vinegar for household cleaning

The versatility of white vinegar in the home

If you’re looking for greener ways to clean your home, you cannot afford to overlook the versatility of white vinegar. The acetic acid content of white vinegar makes it anti-bacterial, so it’s an important part of a green cleaning routine. It will disinfect and deodorize just about anything.

Realizing the potential of white vinegar was one of the first discoveries I made when starting my journey toward green and natural living.  I have realized that it does have its limitations as a general cleaner (my home smelled like a fish and chip shop for a while and I missed the easy cleaning power of a soap-based product).  I have since found some  homemade cleaning products that work for me. However, this does not take away from the versatility of white vinegar as part of my cleaning routine.

white vinegar

Stains and Odour Removal

  • Pre-wash: Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 dilution of white vinegar and water for removing stains prior to washing. It helps with mustard and tomato sauce stains and even deodorant-stained shirts.
  • Old stains: Treat these with a solution of 3 tbsp of white vinegar, 2 tbps of green dishwashing liquid and 1 litre of warm water. Sponge the stain repeatedly and then wash.
  • Bloodstains: Pour undiluted white vinegar onto fresh bloodstains and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes before washing.
  • Ink stains: Vinegar cuts through oil and the main carrier of roller ball and ball point inks is castor oil. Blot the stain with undiluted white vinegar and then rub in a paste of two parts vinegar and three parts cornflour. Brush off excess paste once it has dried and then wash.
  • Bright whites: Clothes that have yellowed can be brightened up again by soaking overnight in a solution of 12 parts of warm water to one part of white vinegar.  Acetic acid won’t harm fabrics, but if the fabric is delicate, like lace, use a more diluted solution of 24 parts of water to one part of white vinegar.
  • Smoke smell: To remove the smell of smoke from clothing, add a cup of vinegar to a tub of hot water and soak them. Remove the lingering smoky smell when you’ve inadvertently burnt food by placing a shallow bowl about three-quarters full of white vinegar in the kitchen.
  • Onion odour: After chopping an onion, get rid of the odor from your hands by rubbing them with a bit of white vinegar.

Fabric softener, bleach and neutralizer

  • Fabric softener: The acidic nature of white vinegar cuts through grease and neutralizes the alkalis that form the base of many detergents, making it an effective fabric softener. Revive and make wool and cotton blankets soft by adding a cup of white vinegar to the wash’s final rinse cycle. It also helps to keep clothes lint and static-free.
  • Bleach: White vinegar is just as effective as chlorine bleach and has no harmful fumes.
  • Neutralizer: White vinegar breaks down uric acid so it’s great for rinsing underwear and baby clothes. If a child has an “accident” on a mattress, clean it with a solution of vinegar and water.

white vinegarCleaner and Descaler

  • Kettles and coffee makers: Limescale and mineral deposits that have built up can be removed with vinegar.  Bring 3 cups of full-strength white vinegar to a full boil for five minutes and leave in overnight. Rinse out with cold water the next day.
  • Cups: Remove stains from coffee and teacups by scrubbing them gently with equal parts of salt and white vinegar. Rinse clean.
  • Cast iron pans: Remove rust by soaking it in a 50-50 white vinegar and water solution.  Don’t let it sit too long or the acid in the vinegar will damage the pan.
  • Counter tops: Wipe down with a cloth dampened in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. It removes grease and disinfects.
  • Washing machines and dishwashers: Pour in about 1 cup of white vinegar and run the empty machine on full cycle. The vinegar cleans out residual soap scum, removes mineral deposits and keeps machines smelling fresh.
  • Irons: To remove scorch marks from an iron, rub with a mixture of vinegar and salt.
  • Microwave ovens: Put a microwave-safe bowl of 120ml vinegar and 1 cup water in the oven, and cook long enough to boil. This loosens baked-on food and removes odours.
  • Sticky label residue: Vinegar helps to dissolve many common adhesives. It will help get sticky label residue off products.
  • Windows: Vinegar removes grease and grime from windows. Wash them with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar. Polish dry with newspaper for a streak-free finish.
  • Window blinds: Put on a white cotton glove and moisten the fingers in a solution made of equal parts white vinegar and hot tap water. Slide your fingers across both sides of each slat. Use a container of clean water to wash off the glove.
  • Silver, pewter, copper, or brass items: Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in one cup vinegar. Add flour to create a paste (1/4 cup or more). Apply the paste to the  item, and let stand for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth.
  • Wooden furniture: If you have water condensation marks on wooden furniture, rub with equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil to remove them. Make sure you rub with the grain. Do not use with waxed wood. It can ruin the finish and leave a cloudy mark.
  • Rugs: If your rugs or carpets are looking dingy, brush them with a clean broom dipped in a solution of a cup of white vinegar and  3 and a half liters of water.
  • Carpets: Mix together 1 tsp. vinegar, 1 tsp liquid dishwashing soap and a cup of warm water. Pour mixture into spray bottle and spray mixture on stain. Allow it to soak into the carpet for a few minutes and then blot the wet area using a sponge.
  • Sinks and bathtubs: Scrub porcelain sinks and bathtubs with full-strength white vinegar, followed by a rinse of clean cold water.
  • Lavatory bowls: Disinfect and clean the toilet bowl by using 500ml of neat white vinegar. Pour it around the sides of the bowl last thing at night on a weekly basis.
  • Toothbrush holder: Get the grime, bacteria, and caked-on toothpaste drippings out of the grooves of your bathroom toothbrush holder by cleaning the openings with cotton swabs moistened with white vinegar.
  • Chrome and stainless steel fittings: Apply a light misting of undiluted white vinegar with a spray bottle and then buff  with a soft cloth.

CAUTION: Do not use vinegar to clean your smartphone and laptop monitors. Both have a thin layer of coating that limits smudging. Acidic vinegar can strip off this coating.


  • Cutting boards: Spray cutting boards with undiluted vinegar to remove surface residue before and after food preparation. It is effective against E.Coli, Staphyloccus and Salmonella when used neat.
  • Fridge: Use equal parts of white vinegar and water to clean your fridge, inside and out.
  • Cloudy glasses: Soak them for 10-15 minutes in a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and warm water.
  • Plastic food containers and vacuum flasks: Wash them in a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and water to get rid of stains and odours. For persistent odours, soak a slice of bread in vinegar and leave in the container overnight with the lid off.
  • Doorknobs and handles: Use a 50-50 vinegar-water mix to wipe down telephones, doorknobs, and other handles. This will help when cold/flu season hits.
  • Laundry: Adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of a wash, especially if it contains sports clothes, socks, and towels, will help to kill off bacteria.

Mould and Mildew

  • Grout: Scrub the grout between tiles with an old nailbrush or toothbrush dipped in white vinegar.
  • Shower curtains: Wash and then rinse with 120ml white vinegar in the rinse water.
  • Fridge: Use white vinegar undiluted to deal with any mildew or mould in corners.

Last word

Vinegar disinfects and deodorizes everything from shower curtains to cutting boards. Besides being effective, it is also cheap, non-toxic and widely available.  It’s definitely worthwhile using it as part of a green cleaning routine.

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