This is yet another list for using vinegar… HOWEVER… these are the ones that I’ve tried and actually work and there are some that I avoid. If you were to compile all of the lists together, you could use vinegar for almost every household chore: laundry, leather furniture, carpet cleaner, sticky residues, any/all stains. But just because vinegar can do all of these things doesn’t mean it’s great at everything. It does have a strong odor and I wouldn’t recommend it for everything.
Before you get started, make the vinegar you have easily accessible. If you plan on using it as a cleaning product, put it in a spray bottle… and be sure to label it! Other members of your household might be unpleasantly surprised if they think it’s water or some other substance. I use a juice carafe for the vinegar I use in my laundry. It’s much easier to handle than the giant 2-gallon jug I get at Costco.
This list is divided into a couple of sections: The first consists of uses that call for straight white vinegar with no dilution.
Windshield Wipers: Get a paper towel, or a rag your plan on throwing away immediately, and spray it with white vinegar. Wipe off the blades. Maybe it’s just L.A. but my wiper blades have stained anything that’s touched them.
Blood: blood is tough. There are a couple of things you can use to clean off blood, but the #1 tip is time. Regular cold tap water will clean blood pretty well if you use it immediately. I’ve had good and bad results with water, but vinegar works much better. Spray undiluted vinegar on the blood stain and leave it there for about an hour. If it’s a darker or delicate fabric, spray and leave on for 20 minutes, rinse and check to see if there’s any fading in the color. If not, and the blood stain is still there, repeat the previous steps and check again.
Berry and pomegranate stains: undiluted white vinegar will take these stains off of almost anything, including your hands. As always, time is of the essence so take care of it quickly.
Sticky Residue: If you have a sticker or price tag that’s left a residue, saturate a paper towel, tissue or cotton ball with undiluted vinegar and let it sit for 20 minutes. This works fine on most plastics, but be careful with metals, delicate woods and natural stone. A lot of people use vinegar to clean stainless steel so you’re probably safe there, but use a little less vinegar on wood and don’t use at all on natural stone. Again, vinegar is a great kitchen degreaser and bathroom cleaner but it’s not great on natural stone like marble and travertine.
Laundry Softener/Stain Remover/Laundry Booster: I’ve mentioned previously how I use vinegar as a fabric softener. This sort of counts as diluting vinegar in water but you simply pour vinegar into the rinse water so it requires no prior mixing. The two main things I love about using vinegar in my laundry is that it disinfects your laundry (so great for stinky workout clothes) and makes your towels very fluffy. Over time, traditional fabric softeners will make your towels less-absorbent. Since this is the primary function of a towel, it seems like something you’d want to avoid, no?
Refrigerator cleaner/deodorizer: Next time you need to clean your fridge, spray a little bit of white vinegar on a damp cloth and wipe down the shelves and sides of your fridge. Don’t worry: you won’t have a stinky fridge. In fact, the vinegar will clean up the mess and take care of any lingering odors you might have. Baking soda is great for the air in your fridge, but vinegar helps deodorize the places where the scents have stuck.
Room deodorizer: A shallow dish (like a ramekin or a pie plate if it’s really bad) in a room will get rid of almost any strong odor, including smoke, garbage, cigarette smoke, paint fumes and body odors. And if you ever have a run-in with a skunk, soaking your clothes overnight with vinegar will supposedly cure your clothes of the stench. Luckily, I haven’t had to test this one but it’s probably the first thing I’d try.
Fill the dish about three quarters of the way with undiluted vinegar. The more surface area, the better. If it’s a larger room, place a couple of dishes out and keep the room well-ventilated if possible.
Weed Killer: This is a case where the traditional remedy can be less expensive than the home/eco-friendly remedy, but I’d much rather put vinegar into the ground (and eventually the ground water) than a strong pesticide or herbicide. Spray undiluted white vinegar in the cracks in the sidewalk where the weeds are growing. Focus on the roots. This will hold for 1-2 weeks. If it rains, you’ll have to repeat.
The following are vinegar cleaners that involve diluting or adding things to it, like water, essential oils etc.
For cleaning glass and plastic laminate surfaces: Two parts distilled water, one part vinegar and a few drops of dishwasher rinse aid (or dish soap if you don’t have any, but rinse aid works better). While Windex and other glass cleaners give you that streak-free shine, vinegar solutions take an extra minute or two to de-streak themselves. So if you’re wiping down a mirror and there’s streaks everywhere, be patient and it will eventually disappear.
Stuck on food on pots, pans and glass baking dishes: I’d start with 1/4 vinegar and enough water to cover the stain. In the case of pots and pans, go ahead and let the solution boil for a few minutes. Simply using water here will work on most stains, but vinegar is especially helpful on acidic foods like tomato sauces. For glass baking dishes, I put a little vinegar in them, plus some water, and set the oven to about 200 degrees. Be careful not to fill it too much as a baking dish filled with water is tricky to handle and you don’t want to scald yourself. If you don’t trust using the oven for this, simply use the vinegar and add boiling water and soak.
So while vinegar is great for the aforementioned uses, these are some that I avoid:
Dishwasher Rinse-Aid: I’ve heard of people using vinegar for rinse aid in their dishwashers. There’s a couple of reasons I don’t do this. First, vinegar doesn’t do well sitting inside something metal for a long period of time. A quick Google search will uncover people who have weird rust stains coming out of their rinse aid dispenser when using 100% undiluted white vinegar instead of traditional rinse aid. While chances are that your rinse aid dispenser is made of plastic, there are still metal parts inside and they can rust over time. In general, vinegar is good as an additive to another substance like water or soap, but it can be abrasive on its own. There are a few natural rinse-aids available if you want to stay green.
Fruit fly traps: I’m not a fan of traps in general. I’d much rather repel the pest from the get-go than have something that brings more pests inside. The vinegar trap is usually a jar with some plastic wrap covering the top and a few small holes poked in the top. You then place a piece of fruit inside and the bugs get trapped inside. I’ve used the trap a few times and it works much better with a piece of rotten fruit than it does with vinegar.
Orange and citrus peels soaked in vinegar: I’ve done this a couple of times and while the results are good, I can’t seem to eat enough citrus to justify the time and hassle of making this kitchen cleaner. In order to make it worth my while, I need to make a ton of it. And in order to do that, I have to eat enough oranges for a family of four. Since there’s just the two of us, I’m holding off on this one for a while. It works just as well as making a 1:1 vinegar and water solution and adding a few drops of orange essential oil.
What are your favorite uses for vinegar that you’ve tried and use regularly?