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What Is Cleaning Vinegar? (And How To Use It Around Your Home)

It naturally removes bacteria, dirt, and grime.


Did you know that traditional cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products can increase indoor air pollution? Popular household products often produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are toxic gasses found in aerosol sprays and liquid cleaners. When used indoors, VOCs quickly infiltrate the air we breathe and wreak havoc on our overall health. They manifest in a number of icky symptoms, among them asthma flares, headaches, and fatigue. There are, thank goodness, eco-friendly alternatives. One of the best is cleaning vinegar. Here’s everything you need to know about cleaning vinegar, from what it’s made from and how to best use it at home.

First thing first, what is cleaning vinegar?

Not to be confused with regular ol’ white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, cleaning vinegar is an eco-friendly and versatile all-purpose cleaner that can tackle all manner of tough jobs. Simply put it in a spray bottle to remove dirt, dust, and grime from hard and soft surfaces around the house. Like baking soda mixtures, diluted vinegar solutions are an uber-effective DIY deep-cleaning tool. 

How is cleaning vinegar different from white vinegar?

The difference between a standard cup of vinegar and its multi-purpose cleaner counterpart is acidity level. Where distilled white vinegar is typically 95 percent water and five percent acid, cleaning vinegar contains up to six percent acid. This one percent difference in acidity might not sound like much, but it makes cleaning vinegar roughly 20 percent stronger than regular vinegar. As a result, vinegar cleaner powers through household chores with a lot less elbow grease.

Is cleaning vinegar safe to consume?

No. There is no vinegar cleaning solution that is safe for consumption. Cleaning vinegar is made for cleaning and cleaning only. Its one percent additional acidity might not seem like much, but it can do tremendous harm if consumed. Its high acid concentration can blister your mouth, burn your esophagus, and damage your digestive system as it moves through your body. Stick with cooking vinegars — red wine, white wine, and apple cider vinegar — for your salads and sauces. As long as it’s labeled 5 percent acidity or less, you’re safe.

What are the benefits of cleaning vinegar?

There are several benefits of cleaning vinegar. Here’s a list of the most important. 

It’s non-toxic. 

Unlike bleach and other common household disinfectants, cleaning vinegar is a non-toxic solution. This means that it’s not only an effective eco-friendly cleaner, but it’s safe for you and any little ones that live in or visit your home. 

It’s natural. 

Cleaning vinegar is natural and chemical-free. When using it to clean your home, you can rest easy knowing that no harm will be done to the air you breathe.

It’s antiseptic and antibacterial.  

Cleaning vinegar is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent. This means that you can use it to create a bacteria-free home for your loved ones. 

It eliminates stains. 

Dealing with tough stains from a buildup of mildew or other gunk? Cleaning vinegar can help. It removes soap scum from shower doors and caked on splatter from stove tops and stone countertops with ease. Plus, it doesn’t leave behind the sticky residue that chemical-infused cleaning products often do. 

What can be cleaned with vinegar?

Cleaning vinegar is an ideal disinfectant and clean-up solution for all kinds of non-porous surfaces. You can use it to clean floor tiles, laminated flooring, hardwood floors, kitchen cabinets, countertops, mirrors, windows, and more. It’s also great to clean many common appliances:

  • Is your microwave a mess? Clean the inside by heating cleaning vinegar, and allowing the fumes to do the hard work of lifting old food stains. 
  • Could your dishwasher use a good cleaning? Freshen the inside by running a hot wash with a bowl of cleaning vinegar inside. 
  • Does your recently-washed laundry smell? Fill your washing machine with hot water and pour some cleaning vinegar inside. Let the mixture soak for about an hour before running a wash at the hottest temp. 
  • Is your showerhead covered in soap scum? Pour some cleaning vinegar into a plastic bag and secure it around your showerhead with an elastic band. Leave overnight and wake up to a sparkling shower.
  • When was the last time you cleaned your refrigerator? Wipe down the inside of your fridge using cleaning vinegar to eliminate bacteria and germs from food storage. 
  • Is there a foul stench coming from your garbage disposal? Pour some cleaning vinegar down the drain to quickly freshen it up. 

What about fabrics?

The uses for cleaning vinegar don’t stop there — it works wonders on fabrics, too. You can use it as a spot treatment on stains, as a pre-soak to wash denim, or even as a fabric softener. Additionally, cleaning vinegar is a secret weapon against cloudy glassware, which is often caused by hard water. To combat this, soak your glasses in the sink with a cleaning vinegar and water solution for five minutes before washing them as normal. 

Note: While cleaning vinegar is a great eco-friendly disinfectant, it’s not as effective as bleach when it comes to killing germs. So, if you’re thinking about using cleaning vinegar, the first thing you need to do is determine your goal. If it’s killing germs, use bleach. If it’s removing mineral deposits, bacteria, dirt, and grime, use cleaning vinegar. 

What should not be cleaned with vinegar?

When it comes to eco-friendly products, cleaning vinegar reigns supreme. Thanks to its high acidity content, vinegar is a fantastic household cleaner. That said, if you haven’t used cleaning vinegar before, there are a few things to consider.

  • Refrain from using cleaning vinegar to clean cast iron or aluminum pans, as it can pit the metal. 
  • Although you can use vinegar to clean grout, it’s best to avoid this. Why? Because over time, vinegar can deplete the seal on grout, causing it to age and deteriorate more quickly. 
  • Don’t use cleaning vinegar on finished or waxed wood surfaces — unless, of course, you’re looking to strip the finish. 
  • Avoid using vinegar to clean your knives as it can cause pitting on the thin stainless steel edges. 
  • Whatever you do, don’t use cleaning vinegar on electronic screens like laptops, smartphones, or TVs — the acid can damage the anti-glare properties. 
  • Don’t use cleaning vinegar on rubber gaskets and hoses, as the acid can cause some types of rubber to disintegrate. 
  • Cleaning vinegar is a great deodorizer, but it’s best not to use on pet messes. While it will help to remove the odors you smell, it’s not sufficiently strong to remove the odors your pet smells, which could cause FiFi and Fido to sniff out past accidents and continue to mark these spots again and again. Opt for an enzymatic cleaner to kill odors and smells that are detectable by your pet. 

The Gist

So, what is cleaning vinegar, and how can it be used at home? In short, cleaning vinegar is an acidic liquid that effectively cleans dirt, bacteria, and grime without the use of harsh chemicals. From shower curtains and sofa cushions to windows, carpets, and countertops, there’s not much it can’t do. Plus, it’s eco-friendly and won’t infuse the air you breathe with harmful toxins. 

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that cleaning vinegar won’t work for every surface. Skip it when cleaning marble, granite, or limestone. In addition, it’s best to steer clear of vinegar when cleaning pots and pans as it can pit the metal and ultimately damage your cookware. When in doubt, read the label on the bottle to ensure proper use and safety.

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