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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Facts and Fiction About Cleaning with Vinegar

Many people have turned to vinegar as an alternative to chemicals for household cleaning. Vinegar is natural and inexpensive, but is it as effective as the hype would have you believe? Let’s review what vinegar is good for — and what it’s not.

Versatile vinegar

Vinegar has a sharp smell and sour taste because it contains the natural compound acetic acid. This agent makes vinegar good at some cleaning applications and also at killing bacteria. Vinegar does not kill viruses such as COVID-19, however.

Good cleaning uses for vinegar

White distilled vinegar is the best type to use for cleaning.

  • Vinegar is an excellent glass cleaner. Use vinegar mixed with water to make windows, mirrors and glass-top stoves shine.

  • Use vinegar on enameled metal surfaces such as appliances, sinks and bathtubs.

  • Vinegar mixed with baking soda makes an effective toilet bowl cleaner.

  • Vinegar is an effective cleaner on plastic surfaces.

  • You can remove built-up mineral deposits from your coffee maker by running vinegar and water through it.

  • Vinegar and water can also remove mineral deposits from faucets and showerheads.

  • Vinegar is effective at cleaning built-up food from microwaves.

Don’t use vinegar for these jobs

There are instances where vinegar’s effectiveness has been overstated. In certain situations, it can even be harmful.

  • Vinegar is not a great degreaser. A natural alkaline cleaner, such as a mixture of baking soda, dish soap and water, is more effective on grease.

  • Vinegar can damage stone countertops or floors. These surfaces come from the manufacturer with a clear sealer. Acid can damage the sealer in a process called etching, which removes the surface’s sheen and makes the stone look dull. You must have the stone buffed and resealed to restore the sheen.

  • Vinegar’s acid can damage and dull the surface of wood floors.

  • Vinegar is often touted as a fabric softener and stain remover in the laundry. It may be effective on recent stains that aren’t set in, but it can cause the washer’s rubber seals and hoses to deteriorate. Repeated use of vinegar in the laundry can result in leaks, so use it sparingly.

  • Vinegar can descale your dishwasher, but its acid is hard on the rubber seal of the dishwasher door.

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