Vinegar is a natural bi-product of vegetables, fruits, and grains. It’s both edible and biodegradable. Vinegar has a basically unlimited shelf life. In addition, literally any alcoholic beverage left exposed to the air will eventually become vinegar. It’s cheap to make, cheap to clean with, and cheap to cook with. Vinegar can also be diluted easily with water, added to a multitude of food, and can clean even the messiest greasy mess. It’s an all around versatile liquid.
How its Made
Vinegar is acid based. The acids in the vinegar come from a fermentation process where grains, fruits, and vegetables are broken down with a biological process that turns carbohydrates into acetic acid. Two processes are at work to make vinegar. The first process, called alcoholic fermentation, occurs when sugars are broken down by yeast. After the fermentation process, another specific process must occur to make vinegar. Acetobacter, a type of mild bacteria, are added to the mix to convert the alcohol to acetic acid.
Fermentation is a carefully controlled process. The resulting acetic acid isn’t the vinegar you’ll see in the bottle at the grocery store yet. The many varieties of vinegar all have vitamins added as well as minerals to give each a particular flavor. The acetic acid is simply the starting point for vinegar.
Grease and Bacteria
Molds, grease, and bacteria are no match for the cleaning power of vinegar. But why is this? Since we now know that vinegar is acid based, it’s easier to understand how it can clean so effectively. When an acid is applied to grease, it breaks it down quickly.
The typical vinegar that can be purchased at the grocery is a 5 percent solution. And yet, it’s very effective at cleaning just about everything in your home. Grease, germs, and bacteria in the kitchen are no match for the cleaning power of vinegar. Fingerprints on the windows are gone in second. Vinegar is a great, streak free window cleaner. It’s excellent for cleaning the sink garbage disposal and for disinfecting the refrigerator. Want a great shine on a no wax floor? Use vinegar. It’s excellent at removing wax build up. It can also be used as a deterrent to insects. Vinegar is such a powerful cleaner than for the most part, it should be cut 50-50 with water to dilute the solution.
Vinegar is also environmentally friendly. It’s biodegradable and won’t harm the environment in any way. It’s even effective and safe enough to use to kill grass or weeds in place of spray weed killer. One study showed vinegar kills 99 percent of surface bacteria, 80 percent of germs, and 82 percent of molds on a counter. That’s with a 5 percent solution just like you could purchase at the grocery store. Since vinegar is natural, it won’t harm your plumbing at all.
Since vinegar is an acid, it’s great for breaking up water mineral deposits. Vinegar can be used to dissolve buildups like lime deposits on drains, in sinks, and on shower heads.
Vinegar is also relatively cheap. A big bottle of plain white vinegar will cost 2 to 3 dollars less than one single bottle of household cleaner that can only clean one part of the house. Cutting the vinegar with water makes it last even longer.
If you have tried to clean your windows with plain vinegar and gotten streaks, there is a simple reason and an easy remedy.
Oddly enough, it was the task of cleaning windows that turned a huge number of well-intentioned, environmentally friendly consumers away from non-toxic cleaning using the simple ingredients that can be found in most kitchen cupboards. Around Earth Day 1990, every newspaper in the country (or so it seemed), offered tips for cleaning in ways that didn’t harm the planet, and the recommendation for windows was almost always to clean them with nothing but vinegar and water. People by the thousands tried this, and many swore off cleaning with homemade products for good because the formula left streaks on their windows.
The problem was that the commercial window cleaner used before the switch to vinegar left a very fine wax residue. The vinegar alone wasn’t enough to remove it, and the result was streaky windows. If instead, everyone had added a dab of liquid dish soap to the vinegar and water, the wax would easily have been removed and the windows would have been cleaned perfectly! Recipe is to combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle. That’s all there is to it. (Make sure to label the bottle and keep it out of the reach of children.)
All Around the House (31 tips)
1. To remove stickers that have been used to “decorate” furniture and other surfaces, moisten with vinegar. Let sit for at least ten minutes, then remove.
2. For persistent room odors, place a bowl of vinegar in the room overnight.
3. For spills on carpet, use a sponge or cloth to soak up as much liquid as possible. Then spray with a mixture of half vinegar, half water. Let stand for about two minutes, then blot with towel or sponge. Repeat as needed.
4. For more persistent stains, use a mixture of 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap, and 1 cup warm water. Proceed as suggested above. When finished cleaning, dry using a hairdryer set on low.
5. To clean silver, pewter, copper, or brass, dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in one cup vinegar. Add flour to create a paste (1/4 cup or more). Apply the paste to the metal item, and let stand for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth.
6. No-wax floors can be cleaned with a solution of 1 cup vinegar per gallon of water for a shinier surface.
7. To clean wood paneling, use a mixture of 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 2 cups warm water. Apply to paneling with a soft cloth. Dry with a clean cloth.
In the Bathroom
8. To remove corrosion or chemical build-up from shower-heads, soak in vinegar overnight.
9. Remove stains from the toilet bowl by spraying with vinegar and water.
10. To remove soap build-up from faucets, clean with a mixture of 1 part salt to four parts vinegar.
11. Spray shower walls and shower curtain with vinegar to help prevent mildew.
In the Kitchen
12. To keep ants away, spray vinegar along doorways, windowsills, counter-tops – anywhere that ants are likely to appear. If you find an ant trail (path that ants use repeatedly), clean it with vinegar.
13. To remove odors from the sink or garbage disposal, pour in a cup or more vinegar. Do not rinse out again for at least an hour.
14. For a clogged drain, first pour in 1/2 cup baking soda. Then add an equal amount of vinegar. When the mixture finishes bubbling, rinse with warm water. (Note: some garbage disposals do not react well to this cleaning method; check with the manufacturer first.)
15. Wipe your hands with vinegar after chopping. It will remove strong scents like onion and garlic, as well as stains from fruit juices.
16. To clean wooden cutting boards, wipe with vinegar.
17. Remove strong odors. Rinse jars with a half and half mixture of vinegar and water to remove garlic or other strong odors. Boil water with several spoons of vinegar to remove the smell of burnt food from your kitchen.
18. Vinegar is an excellent cleaner for all kitchen surfaces – counters, refrigerators, stove-tops.
19. To clean your microwave oven, put a microwave-safe bowl of 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup water in the oven, and cook long enough to boil. In addition to removing any lingering odors, this will loosen any baked-on food from the microwave’s walls.
20. To remove coffee or tea stains from china, clean with a mixture of vinegar and salt.
In the Laundry
21. To keep colors from running in the wash, soak in vinegar before washing.
22. To decrease lint on clothing, add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle.
23. Many persistent stains can be removed with vinegar: coffee, chocolate, ketchup, jam, cola, wine. Gently rub stain with vinegar, then wash.
24. To make your “brights brighter”, add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle.
25. For fresher cloth diapers, add one cup distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle. This will break down uric acid and remove both lingering stains and scents.
26. To remove scorch marks from an iron, rub with a mixture of vinegar and salt.
27. To remove soap residue from the washing machine, run an empty (no laundry) cycle with one cup vinegar added.
28. To remove the smell of smoke from clothing, add a cup of vinegar to a tub of hot water. Let clothing hang in the same room for several hours.
29. To keep cats off windowsills or other surfaces, spray with vinegar. This will also keep them from scratching upholstery (spray an unnoticeable area of the fabric first to make sure the vinegar doesn’t cause a stain).
30. To keep dogs from scratching their ears, clean with a soft cloth dipped in diluted vinegar.
31. If your dog should have a run-in with a skunk, vinegar will take care of the smell better than even tomato juice. Using vinegar diluted 50% with water, rub the dog’s fur. Rinse with warm water. Repeat as needed.