The uses for vinegar run the gamut. And it’s inexpensive, antibacterial, and effective at a whole host of household chores.
Cheap and climate-friendly, you may not be reaping the full benefits of vinegar if you just use it in your salad dressing. This household ingredient boasts versatility as a natural disinfectant, personal care, and home cleaning product.
Credit the acetic acid—a colourless organic compound—that gives vinegar the power to dissolve mineral deposits, dirt, grease, and grime, plus kill 80% of bacteria it comes in contact with.
From red, white, balsamic, to the mighty apple cider vinegar–they have properties that work differently. Apple cider vinegar (ACV), made from fermenting apple juice, is best for hair care with its slightly sweet scent. White wine vinegar won’t stain surfaces or clothing when used for cleaning because, unlike red wine vinegar and balsamic, it has no colouring agent.
Nontoxic, natural, and environmentally friendly, here are 17 surprising and effective ways to use vinegar.
1. Multi-Purpose Cleaning Spray
Ditch your chemical cleaners and make your own climate-friendly version by mixing equal amounts of white vinegar and water in an empty spray bottle. This can be used as a multi-purpose disinfectant for everything from counters, door handles, and remote controls to floors, faucets, and tables. The Environmental Protection Agency states that a product must kill 99.9% of bacteria, viruses and fungi to be registered as a “disinfectant.” Whilst not as effective as the common household chemical brands, according to the science-based sustainability non-profit, the David Suzuki Foundation, household vinegar kills 80% of bacteria, as the acid is able to cross the cell wall. Plus, it isn’t releasing toxic chemicals into the air and water system. Add a couple of drops of essential oil to make a pleasant scent. For example, lemon cuts through grease and the fresh citrus smell is great for masking odours.
2. Soap Scum Remover
Mix white vinegar with a dab of baking soda on a sponge and you are ready to tackle that horrible tidemark on your bathtub. Plus, you make the dried-on water droplets on your shower door disappear. The combination of the acid vinegar and alkaline soda creates a natural chemical reaction that is excellent at softening hard to remove stains and scum.
3. Clarifying Hair Treatment
A 2014 study on shampoo pH found that high alkalinity in a hair washing product can exacerbate hair dryness and breaking. This is where vinegar comes in. Its highly acidic nature can redress the pH balance, supporting smoother, stronger and shinier hair. Product build-up can also leave hair feeling greasy and heavy. ACV, in particular, is an excellent clarifying hair treatment when combined with one part ACV to two parts water. ACV’s antimicrobial powers are also well-supported by recent research. Itchy scalp problems are often caused by fungus or bacteria that can be removed by an ACV rinse.
4. Sticker Remover
Depending on the type and strength of the particular adhesive, you can usually use vinegar to safely remove that annoying adhesive residue from plastic, wood, or glass. Mix up a nontoxic solution of warm water, vinegar, and eco-friendly washing up liquid, then soak a cloth in the warm vinegar solution and rub it over the adhesive. Let it sit for five minutes. Then remove the paper towel and scrape away the residue.
5. Candle Wax Remover
Another genius vinegar life hack, vinegar can dissolve the oil-based stains caused by candle wax spills. Remember to soften the wax first with a hairdryer and then scrape away the residue with a part water part vinegar solution.
6. Cut Flower Preservative
Don’t use the nasty sachet of chemicals that come with your carnations to keep them in bloom for longer. Instead combine a biocide (vinegar!) with a food source (a teaspoon of sugar) to extend the life of your cut flowers.
7. Pet Care
Why would we expose our pets to harsh, environmentally unfriendly products that we wouldn’t dream of using on ourselves? Mix ACV with water—1 part to 4—and apply to your cat or dog’s coat as a natural flea repellant. You can also use the solution to wipe the inside of your pet’s ears to prevent scaliness and itchiness.
8. Weed Killer
In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate–the key ingredient in household chemical weed killers—as “probably carcinogenic to humans” due to research linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers. Whilst the debate continues to rage about the pros and cons of this chemical, why not get rid of unwanted visitors to your garden with vinegar? Simply paint over the leaves and stems of weeds being careful to avoid the plants you want to protect.
9. Carpet Stain Remover
Another climate-friendly solution, this time to remove unpleasant smells and stains from carpets and rugs. Soak the mark with vinegar, and a few drops of essential oil, then sprinkle with baking soda. Let it fizz, then vacuum. Hey presto! No stain, no smell!
10. Garbage Disposal Deodoriser
It’s not surprising that your garbage disposal unit isn’t the sweetest smelling appliance in your house. However, there’s no need to buy a specific household product to clean it up. Get rid of bad smells by grinding up vinegar ice cubes and then running cold water down the disposal. Again, a much kinder alternative to bleach or chemical clothing stain removers, distilled white vinegar can remove fabric odour and stains just as well by adding one cupful to your wash. Super important —only use colourless vinegar else you may well end up adding stains not removing them! Bizarrely, adding a splash of vinegar can also fluff up your wool sweaters.
11. Ceramic Tile Cleaner
Bathroom and kitchen tiles and grout are prone to stains, discolouration, and mould. When faced with black spots, it’s easy to just reach for the bleach. However, bleach reacts with other chemicals to form dioxins, which have serious impacts on human health. Plus, once it gets into air and water sources, bleach lasts for many years and puts wildlife at risk. Instead, try spraying full-strength vinegar onto the problem areas and wait for an hour. Then scrub off the residue with a brush to reveal tip-top tiles.
12. Dry Skin Soother
Whilst there is very little scientific data to prove ACV’s health benefits, healthy skin is protected by an acidic barrier. Scientists theorise that people with dry skin conditions such as eczema have elevated skin pH levels. Anything under a pH of 7.0 is acidic, and anything above 7.0 is alkaline. Healthy skin has a natural pH level under 5.0. Anecdotally, soaking in a warm bath with 1 cupful of ACV mixed can help reduce skin dryness. Plus, there is the bonus of a tidemark-free tub.
13. Coffee-maker and Kettle Cleaner
Limescale builds up on coffee makers and kettles are the scourge of the hot beverage drinker, particularly if you live in a hard water area. However, simply boiling a mixture of water and vinegar in your kettle or running it through your coffee maker, then thoroughly rinsing, will leave your apparatus shiny as a new pin, and your cup clear of limescale flakes.
14. Shower Head and Tap Cleaner
Combine 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt for a quick, easy and natural way to remove calcium deposits on faucets and fixtures. This solution can also remove hard water stains from shower heads. Spray with the solution, bag up and leave overnight, then scrub and rinse the next day.
15. Streak-Free Glass Polisher
Genuinely better than any shop bought glass polishing product, a vinegar water mix spray offers the best streak-free finish for your windows, shower doors, and device screens. And so much cheaper too.
16. Toilet Cleaner
Brilliant for limescale build up and unsightly brown stainage, leave 2 to 3 cups of undiluted vinegar in the toilet bowl for up to 3 hours, then scrub and flush for a ring-free and pleasant smelling porcelain throne.
17. Dishwasher Cleaner
Firstly, vinegar is a more climate-friendly and cheap alternative to chemical rinsing agents. Secondly, it cleans the dishwasher itself by breaking up soap scum and limescale. So, for sparkling dishes and a machine that works effectively, run an empty dishwasher on a cup of vinegar once every 6 months.