Looking for an inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to clean? You can’t go past vinegar – in fact, it’s been used as an effective disinfectant for thousands of years.
What are the benefits of cleaning with vinegar?
- Cheaper than store-bought products
- Non-toxic and safe to use around pets and children
- Neutralises odours
- Cuts through grease
- Removes stains
- Won’t ruin your clothes if you spill it
- Can be used on many different surfaces
- It’s available at most supermarkets or grocers
- Easy to make at home
So, how does it work exactly?
Vinegar is made up of acetic acid, which kills bacteria and viruses (including E.coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus) by chemically changing their proteins and fats and destroying their cell structures. It also removes nasty smells from the air as the acetic acid easily bonds with volatile molecules. The best part? This completely eliminates the stench instead of just hiding it behind nicer smells like many other products on the market do.
What type of vinegar is best for cleaning?
Visit the vinegar aisle at your local supermarket and you’ll be presented with many different varieties: white distilled, malt, apple cider, speciality vinegars. Good news: just about all of them are suitable for cleaning (as well as cooking), although generally white distilled vinegar is most common. As it is often made from grains (e.g. corn) it is super cheap to produce in comparison to other kinds (a 2L bottle will set you back just $1.20 at Woolworths.)
You may also have seen speciality cleaning vinegar in your travels. Unlike normal white vinegar which has an acidity of 5 per cent, this has a 6 per cent acidity making it 20 per cent stronger than the regular kind. This is excellent for stubborn stains however, it is not safe to consume.
Which surfaces can be cleaned with vinegar?
No one needs toxic chemicals hanging around their food. Try wiping up any spills or splashes with a 50-50 water and vinegar mix. Hint: keep a bottle of the stuff stored in the fridge for easy access.
Pour vinegar on a scrubbing brush (one that’s small enough to fit inside the drain), sprinkle it with baking soda and scrub. This helps remove any odours and grime.
After washing your board with water, wipe it down with vinegar to get rid of any lingering germs. If it needs further deodorising, dust it with bicarb soda and follow this up with another spray of vinegar. Leave it for ten minutes to foam up then clean with a wet cloth.
Stubborn food stains are no match for vinegar: microwave half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of water in a bowl for two to three minutes (or until it boils.) Let this sit and steam before wiping away any build-up.
Using a spray bottle filled with water, mist the interior of your oven and then sprinkle the surfaces with bicarb soda. Let it sit for three hours then repeat the first step with vinegar. Wipe down with a damp cloth to loosen any baked-on food.
Coat stained plastic containers in vinegar and let it settle for a few minutes. Then, wash with dishwashing detergent and water.
Using a spray bottle, mist the countertop with white vinegar before wiping it down with a wet cloth. The exception to this rule is marble and granite surfaces as vinegar can cause them to etch and discolour.
Pour half a cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl and leave it overnight. Next, sprinkle it with bicarb soda, scrub then flush.
Apply vinegar directly onto surfaces (especially around the base of the toilet) then wipe it away with a cloth to eliminate bacteria.
Bathtub and sink:
After plugging the tub or sink, pour half a cup of vinegar around the stained surfaces. Let this sit for a few hours before scrubbing to remove any build-up. Drain and rinse.
Directly after you’ve used it (when the surface is still wet and the steam has loosened the dirt), wipe the shower down with a cloth soaked in vinegar and rinse well. For resilient soap scum and water spots, take these steps then sprinkle with bicarb and mist with a spray bottle filled with vinegar.
Pour vinegar into a plastic bag and tie it around your showerhead (the idea is to ensure that there’s enough vinegar in the bag to submerge the grimy part of the showerhead.) Leave this overnight and remove before showering.
Place 1/3 cup of vinegar in a 4L bucket full of warm water. Mop floors and wipe down countertops with the solution and air dry.
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In a spray bottle, mix vinegar, rubbing alcohol and a few drops of tea tree oil. Mist your mattress with the mixture to ward off dust mites, mildew and odours. For a deeper clean, dust with baking soda and let dry before vacuuming.
Combine two cups of vinegar with 10 drops of essential oils. Add two teaspoons of the solution to a load of washing to soften clothes and remove static.
Run a long wash cycle with water and one cup of white vinegar instead of detergent. (Don’t place any clothes in the washing machine during this cycle.)
5. Living and Dining room
Try using one cup of vinegar, three cups of warm water and one tablespoon of ammonia to clean soot from glass. Mist the solution onto the surface and let it sit for 30 seconds. With a clean cotton cloth, scrub in a circular motion until the soot is loosened.
Mix a quarter of a cup of vinegar with one cup of olive oil, plus a few drops of lemon or orange oil. Rub all over any surface that needs conditioning.
To keep glass tables or cabinet doors streak-free, wipe them down with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water.
After shampooing your carpet, rinse it with half a cup of vinegar to four litres of water. This mix removes the soap residue that attracts dirt, helping to keep your carpet cleaner for longer. To get rid of odours, mix a few drops of essential oil with white vinegar in a spray bottle, then spritz all over (test an inconspicuous area for colourfastness first.)
In a 1L spray bottle, pour a quarter of a cup of rubbing alcohol and a third of a cup of vinegar, then fill to the top with water. Mist on a lint-free cloth or newspaper before rubbing over glass in a circular motion.
Add two or three tablespoons of vinegar to a 4lL bucket filled with water. Wet a sponge with the mixture and wring it out to dry before wiping over walls.
Add half a teaspoon of vinegar and a few drops of essential oil (peppermint or lemon is best) to a spray bottle filled with 200ml water.
Take one cup of vinegar, two teaspoons of borax, four cups of hot water, five drops of dishwashing detergent, 10 drops of tea tree oil and 10 drops of an essential oil of your choice and pour into a spray bottle. Mist over problem areas and wipe with paper towel or a cloth as needed.
For doorknobs, faucet handles, phone screens (and other germ-prone surfaces), wipe down with a soft cloth and 50/50 water and vinegar solution.
What not to clean with vinegar
- Granite and marble
- Stone or ceramic floor tiles
- Hardwood floors
- Clothes irons
- Phones and computer screens
- Stainless steel
- Enamel cast-iron cookware
- Egg stains or spills
How to make homemade vinegar
While it’s easy to find vinegar at the supermarket, it can be extremely satisfying to make your own at home. This recipe shows you how to make vinegar from apple scraps (it’s totally edible too!)
You will need:
- peels and cores of 3 large apples (or just the cores of 6 apples)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 3 cups ﬁltered water
- Place all of the ingredients in a large glass or ceramic jar and stir. Cover with a thin cloth and secure with an elastic band.
- Keep in a cool, dark spot.
- Stir daily
After 4-5 days it will begin to bubble and ferment. After 7-8 days (or longer if your house is cold) it will start to smell alcoholic and should be sour in taste. Next, strain the vinegar and pour it into a clean glass bottle. This will last in the fridge for up to a year. Note: you’ll need to burp the mixture regularly.
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