What You CAN (and CANNOT) Clean with Vinegar!

Vinegar is often hailed as a cleaning miracle worker.

It’s an inexpensive and readily available household item that many people swear by for its cleaning properties. But before you jump on the vinegar bandwagon and think it can clean absolutely everything as some online sources suggest, let’s decipher the truth from the myths.

As a cleaning expert, I’ve been sharing cleaning advice since 2011, and I’m here to provide the most current and reliable information based on research, experience, and expert contacts. In this article, we will explore the dos and don’ts of cleaning with vinegar and shed some light on what vinegar can and cannot clean effectively.

The Power of Vinegar in Cleaning

One of the primary reasons people love using vinegar for cleaning is its ability to degrease and deodorize. It’s an excellent choice for several cleaning tasks, and when used correctly, it can produce remarkable results. Let’s dive into some of the areas where vinegar shines.

1. Glass and Mirrors: Vinegar is fantastic for cleaning windows, mirrors, and glass surfaces. Its ability to cut through grease and leave streak-free results makes it a go-to choice for DIY glass cleaning. You can create a simple glass cleaning solution using equal parts water and white vinegar. Spray the solution on the surface, use a flatweave microfiber cloth, and wipe using an S-pattern for a flawless shine.

2. Stainless Steel Appliances: For removing fingerprints and smudges from stainless steel appliances, vinegar is your friend. Mix equal parts water and vinegar, apply it to the surface, and wipe with a flatweave microfiber cloth to eliminate those annoying smudges.

3. Deodorizing Your Drains: If your kitchen or bathroom drain has an unpleasant odor, you can use vinegar to help break down the smelly buildup. A simple method is to use vinegar in combination with baking soda. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by boiling vinegar. This causes a satisfying chemical reaction and can help freshen your drains.

4. Descaling Kettles and Coffee Makers: Vinegar is a superb descaler. If you notice a white, crusty buildup inside your kettle or coffee maker, you can use vinegar to remove it. For a kettle, fill it to the max fill line with vinegar, boil it, and then rinse thoroughly. For a coffee maker, fill the reservoir with vinegar, run it through several cycles, and then flush with water to remove any lingering vinegar taste.

5. Removing Hard Water Stains: Hard water stains can be a persistent problem in your bathroom and kitchen. Vinegar can help, but it requires some effort. For faucets and taps, you can use a bag filled with vinegar to soak away the buildup. To remove stains in toilets, you can douse the stained areas with vinegar and let it sit for a while, followed by scrubbing.

What Not to Clean with Vinegar

Now that we’ve explored the areas where vinegar can work its magic, let’s discuss some situations where you should avoid using vinegar:

1. Stone Countertops: Stone countertops, like granite or marble, don’t respond well to acids, including vinegar. Using vinegar on such surfaces can lead to etching, discoloration, and damage. It’s best to opt for a stone-specific cleaner to maintain the integrity of your countertops.

2. Hardwood Floors: Avoid using vinegar on hardwood floors. The acid in vinegar can harm the finish of your floors. Stick to a hardwood floor cleaner or simply use water and a bit of dish soap for a safe clean.

3. Pet Stains: While some recommend using vinegar to clean pet stains, it’s not the most effective solution. Enzyme-based pet stain removers are better suited for the job. They target the odor-causing proteins and molecules in pet stains, ensuring more efficient removal.

4. Laundry: Contrary to some beliefs, adding vinegar to your laundry is not as effective as you might think. Vinegar should be added at the rinse phase, which can be challenging with front-loading machines. Additionally, vinegar doesn’t provide the same benefits as laundry-specific products, such as Downy Rinse and Refresh.

Cleaning Floors: While vinegar can work well on tile, linoleum, and vinyl floors, it’s not suitable for hardwood or natural stone. Always consider the specific needs of your flooring material when choosing a cleaning solution.

Making Vinegar Smell More Tolerable

One common complaint about using vinegar for cleaning is its strong odor. If the smell of vinegar is a turn-off for you, here are a couple of tricks to make it more pleasant:

1. Essential Oils: Add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oil (e.g., peppermint or orange) to vinegar. This will not only mask the vinegar smell but also add a pleasant fragrance to your cleaning solution.

2. Citrus-Infused Vinegar: Collect citrus fruit peels, such as orange, lemon, or lime, and place them in a mason jar. Fill the jar with vinegar and let it sit in a dark area for three weeks. Strain the vinegar to remove the peels. The result is a citrus-scented vinegar that is both potent and effective for cleaning.

Vinegar is indeed a versatile and powerful cleaning agent when used in the right context.

It can tackle various cleaning tasks, from glass and stainless steel to descaling kettles and coffee makers. However, it’s crucial to understand where vinegar should not be used to avoid damaging surfaces or compromising cleaning effectiveness. By following these guidelines and making the vinegar smell more tolerable, you can maximize the benefits of this household staple in your cleaning routine.

If you’ve encountered cleaning misinformation online, please share your experiences and insights in the comments section below.

Let’s help each other make informed and effective cleaning choices!

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases on amazon.com.

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


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