9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

A woman is upset after damaging her fridge with vinegar
Photo by Elnur / Shutterstock.com

Natural, inexpensive and versatile, vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner. Wait … scratch that. Vinegar is a great most-purpose cleaner.

Vinegar’s cleaning muscle comes from acetic acid, a powerful cleaning agent that can remove grease, dirt and mineral deposits, and even kill some bacteria. But vinegar isn’t recommended for every cleaning chore. In fact, it can damage some appliances and surfaces in your home.

If vinegar is part of your cleaning arsenal, use it wisely and avoid these mistakes.

1. Choosing the wrong type

First things first. Though there are many types of vinegar, few of them are appropriate for typical cleaning tasks around the house. Those include:

  • Distilled white vinegar, or white vinegar: This versatile vinegar is famous for its excellent cleaning properties. Diluting it by mixing one part water to one part vinegar should be suitable for most cleaning purposes, though the ratio is a rule of thumb.
  • Apple cider vinegar: This vinegar can be used for many of the same cleaning purposes as white vinegar and diluted similarly.
  • Cleaning vinegar: Slightly more acidic than distilled white vinegar, cleaning vinegar is not safe to ingest. Look for it in the cleaning aisle of most grocery stores and dilute it as you would white vinegar.

2. Mixing it with other cleaners

Two powerful cleaners are better than one, right? Wrong. There are certain household cleaners that should never be mixed. Avoid combining vinegar and:

  • Hydrogen peroxide: Mixing hydrogen peroxide with vinegar creates peracetic acid, which can irritate your skin, eyes and respiratory system.
  • Chlorine bleach: When mixed, bleach and vinegar produce a toxic chlorine gas that can cause breathing problems, coughing and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

For more tips on using bleach safely, check out “10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach.

3. Using it on stone countertops

Hey, you paid a lot for those gorgeous stone countertops. Protect them. Vinegar should never be used to clean any stone surfaces such as granite. Over time, the acid in vinegar damages the sealant and dulls the finish.

To keep your countertops pristine, check out these stone-safe cleaning methods from Merry Maids.

4. Adding it to the steam chamber of an iron

Resist the temptation to clean the steam holes of your iron by adding vinegar to the water reservoir. The acid can eat away the reservoir’s protective coating, eventually damaging the inside of the iron.

Check your owner’s manual for safer ways to remove limescale and gunky deposits. Today, many models have a simple self-clean feature using the iron’s own steam.

5. Using it to wash knives

According to Consumer Reports, the acid in vinegar can cause pitting and rusting on some grades of stainless steel. With their thin, exposed edges, kitchen knives are particularly susceptible to this acidic reaction.

Stay sharp. Instead of vinegar, wash knives with mild dish detergent and warm water.

6. Using it to clean hardwood floors

Keep your wood floors buff and beautiful — by keeping your mop away from the vinegar.

According to This Old House, vinegar can wear away the protective polyurethane coating on wood floors.

7. Adding it to the dishwasher

Running a dishwasher with a cup of vinegar inside is a popular method for removing hard-water film and stubborn odors. Bad idea. Vinegar can damage the rubber hoses and seals inside dishwashers and eventually lead to leaks.

It’s also ineffective at removing hard-water film, testing by Consumer Reports found.

Skip the vinegar and try a dishwasher cleaner — Consumer Reports cites the Affresh or Finish brands. It may cost a little more than vinegar, but significantly less than a new machine.

8. … Or the washing machine

Vinegar is bad news for the mechanics of your washing machine, too. Over time, the acid in vinegar can damage rubber hoses and seals, resulting in leaks and expensive repair bills.

9. Using it to clean electronic devices

Vinegar is great for cleaning glass, but the glass used to make the smartphone, computer and TV screens is unique. Vinegar can damage the anti-glare properties of this type of material and make touch screens less responsive.

Instead, CNET recommends making your own screen-cleaning spray. It’s safe and effective, and costs only pennies!

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Bank Accounts With Extra Perks for Seniors
7 Bank Accounts With Extra Perks for Seniors

These accounts offer exclusive discounts and other perks — including interest — to older customers.

These 12 Reusable Products Save You Money Over and Over
These 12 Reusable Products Save You Money Over and Over

Buy reusable versions of these household items, and you won’t have to spend another dime on them for years.

3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances
3 Ways a Health Savings Account Can Improve Your Finances

Open an HSA in minutes to help you save on taxes, cover medical expenses and grow your retirement nest egg.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

7 Small Appliances You Don’t Need — and What to Use Instead
7 Small Appliances You Don’t Need — and What to Use Instead

Here’s how to get the job done without blowing money — or losing counter space.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire
These 5 States Are the Most Expensive Places to Retire

If you expect to have modest retirement income, you may want to avoid spending your golden years here.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.