As an easy-to-produce mild acid, vinegar has been used for a wide variety of purposes for thousands of years. Though specialized chemicals have since replaced many of its uses, the cheap, versatile and non-toxic liquid is still a popular, natural home cleaner. With spring cleaning season upon us, vinegar is a budget-friendly and health-conscious tool for tackling your cleaning tasks. Here are several ways to put vinegar to work for you in your home.
Before you begin
While vinegar is safe for use on most surfaces and with most substances, the exceptions are important to note. Vinegar can damage natural stone or strip the finish of waxed wood floors and should not be used on either surface. Never combine vinegar with bleach or ammonia as either combination will produce toxic chloramine gas. Cleaning with vinegar does give off the liquid’s signature smell, but this harmless odor will dissipate as the vinegar dries. Often cheapest and most readily available, white vinegar is recommended for the uses below.
Removing crayon marks
If you have children, you likely have many artistic creations of theirs that you plan to preserve. Crayon marks on your floors and walls are probably not one of them. Thankfully, vinegar can help restore these surfaces to their original condition. Test this process first on an inconspicuous area as not all finishes react favorably to this method. Remove the crayon by dipping a toothbrush into undiluted vinegar and gently breaking down the wax using small, circular scrubbing motions. Finish by wiping down the surface with a clean, damp cloth.
Cleaning a showerhead
Buildup on your showerhead doesn’t just look ugly, it can hinder the water flow and lead to a poorer shower experience. Once again, it’s vinegar to the rescue! Fill a medium-sized bowl with an equal mix of vinegar and boiling water, then submerge the showerhead in the solution for at least 10 minutes. If you can’t or prefer not to remove the showerhead, a plastic bag filled with undiluted, room-temperature vinegar can taped or tied over the showerhead and allowed to sit for an hour. Either method should break down and loosen the mineral buildup, allowing a simple rinsing or brushing to finish the job and bring your shower back up to full power.
Mopping wood floors
Vinegar and water have been used to clean non-waxed wood floors for centuries, and for some, it’s still the cleaning agent of choice today. To put vinegar to work for your floors, combine a gallon of hot water with a half cup of vinegar in a bucket. Wet a household mop or sponge with the solution, and wipe down your floor. Take care to only apply a minimal amount of the mixture. Too much liquid allowed to sit on the wood can cause the floorboards to swell and warp. If you see any puddles while cleaning, dry them up as they appear.
Freshening up your fridge
The classic box of baking soda in the fridge is a mere bandage on the problem of a stinky refrigerator. If your fridge smells off – and you’ve disposed of any offending contents – a good cleaning is likely needed. Despite its own pungent reputation, vinegar’s scouring acidity makes it a great candidate for the job. Empty your fridge, then combine two parts water with one part vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution evenly over the interior of the fridge, then allow it to sit for 20 minutes before wiping everything down with a cloth. Repeat the process if necessary until the offending odor is no more.
Steam clean your microwave
The microwave is another appliance with a reputation for acquiring messy food residue and off-putting odors. A good steam cleaning with the help of vinegar is the first step to fighting these issues. Begin by microwaving a small glass bowl containing equal parts water and vinegar (a half to one cup of each) for five to 10 minutes. Adding a toothpick to the solution will prevent the liquid from boiling over by counteracting the bubbles. Once the time is up, you should be able to use a paper towel or cloth to wipe away any accumulated food with ease.
Neutralize litterbox orders
Cats may be fastidious when it comes to their own coats, but fighting litterbox odors is always up to the humans of the house. Vinegar’s cleaning properties make it a well-suited tool for this task. First, empty the litter box. Then, fill the box with a half inch of vinegar and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Finally, dump out the vinegar and rinse the box with cold water before drying it and refilling with kitty litter. Any offensive odors from before should be largely or completely banished.
Remove scale from your tea kettle
Whether electric or stovetop-based, tea kettles accumulate limescale, the undesirable white calcium deposits that remain when the hot water evaporates. Thankfully, vinegar is a natural descaling agent. To clean your kettle, fill it up halfway with equal parts cold water and vinegar, then heat up the kettle and bring the solution to a boil. Once the boiling point has been reached, turn off the heat and let the vinegar-water combination sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then, pour out the kettle, rinse the inside with cold water and wipe away any remaining scale with a clean, damp cloth. Boil another kettleful of clean water afterwards to prevent any vinegary taste from lingering.
Now that you know all these versatile uses of vinegar, keep a big jug on hand so you can tackle your future cleaning needs in a healthful and affordable way.