Vinegar – The Multi-purpose Natural Domestic Cleaner

updated: 29/03/2023

Using Vinegar for Cleaning

Include Vinegar In Your Regular House Cleaning Routine

Back in the day who knew about Mr Muscle or Flash? People used natural products to clean their homes, as they were inexpensive, efficient and multi-purposeful. In my opinion, many of these products clean much better than the new products covering grocery stores shelves.

Besides, natural cleaning products offer environmentally sound, cost-efficient alternatives to the toxic and potentially hazardous detergents used in many homes today. Use of these natural options is especially critical as most traditional house cleaning products eventually contact the air, water, and soil, where they can cause significant and permanent harm to animals, plants, drinking water, and food supplies.

Vinegar naturally acts as an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new spray bottle, and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Besides, Essential oils are the most natural ingredient for adding into vinegar to make your own household cleaners. All you need to do is add about 10 to 20 drops of the oil of your choice to about 1 pint of vinegar and shake them together vigorously in a spray bottle and leaving them to sit for an hour or so before use. The result will be an excellent multi-purpose cleaning spray that not only will be great for window cleaning and wet wiping flat surfaces but can also double as an air freshener in the toilet.

It is safe to use on most surfaces and best of all it is incredibly cheap.

Ten Best Ways to Clean Your Home Using Vinegar

  1. Use it diluted in warm water to clean windows. Rub it on with a clean cloth or spray it on, then dry and polish off with crumpled newspapers – no streaks!

  2. Clean the inside of a refrigerator or microwave. As it’s non-toxic and doesn’t give off unpleasant fumes, it’s safe to use around food items. It also kills any mould spores that have managed to establish themselves in the fridge.

  3. Use it as a fabric softener. Add it to the final rinse of the washing cycle or during handwashing. If you add essential oil or make an infused vinegar, this puts a sweet, delicate scent into the wash. To make an infused vinegar, pack a jar full of a scented herb (e.g. lavender or rosemary) or spice and leave it to stand for a week or so. Then strain and bottle. The process can be sped up by using hot or boiling vinegar and steeping the herb or spice in it like tea, but this can blunt delicate scents. You can also use an infused vinegar for cooking.

  4. My husband’s grandmother used to use vinegar for unblocking drains clogged with soap scum and hair. To do this, pour it down the blocked drain and add baking soda. You may need a generous amount of both items. The resulting reaction between them shifts large “clots”, and the acid also reacts with the alkaline soap, removing it. If any moulds have grown in the blocked bit (you can tell by the smell if this is the case), then the vinegar will kill this as well. Cover the plug hole while the reaction is going on, then pour boiling water down the drain to finish the process off.

  5. Vinegar kills mildew. If you have to clean surface mildew off an item, wipe it with neat vinegar and let it soak in, this will kill any remaining mildew spores.

  6. Use dilute infused vinegar (see idea 4 for how to produce it) as a cosmetic toner. It’s excellent for removing the last traces of soap cleaner from the skin and restores the pH balance of the skin. Applied purposefully, vinegar acts as a chemical exfoliant – cider vinegar, in particular, is highly effective.

  7. This writer has never tried this, not having dreadlocks, but cider vinegar can be used diluted to deep-clean dreadlocks.

  8. Vinegar can be mixed with salt and rubbed on copper or stainless steel to remove oxidation stains.

  9. Dilute vinegar makes an excellent pH-balancing rinse for hair after shampooing. Infused vinegar can be used to scent the hair.

  10. Vinegar is an odour-eater that can get pungent smells out of porous surfaces. Try it on marble or wooden chopping boards.

And Some More Peculiar Tips For Vinegar Domestic Cleaning Application

So you’ve already tried using vinegar to clean the mirror. But don’t just stop there. You can also use vinegar to improve the looks of what looks out of the mirror back at you. Vinegar is also a handy cosmetic, as well as being a cleaner and a culinary ingredient. In fact, some of the acids found in vinegar are used, in a more concentrated form, in some chemical peels and fancy face creams.

  • The best-known cosmetic use for vinegar is as a hair care product. After washing (which, if you’re doing things the natural way, should involve soap rather than shampoo), pour a vinegar rinse through your hair. A vinegar rinse is simply a splash of vinegar (up to about a cup) in about a litre or so of water. Pour this through your hair as a final rinse. Vinegar that has been scented with herbs or with essential oils puts a subtle scent through your hair. This method also works for animal hair as well as humans, so you can try it on your dog, or even (so I am told) on a horse. Add peppermint oil to a vinegar rinse for dogs as a flea deterrent.
  • While on the topic of hair, the best way to clean a scungy hairbrush is to soak it in a bowl of vinegar and hot water for a few hours or overnight. Before you soak it, use a comb (or some other handy implement – I’ve used a compass (of the circle drawing kind)) to get rid of the larger clumps of hair and fluff.
  • Say goodbye to expensive facial toners and just use dilute vinegar instead. Cider vinegar is your best choice, but any sort will do.
  • White vinegar also makes a reasonable deodorant. Of course, it won’t act as an antiperspirant and you will still sweat. But do you really want to use a product that works by clogging up your sweat glands. The vinegar will help to kill the bacteria that live in wet, warm armpits eating sweat and causing a stink. Fresh sweat, incidentally, doesn’t smell bad, but contains a few sexy pheromones. It only starts to reek if it’s not washed off regularly.
  • Vinegar is widely used in cleaning, mainly as a mould killer around the home, and it can help to kill the fungi responsible for athletes’ foot. Dab neat vinegar onto your toes with cotton wool or a soft cloth to help treat it. Sunshine and fresh air will also help get rid of the conditions that cause athletes’ foot, so go barefoot a bit more often.
  • You’re not really supposed to use nail polish if you’re trying to cut down on environmental toxins, but a number of us have this little weakness. If you do, wiping the nails down with vinegar before applying the polish. This is supposed to make the polish last longer. Presumably it works for toenails as well as for fingernails.
  • Vinegar also makes an excellent addition to a steam bath for the face or to a hot tub. The acid helps to loosen and soften the outer layer of dead skin cells so you can wash them off more easily.
  • To deter flies from the kitchen, boil vinegar on top of the stove with the lid off. Malt vinegar works best, but if members of your household can’t stand the smell, it will deter them from your kitchen as well as the flies.

  • Old stickers and decals attached to walls, doors, bed headboards and car bumpers can be removed when faded or unwanted by holding a cloth soaked in neat vinegar over them until the sticker goes a bit soggy. Alternatively, spray the label thoroughly with, and it will loosen the glue and allow you to peel off the sticker. Use a soft cloth or three to rub off the rest of the residue, then sponge the vinegar off.

  • If you need to clean the stickiness off scissors (after cutting lots of sticky tape, for example), sponge the blades with vinegar and rub them well with a soft cloth. Dry very well to prevent the scissors from rusting.

  • Urine in a mattress can be deodorised and have the germs removed by sponging the mattress with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. After this, either sprinkle some baking soda to neutralise everything, followed by vacuuming off the residue, or else put the mattress in the sunshine to dry out properly. To prevent having to do this too often if you have a family member with a bed wetting problem, remember to use a rubber sheet topped with a thick towel underneath the bottom sheet.

  • Cats hate vinegar, so splash it around where you don’t want them to go, such as children’s sandpits and your newly planted vegetable garden.

Vinegar For Bathroom Cleaning – Hit The Jackpot!

Vinegar is acidic – it will get rid of the limescale on taps. It may take a while to work, so you may have to leave it to work for a while (make use of a zip-lock bag fastened around as much of the tap as possible) or else get scrubbing.

It also shifts soap scum off taps, porcelain and glass (Who managed to get all that soap onto the mirror? And how?)

This great natural cleaner can also help to get rid of the dreaded bath ring. Spray the bath down with neat vinegar after use to help melt away the bath ring completely.

Wipe the loo seat with scented neat vinegar, both the top and the bottom. While you’re at it, wipe the rim down as well. It will kill quite a few germs. Don’t bother wiping it off – it will evaporate and release some of the scent. And, unlike commercial cleaning products, it won’t hurt the skin of whoever sits on the toilet next.

You can use the same combination as a sustainable toilet air freshener. If you want to make a scented vinegar that is suitable for cleaning the toilet, then choose one of the more disinfectant (antiseptic) essential oils such as tea tree oil, pine oil or lavender oil rather than a more floral one such as ylang-ylang.

To unblock the bath or sink, clear any hairs, etc. from the plug trap and carefully tip a cup of baking soda down the drain (use a funnel). Heat up another cup of vinegar and while it is still hot (preferably boiling), tip it down the drain after the baking soda. The resulting fizzy reaction will blast out the blockage.

Surfaces And Objects You Should Never Clean With Vinegar

Vinegar is a pungent, potent and acidic liquid that’s as good in your home cleaning cupboard as it is in your kitchen cupboard.

However, because it is a strong acid, you should not use it to clean certain things around your house, as the acid will attack the thing you’re trying to clean and ruin it.

It would be nice to come up with a general rule of thumb to tell exactly what substances are and aren’t vinegar friendly. There is one, but it really isn’t practical. As vinegar is an acid, it will react with anything alkaline. However, most things around your home are rather hard to give the litmus test to before cleaning.

You should never use vinegar to clean the following:

  • Pearls. Legend has it that Cleopatra won a “most lavish and expensive meal” competition by dissolving one of her priceless pearl earrings in a cup of vinegar and drinking it. If this legend is true, she must have been a woman of infinite patience – it would have taken quite a bit of stirring and waiting to dissolve a whole pearl (Presumably she was a woman of great patience, as another story records how she had herself rolled up in a carpet which was delivered to Julius Caesar as a gift. When he unrolled it, there she was…) Sultry Egyptian queens aside, vinegar does indeed react with the calcium deposit that makes up the pearl, so keep the vinegar well away from these jewels. The same applies to shell and coral based jewellery.

  • Marble. Marble is another calcium-based mineral that reacts with vinegar, so while you can clean most kitchen surfaces with no worries, do not clean marble floors, worktops or the like. Just use plain water instead. The same goes for sculptures made from limestone. Another story (from Egypt again) tells how the original Arab scientist who first explored the passages within the Great Pyramid of Giza got in through the limestone blocks: he and his team heated the limestone by lighting a fire, and then made them crack and react by pouring cold vinegar over the stones.

  • Anything containing lead. This is particularly true if you’re using a cloth. The acid will react with the metal and get into the fabric. And then you’ll spread the lead everywhere. However, a blend of vinegar and salt makes an excellent metal polish, especially for brass and copper.

  • Anything white, if you’re using malt vinegar, as the dark colour can stain whatever it is you’re trying to clean. To be on the safe side, use white vinegar.

  • Silk. While vinegar can be added to your washing machine as a rinse aid, you should not add it if you’re washing silk. Not that you should be washing silk in the machine, anyway. Wash it by hand in the sink instead. You CAN use vinegar as a final rinse for woollies – it acts as a first-class fabric softener and gets blankets, etc. all nice and fluffy.

  • As an eye rinse. Do not even think about it – the acid is too hazardous for your eyes!

Using Vinegar to Clean and Groom Your Car

OK, you may have got the hang of using vinegar around your home as a natural house cleaner for things like unblocking drains, washing windows and the like, but what about in your car? Have you tried cleaning with vinegar in there?

Some auto buffs are going to throw up their hands in horror at this point. Acid? Near the paintwork of their dearly beloved vehicle? Won’t that wreak havoc, rust and general deterioration? No, vinegar won’t. And when you stop to think about it, vinegar is a much weaker acid than car battery acid, and you don’t have too many worries about that being around your car, now, do you?

  • The obvious place to use vinegar for cleaning your car is for cleaning the windows, just as you would around your house. Use the same drill as you would for cleaning any other bit of glass, and don’t forget the mirrors while you’re at it. Spray the vinegar on, then buff dry with a nice soft lint-free cloth. Do this inside and out. The vinegar is strong enough to soak off fly spots and even the dead insects plastered to the dirtiest windscreen. Use a soft-bristled brush to help remove the really stubborn little bits.
  • Vinegar will also help get rid of that awful bumper sticker promoting that political party that you no longer support – or the stupid joke the previous car owner thought fit to decorate their wheels with. Soak a cloth in vinegar and hold this very firmly over the unwanted sticker. Alternatively, spray vinegar liberally onto the sticker until the paper is soaked. Then go away and leave it for an hour or two. Don’t let it dry out. Then peel the sticker off. You may need a cloth and/or strong fingernails to help any leftover residue on its way.
  • Chrome responds very well to being cleaned with vinegar. Use full strength vinegar and apply it to chrome – inside and out – with a soft cloth. Vinegar will not hurt the chrome trim, whether that chrome trim is inside or out. So dab a little onto a soft cloth and get polishing.
  • Vinegar is also very good for removing general gunge and old dead bees from wiper blades. Soak a cloth in vinegar and give the blades a good wipe down. It’s a good idea to use a soft brush (e.g. an old toothbrush) to remove any bits of bee so you don’t get stung – the poison keeps working even if the bee is dead. If you do get stung, don’t use the vinegar to treat the sting. Use a paste of baking soda instead.
  • I haven’t tried this one, but rumour has it that if you mix 3 parts of vinegar with one part of water and pour this over the windscreen of a car left outside on a clear winter’s night, you won’t have problems with a windscreen frosting up. No guarantees, but it might work.
  • Neat vinegar is great for removing fly spots (and other bits of insect) on windscreens and windscreen wipers. Dilute the vinegar to about 50% with water and you can use it to clean windows and clean mirrors. Simply spray on the vinegar/water mix and buff the glass thoroughly with a soft cloth (this is where your chamois leather will come into play). This gets glass gleaming and doesn’t leave any streaky residue – and you can use it for cleaning other windows and other glass as well.
  • Vinegar diluted to half strength is also very good for cleaning vinyl upholstery. As vinyl upholstery is a pig to sit on, especially on a hot day or with the heaters on (not a good mix with bare legs – haven’t we all got memories of this?), not many cars these days have vinyl upholstery (thank goodness). This tip will be best kept for older classics that have the old-style seat trims – or you can use vinegar to clean vinyl upholstered kitchen chairs. If you do have an old classic with a vinyl interior, or even a bit of vinyl upholstery amidst the cloth trim, then wipe it down with diluted vinegar (1 part water to 1 part vinegar). Leather upholstery can be cleaned with a mix of vinegar and linseed oil. Dab it on with one cloth then buff up with another.
  • Cleaning leather upholstery (much nicer and found in all the best cars) can be cleaned by mixing equal proportions of vinegar and vegetable oil (which includes linseed oil as well as more familiar ones). Rub this mixture into the leather with one soft cloth, then buff with another. This can be used for cleaning leather of all sorts, including shoes, leather sofas and leather jackets.
  • If somebody has been carsick, vinegar can help to absorb the smell. This is not done by cleaning up the vomit residue with vinegar (although this will help to kill any germs). Instead, place a bowl of vinegar on the floor (keep it in the bowl) and close the doors and windows very tightly. The vinegar will absorb the smell and/or replace the smell of vomit with the cleaner smell of vinegar. Alternatively, you can absorb the smell by sprinkling the site with baking soda and then vacuuming up the powder later.

Any of these cleaning methods can be enhanced by adding about 10 drops of essential oil to the vinegar and shaking well before use. This beats many of the artificial car scents you can buy and are better for you to breath in, too.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.