White Vinegar: Fact & Fiction

White vinegar is a retro trend in natural cleaning. Even corporations are catching on and promoting "new" products containing vinegar. If you're a fan of homemaking blogs, you know that vinegar has been touted as a miracle product that will clean almost ANYTHING.

Well, domestic engineers put these claims from homemaking blogs to the test, and true to form, they talked about it. On the heels of a plethora of blog posts proclaiming the ostensible endless number of uses for white vinegar came a surge of opinions on what actually works and what does not.

So, let's break it down. When it comes to the cleaning power of white vinegar, what are the facts, and what is just a myth?

FACT Vinegar is an effective disinfectant

One of the most widely touted benefits of cleaning with vinegar is its efficacy as a disinfectant. However, just a few cap fulls in a bucket of water won't do the trick. For full disinfecting power, vinegar should be used at as near full strength as possible.

Pro Tip: Mix 4 parts vinegar to 1 part water and use mixture as rinsing and sanitizing agent after removing grime with soap and water. You can even find household strength vinegar right beside the food-grade version at the grocery store.

FICTION White vinegar is good for removing grime

Don't get me wrong, if you spray vinegar around the faucets in your bathroom and scrub, you will rub the grime away. You could do the same thing with water. The point is, dirt is most easily removed with some kind of oil-based soap. You could wash your faucets with bar soap and water and then rinse it with vinegar and you'd be in great shape. That's because vinegar does work well as a disinfectant.

Pro Tip: Instead of using a small capful of vinegar in a bucket of water to clean, use a spray bottle filled with tap water and a few drops of dish soap. Rinse white vinegar. The vinegar will disinfect and leave a nice shine as it evaporates.

FACT Vinegar is an excellent laundry product

White vinegar makes cost-efficient, more natural alternative to traditional laundry softeners. It also prevents mildew growth when used in the rinse cycle. If you have a fabric that is not bleach safe, vinegar is an alternative for odor and stain removal in some fabrics. However, keep in mind vinegar simply does not have the stain removal power of bleach, but it is an acid, so it is nearly as corrosive as bleach.

Pro Tip: Use vinegar instead of liquid laundry softener in your rinse cycle for fresh, wrinkle resistant clothes. Fill a softener ball or the cup in the machine only to the indicator line to avoid having a vinegar smell in your clothes. If you use only a certain amount, it will help maintain the scent of the laundry detergent.

FICTION Vinegar is the only way to clean laminate floors

If you have tried using white vinegar and water to clean your laminate floors, then you have most likely discovered that for a quick wipedown it works fine, especially if you floors have recently had a deep cleaning. However, the vinegar-water solution itself is not efficacious for deep cleaning floors. Vinegar and water alone simply won't remove the grime from your floor, especially if grease is present (hello, kitchens).

Pro Tip: Mix 4 parts warm water with 1 part white vinegar, and add a few drops of dish soap. Spray solution onto floor and clean with a microfiber mop. Do not saturate the floor. Be sure to rinse or the soap will leave sticky residue.

FACT Vinegar is a potent natural air freshener

Vinegar is an excellent air freshener, as it does not just mask odors (well, it stinks, which usually does cover other bad smells), but it actually kills the bacteria in the air, eliminating the smell. However, this is only suitable for households where no one suffers from breathing problems. In fact, the CDC expressly directs those with asthma sufferers in the home to steer clear of vinegar products.

In my own home, I use "spramp", a mix of tap water and vinegar instead of air freshener. If I do it before the family comes home every day, they are greeted with nice, fresh air. However, my husband and older daughter have a nosebleed disorder, so I can't use it in their immediate vicinity, at least in the air. I adjust, and use it when they're not around.

Pro Tip: DO NOT boil vinegar on the stove. It simply is not healthy to breathe in hot, acidic steam. Instead, use a spray bottle to spray the room where the foul odors are, and leave the room for a few minutes. When you return, the odor should be gone.

FICTION White vinegar and baking soda make a great natural cleaning paste

This erroneous cleaning tip has been circulating for a while, and seems to have been made viral on popular sharing sites like Pinterest. But, remember my admonitions against using vinegar in home with breathing problems, in the section above? That definitely holds true when mixing these two acidic products. The foamy bubbles produced when the two products are mixed makes one think that, wow, it must really be cleaning. Since vinegar has water content, and baking soda is mostly made of salt, when the fizzing stops, you're left with salt water. Also, the fizzing itself could cause health risks-breathing problems-for people who don't already have them.

Pro Tip: Since baking soda is basically salt anyway, just use a handful of salt with vinegar if you need a more abrasive cleaning product. The salt adds no extra risk of breathing problems, and it works well as a scrubber. Plus, it has its own antibacterial properties.

We love, love, love the cost-effective and simple pleasure of finding a more natural way to clean using white vinegar. Of course, there is always hype that doesn't live up to claims. We hope we have helped to dispel any misconceptions you had about household cleaning with white vinegar. Maybe you picked up some new cleaning tips along the way!

Did we leave anything out? Do you have any unique tips for disinfecting and cleaning your home using white vinegar? Let us know how you use this cleaning product that is nearly as old as mankind! Or, share your white vinegar cleaning fail with us in the comments.


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