Cleaning vinegar is the affordable, non-toxic way to clean almost anything.

By Amanda Lauren
Updated: May 15, 2019
heinzvinegar.com

Cleaning vinegar is a natural way to clean so many things in your home. 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.

The difference between white vinegar and cleaning vinegar is the level of acidity. The majority of white vinegar has 5 percent acidity, whereas cleaning vinegar has 6 percent. One percent might not sound like much of a difference, but it actually makes the product 20 percent stronger. Though you can clean with white vinegar (or even apple cider vinegar in a pinch), it isn’t as effective as cleaning vinegar.

Neither of these vinegars should be confused with industrial vinegar, which has up to 20 percent acetic acid. Industrial vinegar is generally used outdoors to kill weeds by professionals and is dangerous for indoor cleaning.

Cleaning vinegar is an especially good product for homes where people are sensitive to chemicals because it is entirely natural. It is also very cost-effective compared to other cleaning products.

How to Make a Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Using Cleaning Vinegar

Toss those chemical all-purpose sprays and save money by making your own. Get an empty spray bottle ($8 for 3; amazon.com) and fill it with a ratio of two parts vinegar to one part water. Shake and use like you would any multi-purpose spray.

While cleaning vinegar is a very potent cleaning product, it doesn’t exactly have the most pleasant scent. Adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil can easily cut the odor. Lemon essential oil ($8.50; amazon.com) is ideal for cleaning because it is both antiviral and antibacterial. Wild orange ($14; amazon.com) has a wonderful scent and can really help to cut grease. Lavender ($17; amazon.com) is naturally antibacterial and has a calming scent. On the other hand, peppermint essential oil ($12; amazon.com) can promote wakefulness, which is important if you’re cleaning a lot at once.

How to Use Cleaning Vinegar for Really Dirty Jobs

Cleaning vinegar is a great way to remove grease, grime, dirt, and other debris on surfaces. “For counters and most other surfaces, a mix of vinegar, water, and dish soap can tackle even the dirtiest jobs,” says Jessica Samson, spokesperson for The Maids. Dish soap combined with vinegar also works to clean soap scum off bathtubs, showers, and sinks, as well as dirty toilets.

An easy way to create this solution is to mix one part vinegar to one part dish soap. Then add water to dilute, depending on how potent you want it to be. You can also try using cleaning vinegar alone on a sponge, paper towel, or rag, but be sure to wear gloves because it can be very irritating to skin and nails.

How to Use Cleaning Vinegar on Floors

Cleaning vinegar can also be used on floors, including hardwood floors and laminate wood floors. Fill a bucket with one gallon of water and one-half cup of cleaning vinegar to clean most floors.

How to Use Cleaning Vinegar to Clear Clogged Pipes

If your water feels as if it's draining more slowly than usual, you probably have a clog. Cleaning vinegar makes an excellent alternative to chemical drain cleaners.

Start by boiling a pot of water and pouring it down the drain. After that, combine equal parts water, baking soda, and cleaning vinegar (ideally one cup of each) and pour it down the drain. Cover the drain with a plug and let it sit for five to ten minutes. Finally, flush it all down with another pot of boiling water.

How to Use Cleaning Vinegar on Clothes

There are many uses for vinegar in the laundry room. Cleaning vinegar can be used to deodorize mildew-ridden towels, stinky gym clothes, and pet accidents. It’s also a natural fabric softener and can remove pet hair and lint, so you don’t have to use dryer sheets. 

All you need to do is add one-half cup to one full cup of cleaning vinegar to your washing machine during the final rinse cycle. No, your clothing won’t smell like vinegar, but if you are truly worried about the odor, throw in a few drops of essential oil along with the vinegar.

Vinegar is also a natural alternative to bleach for brightening up whites, like socks, towels, and rags. Boil a pot of water, then add a cup of cleaning vinegar and let fabrics soak overnight for the best results. This method should only be used on items that are 100 percent cotton.

When Shouldn’t You Use Cleaning Vinegar?

While cleaning vinegar is great in the kitchen and nearly every room in the home, that doesn't mean that it’s good for cleaning everything. Never use vinegar to clean marble, granite, or soapstone surfaces. This is because the acid can cause natural stone to pit and lose shine.

Avoid cleaning knives with cleaning vinegar. It’s also a good idea to avoid using cleaning vinegar on any spills or messes that involve eggs because the acid will react with the eggs, changing their consistency and making it more difficult to remove.

While there are many uses for cleaning vinegar in the laundry room, it should never be used in an iron because it can permanently damage the inside of the appliance.

Finally, contrary to popular belief, cleaning vinegar should never be used on solid wood furniture because it can ruin the finish.

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.

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