How to Use Vinegar for Cleaning

Vinegar is one of those nontoxic and SIMPLE cleaning solutions that's been around for decades! Like many sustainable swaps inspired by history, the vinegar DIY recipes below are a modern take on an old tradition.

A great all-in-one, budget-friendly solution that can solve many cleaning challenges, vinegar can clean most surfaces, disinfect, and cut odors and grease around the home; and it can dissolve lime, soap scum, and mold in the bathroom but also fight stains and sticky residue, soften laundry, and even get rid of weeds.

Read on below to learn more about the highly concentrated bulk cleaning vinegar we offer for refill as well as how to make your own DIY cleaning products at home.

At our refill store on Magazine Street

The 200-grain cleaning vinegar we carry in our refill section is more concentrated and powerful than grocery store vinegar, with a higher acidity for stubborn cleaning projects or to dilute as needed--and save money-- for your household cleaning purposes. You can bring your own clean, dry container to fill as much vinegar as you'd like. 

To get the same dilution as the 5% standard grocery store type (50 grain) you would mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts distilled water.

Homemade cleaning vinegar recipes

Directions to Create a Basic Cleaning Mix (based on 5% grocery dilution):

Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup water and 1/4 cup of 5% vinegar. 

(if you want added scent, you can infuse the vinegar with citrus peels in a jar for a couple of weeks prior to mixing it with water in the spray bottle.)

Here are Several Ways to Use Vinegar for Cleaning:

As always, it's recommended to spot test any surface before fully applying cleaning vinegar, and use gloves while working with vinegar.

Bathroom Cleaner: Use the basic mix above to dissolve soap scum and hard water stains; use an old toothbrush with the cleaner to scrub grout, and soak your showerhead in a bowl of vinegar to remove lime buildup. However, don't use on grout that's in poor condition or that hasn't been sealed in a long time because it could dry out and crumble if exposed to a vinegar-based cleaning solution

Cutting Boards: disinfect cutting boards using full strength vinegar. 

Drains: Mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda and pour down drains to clean out and deodorize

Glass Cleaner: Spray basic mix onto windows, mirrors, glass surfaces, then polish with cloth rags or NOTpaper towels.

Glassware: Add 1/2 cup 5% vinegar to your rinse water for sparkling clean glasses

Kitchen Sink, Countertops, Refrigerator: Use the basic mix for cleaning and disinfecting (not recommended for natural stone, wood, or varnished surfaces)

For a stronger multi-purpose cleaning spray: This one can also mask the smell of vinegar if you're not particularly fond of it.

Directions: Mix together all of the ingredients except the essential oil. Allow mixture to cool, add essential oil, and pour into a spray bottle. And be sure to still spot test your cleaner on any surfaces before using!

     1 teaspoon baking soda
     1 teaspoon borax
     2 tablespoons white vinegar
     1 tablespoon liquid castile soap 
     2 cups boiling water
    20 drops essential oil of your choice

(or you can probably skip the essential oils if you use a scented castile soap like the peppermint or lemon ones we have at the shop!)

Microwave: Boil a bowl of 1 cup water, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/3 cup lemon juice in the microwave to clean.

Tea and Coffee Stains in Ceramic Cups: Soak in vinegar for a few hours, then scrub stains with baking soda.

Laundry boost: Add 1/2 cup of 5% vinegar to your rinse cycle to prevent soap build up, act as a fabric softener, and reduce static cling.

Mildew remover and prevention: Use full strength vinegar to remove mildew off most surfaces (spot check first!). For mildew on shower curtains, spray vinegar on problem areas or add to rinse cycle when you wash it.

Rust: to remove rust on small items ,soak them in undiluted vinegar for a few hours, scrub with a toothbrush, and rinse thoroughly. 

Stickers & Gum:  Remove stickers by soaking in warm vinegar. For gum, use an ice cube to loosen and then warm vinegar to clean off residues.

Stain remover: Pour vinegar on mustard, pen, pencil, or crayon marks, scrub with a toothbrush to remove the stain and then wash as usual.

Toilet cleaner: Spray vinegar then scrub. For harder stains, spray vinegar then sprinkle with baking soda and let it sit before scrubbing. 

Weeds: Kill weeds by spraying full strength vinegar onto them.

CAUTION:  Make sure to never combine vinegar with bleach, as combining vinegar and bleach can create a very dangerous chlorine gas. 

What NOT to Clean With Vinegar: 

While vinegar is great for most cleaning purposes, there are some surfaces and items that should NOT be cleaned with vinegar. The acids will damage the surface or finish. Here are some places to avoid using vinegar.

Stone and Marble: Don't use vinegar on marble, granite, or other natural stone countertops, floors, or furniture, because the acids can dull and etch the surfaces. 

Unfinished Wood: Avoid using vinegar on unfinished wood flooring, cabinets, and furniture. Unfinished or unsealed wood can absorb the vinegar and potentially cause it to swell or crack.

Irons: Although clothes irons do collect mineral deposits, most manufacturers warn against pouring vinegar or vinegar-based cleaners through them to remove mineral build-up. Read the instructions to determine how best to remove mineral deposits from your clothes iron.

Electronics: Vinegar will either wear down or ruin the coating on an electronic device's screen, which includes all tv screens.

Stainless Steel Kitchen Tools: Do not soak stainless steel items in vinegar because the acid can begin to pit the metal. If you do use vinegar on stainless steel, it must be wiped on and removed by rinsing immediately.

Cast Iron Cookware: Do not use vinegar on cast iron pots or pans. The acid can eat away at the seasoned surface.

Rubber: Do not use vinegar to clean anything with rubber parts, especially gaskets around your appliance doors, for example. The acid will eat away at the rubber. 


This information has been compiled from the following sources: 

The Zero Waste Lifestyle by Amy Korst
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Any information provided is for general entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. 

Older Post