Chips and salsa…a movie and popcorn…there are many times when two is better than one, and we discovered a pairing that will double the cleaning results, while halving the effort you put in: white vinegar and dish soap. Each of these cleaning powerhouses is environmentally friendly and super affordable, you likely have both on hand and when used together they pack a huge punch.
“Vinegar and dish soap make an awesome cleaning team,” says Ronnie Kendrick, founder of CompanyClean, a house cleaning business in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, who’s still actively involved in the daily “grime” of getting houses cleaned. As the dad of a two-year-old, he loves the safety aspect of this combo, as well as its effectiveness.
While any store brand of vinegar will do the trick, he’s partial to Dawn as his dish soap of choice. “It’s definitely my go-to soap for cutting through grease; it just outperforms other brands,” he says.
His caveat: Whichever brand you choose, make sure you’re using actual dish soap and not dishwasher detergent. “We’ve seen that mix-up more times than you’d think,” he says.
Why use vinegar and dish soap to clean?
All cleaning experts we spoke to agree:
- Cleans without harsh chemicals: Vinegar doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals found in many commercial cleaning products, making it a safer option for you, children in the home and pets.
- Kills some strains of bacteria: Due to its acidic nature, vinegar can help kill or inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, which is useful for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
- Deodorizes: Vinegar can help neutralize and eliminate odors. It’s particularly effective at removing common household odors like those from cooking, pets and smoke.
- Dissolves mineral deposits: The acetic acid in vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits, such as limescale, which commonly build up on faucets, showerheads and glass surfaces. This makes it an excellent choice for cleaning and descaling these areas.
- Removes stains and grime: Vinegar can effectively remove stains, grease and grime from various surfaces, including countertops, glass and floors.
- Doesn’t leave streaks: When diluted properly, vinegar can leave surfaces streak-free, especially on glass and mirrors.
- Costs very little to use: Vinegar costs pennies per use.
- Cuts through grease: Dish soap is formulated to effectively cut through and remove grease and oil, making it great at cleaning kitchen surfaces, stovetops and range hoods where grease tends to accumulate.
- Is gentle on most surfaces: Dish soap is generally gentler on a wide range of surfaces, including glass, ceramic, plastic and many types of countertops, than most commercial cleaners.
- Removes stains: Dish soap is useful for removing stains and spills on fabrics, upholstery and carpets. It can help break down and lift away common stains like food, oil and beverage spills.
- Doesn’t cost much: Dish soap is typically more affordable than specialized cleaning products for different tasks. It’s a cost-effective option for general cleaning needs.
- Is generally biodegradable: Many dish soaps are formulated to be environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and free from harmful chemicals.
The best vinegar and dish soap cleaning recipe
In a spray bottle (or a bucket, depending on what you intend to clean) add one ounce of dish soap for every four ounces of white vinegar, suggests Kendrick. So you want to aim for a 1:4 soap to vinegar ratio.
How to use vinegar and dish soap to clean anything
Now that you know how well each works, here’s a guide for putting this cleaning dream team to the test:
1. Use vinegar and dish soap to lift soap scum from tubs and tile
Spray the vinegar and dish soap mixture on tiles, walls and glass doors of the shower and tub and wait about 15 minutes for it to dissolve soap scum, suggests LaTonya Wilson, who cleans houses as the general manager of The Cleaning Authority, which has locations throughout Maryland. Rinse off with water.
2. Unclog shower heads
Fill a plastic bag with vinegar and dish soap and attach it around the shower head with a rubber band and leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes to dissolve minerals. “Vinegar’s acidity is particularly effective at breaking down hard water stains and lime scale,” says Wilson. And the dish soap gently cleans so the metal sparkles.
3. Use vinegar and dish soap to polish chrome
Wipe faucets and fixtures with the vinegar-soap mix to remove water spots. The combination can help break down grease and remove streaks and finger prints.
4. Unclog drains
Pour vinegar and dish soap down the drain to break up grease clogs and disinfect. Since both break down grease, they are even more potent together.
5. Use vinegar and dish soap to refresh the dishwasher
Surprisingly enough, your dishwasher — a machine designed to clean — also requires regular maintenance to operate at its best, notes Sarah Mitchell, who specializes in house cleaning in Arizona, and emphasizes clean ingredients through her company, Eco Mama Green Clean. “To effectively remove odors and combat lime scale buildup, run vinegar through an empty dishwasher cycle, then finish with dish soap.”
To do: Start by placing a mug or a bowl filled with one cup of vinegar on the top rack of your dishwasher, says Wilson. “Be sure the dish is upright,” she says. “Then run the dishwasher on the hottest cycle, skipping the drying portion. Afterward use a microfiber cloth soaked in warm water and dish soap to wipe down the walls, then wipe the dish soap away with a clean cloth.”
Dishwasher still stinky? If so, it’s probably the filter, says Kendrick. “Make sure to clean that out at least weekly.”
6. Deodorize and clean the microwave
Mix vinegar and dish soap in a microwave-safe bowl and heat. The steam will activate the vinegar to loosen the food grime sticking to the sides of the microwave and the dish soap makes it easy to wipe it off.
7. Use vinegar and dish soap to freshen a garbage disposal
First, run a low stream of hot water for one minute, then pour the mixture down the drain and run the water and garbage disposal for 30 seconds to one minute. “The vinegar acts as a natural deodorizer and disinfectant, while the soap cleans away residual grime,” Mitchell says.
For an extra deep clean, Wilson recommends finishing up with a small handful of ice cubes and a few wedges of citrus. “Run cold water and turn on your disposal until the ice chunks have gone down,” she says.
8. De-grime the refrigerator
Thoroughly wipe down shelves, drawers and walls in the fridge with the vinegar and dish soap combo. “This is very effective to cut through grime and those condiment spills you’ve collected over time,” says Kendrick. It can also eliminate strange odors. Plus, because this cleaning pair is free from harsh chemicals, you can have peace of mind knowing that your food storage area remains as healthy as it is clean, Mitchell adds.
9. Use vinegar and dish soap to de-grease appliances
Wipe down the surface with your mixture to make them gleam. However, avoid using on stainless steel as it can leave blotchy marks.
10. Wipe down shelves, drawers and cupboards
For the same reason that it works in the refrigerator, vinegar and soap dish will attack hardy greasy spots. Plus, the safety of this eco-friendly solution means you’ll feel good about putting dishes back in cupboards, utensils in drawers and food on pantry shelves.
11. Clean trash cans
Scrub bins with the mixture to sanitize and deodorize them inside and out.
12. Polish wood furniture
Mix a few drops of dish soap into vinegar and wipe onto wood surfaces to clean, then add some oil to give wood a nice shine, Kendrick advises.
13. Mop floors
The vinegar and dish soap mix is also great for grimy floors. Wilson notes that while vinegar’s acidity can help break down dirt and bacteria without damaging most floor surfaces, it’s not recommended for use on hardwoods.
14. Remove stickers and other gummy items
Pesky labels won’t come off your jars? Sponge on the mixture, let it sit, and you can scrape off the residue easily. The vinegar softens the residue and the soap helps clean it off.
15. Dust blinds
Blinds can be a dust magnet, and sometimes a simple duster just won’t do the trick, says Mitchell. “Using a cloth dampened in a mild vinegar and water solution can help easily trap and remove stubborn dust from your blinds.” And if it’s more than dust, that vinegar and dish soap combo can be your secret grime-fighting weapon, says Kendrick. “Just be sure the solution is adequately diluted so as to not damage wood blinds.”
16. Unclog sprinkler heads
Fill a bucket with the solution and pour it through outdoor sprinkler systems. The vinegar will help clear mineral deposits and the soap will clean out the debris.
17. Restore patio furniture
Use the mixture on a damp sponge to clean outdoor furniture and remove grime and mildew. The vinegar cuts through the mineral deposits and helps battle mold and mildew, while the dish soap will make it easy to wipe off the dirt. (Click through for more on how to clean outdoor cushions.)
18. Clean grill grates
Use a sponge with vinegar and dish soap mix to dissolve stuck-on grease and food. The vinegar breaks down the food chunks and the soap cleans away the mess.
19. Sanitize outdoor toys
Grandkids coning to visit? The solution is mild enough to use on riding toys, but effective enough for swings and slides that have been outside in the elements. The vinegar counteracts any mold or mildew and the soap disinfects and cleans.
20. Wash a garage floor
Concrete floors will look as good as new with this solution that can help remove oil stains and tire marks. Pour it on and let it sit. The vinegar will break down the chemical bonds in the oil and the dish soap will cut through the grease and make it easier to wipe away.
For more surprising cleaning hacks, click through the links below!