Cleaning vinegar can be used to clean your Keurig, microwave, and more.
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Cleaning vinegar is a natural ingredient that can be used to clean many items and surfaces around the house. While there are many types of vinegar used for cooking and salad dressings (red, white, champagne, balsamic, rice, apple cider, to name a few), cleaning vinegar is an entirely different product that's made specifically for household cleaning and should never be consumed. If you would like to move away from commercial cleaning products filled with chemicals, then consider this as an alternative. Here's everything you need to know about cleaning vinegar and how to use it all over the house—plus a few items you should never clean with vinegar.

What Is Cleaning Vinegar?

All kinds of vinegar contain acid that brings brightness to foods or helps in food preservation. Distilled white vinegar is often used for cleaning because it is colorless and contains about 5 percent acetic acid.

Cleaning vinegar and distilled white vinegar are made in the same way—by fermenting alcohols distilled from corn or grains. Microorganisms (bacteria) process the alcohol into acetic acid and water, or vinegar. Cleaning vinegar contains around 6 percent acid, which actually makes it 20 percent stronger than distilled white vinegar.

You can find cleaning vinegar in the cleaning products aisle at grocery stores. If using undiluted cleaning vinegar, wear gloves to protect your hands from irritation. Do not confuse cleaning vinegar with industrial vinegar. Industrial vinegar contains 20 percent acetic acid, releases strong fumes, and can permanently damage the surfaces of floors and kitchen counters.

While cleaning vinegar can be combined with some other cleaners, like dishwashing liquid, never mix cleaning vinegar and chemical cleaners. When combined, cleaning vinegar and chlorine bleach produce toxic fumes.

How to Make a Dawn and Vinegar Cleaner

Combining cleaning vinegar with the surfactants in dishwashing liquid creates an all-purpose cleaner that will cut through grime and grease. By varying the formula, you can use the solution for everything from cleaning the kitchen to washing windows to removing soap scum in the bathroom. Remember to wear gloves when cleaning with these solutions.

What You'll Need

  • Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • Cleaning vinegar
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Spray bottles
  • Labels

Instructions

To create an all-purpose cleaner for windows, counters, and kitchen fixtures: Combine 1/4 cup cleaning vinegar and 2 1/2 cups water in a spray bottle. Add 1/2 teaspoon dishwashing liquid. Shake well to mix and label the bottle. To use, lightly spray the soiled surfaces and wipe away grime with a lint-free cloth.

To create a soap scum remover for the bathroom: Mix equal parts cleaning vinegar, dishwashing liquid, and water in a spray bottle. Shake to mix well and label the bottle. To use, start at the top of the shower stall or glass doors and spray on the solution. Allow it to work for at least one minute, and then scrub with a soft-bristled nylon brush. Rinse with clean water and dry with a lint-free towel.

How to Use Cleaning Vinegar on Floors

Cleaning vinegar can also be used on floors, including most hardwood floors, luxury vinyl tile, and laminate wood floors. Fill a bucket with 1 gallon of warm water and 1/2 cup cleaning vinegar. Use a sponge or microfiber mop, wringing well to prevent over-wetting the floor. Rinse the mop head often. There's no need to rinse; the solution will not leave residue or streaks.

How to Use Cleaning Vinegar to Clear Clogged Pipes

Cleaning vinegar and baking soda are a powerful combination to quickly clean slow-running drains in the bathroom or kitchen. While they won't remove hair clogs, the combo is very effective on odors, soap scum, and grease that can coat pipes. This process works particularly well to remove garbage disposal odors.

Pour 4 cups hot water down the drain. Add 1 cup dry baking soda to the drain. Pour in 1 cup cleaning vinegar. There will be fizzing and bubbling, so cover the drain with a stopper to keep as much of the action in the pipes as possible. When the bubbling stops, flush the drain with more hot water. A monthly cleaning will help keep drains odor-free and running smoothly (including shower drains).

How to Clean a Keurig With Cleaning Vinegar

You'll have better-tasting coffee and tea if you clean your single-serve coffee makers, drip coffee makers, and tea kettles monthly with cleaning vinegar to remove limescale, bacteria, and oils that can become rancid. Use cleaning vinegar to descale your coffee maker every three to six months.

  1. Unplug the appliance. Make sure there are no coffee pods in the machine.
  2. Add cleaning vinegar to the water fill line. Set the appliance aside and let the vinegar work for at least four hours.
  3. After soaking, connect the power for the coffee maker and press the "on" button (be sure to have a coffee mug in place). Don't insert a K-cup. Allow the vinegar to process through the machine.
  4. If your Keurig has a reservoir, keep "making coffee" and discarding the contents in the mug as necessary until the reservoir is empty.
  5. Refill the appliance with fresh water and repeat the process until all of the water in the reservoir is emptied. This will ensure your next cup of coffee doesn't have a vinegar taste.

How to Clean a Microwave With Cleaning Vinegar

Cleaning vinegar works wonders to return your crusty, splattered microwave to a pristine state.

What You'll Need

  • Cleaning vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Sponge

Instructions:

  1. Fill a microwaveable bowl with 2 cups water and 1/4 cup cleaning vinegar. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat on high for one to two minutes or until the mixture boils and steams up the interior of the appliance.
  2. Leave the door closed for about 15 minutes so the steam can loosen the splatters on the inside of the microwave. While the steam is working, use your all-purpose cleaning vinegar and Dawn solution to clean the outside of the microwave. Spray the surfaces lightly and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.
  3. When the steam has dissipated, open the microwave door and carefully remove the bowl and the glass turntable. Use a sponge to wipe away the grime inside the microwave and the interior of the door. The turntable can be hand-washed with the all-purpose solution or placed in the dishwasher.
  4. To clean the gasket around the door and any greasy areas, dip the sponge in the water and cleaning vinegar solution as an extra boost of cleaning power. Dry the interior with a lint-free cloth and replace the glass turntable.

6 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar

Even though cleaning vinegar and distilled white vinegar are excellent cleaning supplies, their acidic properties could damage some surfaces.

  • Electronics: While vinegar works well to clean windows, it will damage the anti-glare coating on the screens of televisions, mobile phones, and computer monitors.
  • Natural Stone Countertops and Flooring: Even if your beautiful natural stone countertops and flooring are sealed, you should not use vinegar to clean granite, marble, or limestone. The acid level, especially in cleaning vinegar, is too strong for the material and can cause etching or damage to the sealant, especially if allowed to sit on the surface.
  • Cast Iron: Vinegar causes pitting and rusting on cast iron surfaces by removing the seasoning oils that protect the iron. Never letter vinegar sit for long periods of time on cast iron.
  • Stainless Steel Kitchen Knives and Appliances: Full-strength cleaning vinegar can cause pitting on stainless steel knife blades and appliance finishes, especially if allowed to sit.
  • Waxed and Unfinished Wood Surfaces: While diluted cleaning vinegar can be used to clean polyurethane-coated floors and cabinets, full-strength cleaning vinegar will cause discoloration on wood with a waxed finish or unfinished wood.
  • Rubber Gaskets and Hoses: Undiluted cleaning vinegar is too strong to use on rubber gaskets and hoses in some small appliances, dishwashers, and washing machines. The vinegar can cause some types of rubber to disintegrate. Check your appliance's manual before using vinegar to clean the interior or exterior, and dilute vinegar as instructed.

Can You Cook With Cleaning Vinegar?

You should absolutely never cook with or consume cleaning vinegar. Most cleaning vinegar has a warning label on the packaging. Unlike cooking vinegar, it may not be tested for impurities that can be dangerous to the human body. To avoid any confusion or accidents, store your cleaning vinegar with other cleaning supplies and not with the food products in your pantry. Make sure cleaning vinegar and cleaning vinegar solutions are always clearly labeled so your entire household knows what's in the container.