.
- De-gum scissors: Wipe gummy blades with undiluted vinegar.
- Remove adhesive: Remove stickers and their residue by wiping with vinegar.
- Kill ants: That vinegar-and-Dawn-dish-soap cleaner you use on bathroom soap scum also vanquishes uninvited guests that march into your home. This mixture is a lot less worrisome than spraying a pesticide ant killer around the area where your kids and pets play, and around the areas where you prepare food.
Garage, yard and garden
Don’t stop when you’re done applying vinegar to indoor tasks. Here are three handy outdoor uses to try:
- Clean wiper blades: Rub windshield wiper blades a couple of times with undiluted vinegar.
- Clean bird feeders: A good wash with a gentle dish soap, followed by a spray with a 50/50 vinegar-and-water solution, means clean dishes — and less chance of bacterial issues — for hummingbirds and other feathered friends.
- De-gunk flowerpots: White stains on terra cotta pots? Wipe them down with undiluted vinegar and let dry. If the stains are stubborn, soak the pots in diluted vinegar.
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