We all want to clean our homes with constantly exposing ourselves and our families to harmful chemicals from cleaning products. Deep cleaning can be dangerous if you are mixing toxic chemicals. I really love using cleaning vinegar to clean many things because it is a natural and non-toxic antibacterial cleaner. It’s very cheap—you can get a gallon at most stores for just a few dollars. Plus, cleaning vinegar is highly versatile and can be used to clean a lot of different surfaces!
But vinegar isn’t an all-purpose cleaner, so I wanted to write a post about what you should and should not be cleaning with vinegar. I have gotten a lot of questions from readers asking what they can (or can’t) use cleaning vinegar on. So, I want to clarify those lists for you!
I’ll start by sharing a list of things you shouldn’t use vinegar to clean (and why!) along with some helpful suggestions of what you could use instead. Then I’ll share an abbreviated list of things you can clean with vinegar (since an exhaustive list would take all day!). When you are finished reading, I want you to feel totally confident about using vinegar as your natural cleaner of choice! :-)
Will Vinegar Disinfect?
Cleaning vinegar is a great choice if you are cleaning or sanitizing surfaces around your home with normal levels of dirt and grime.
Vinegar will kill pathogens and certain bacteria, like E. coli, that could be commonly found in the home. You might think using the strongest products would be best for killing unwanted germs, but exposure to strong cleaners and disinfectants can be dangerous. The CDC reported nearly 50 thousand calls to the poison center between January and March 2020 because of chemical exposures to cleaners and disinfectants that caused symptoms, like difficulty breathing or dizziness.
In most cases, a natural antibacterial cleaner, like vinegar, or hot water is enough to sufficiently clean a surface. Occasionally, when you need a deeper clean, something stronger (like bleach or Lysol) can be helpful. But those should be used sparingly, and you need to be very careful not to mix cleaners or fumes. If you aren’t sure whether you need to clean, disinfect or sanitize, you can read my post about it here.
It is important to note that vinegar has not been shown to be effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Things You DON’T Clean With Vinegar
Vinegar makes a great cleaner because it is acidic, which allows it to cut through tough grease, grime, and mineral deposits. But vinegar’s acidity can also damage certain surfaces, so it is important to know which ones to avoid. Here is a list of items you never want to use vinegar on, as well as the cleaners you can use instead!
- Granite, marble, and soapstone countertops: Acids don’t mix with natural stones like granite, marble, and soapstone. It can cause pitting and make them lose their shine. Use this instead: Homemade Granite Cleaner
- Kitchen knives: If you want to keep your knife like new, acids are to be avoided. Use this instead: Dish soap and water.
- Egg-based messes: While it seems like vinegar would cut through an egg, it will actually cause the proteins in the egg to coagulate, creating a gluey substance that is even more impossible to clean up. Use this instead: A damp, soapy washcloth
- Clothes iron: Vinegar can damage the inner workings of your iron. Use this instead: 4 Ways To Clean An Iron
- Solid wood furniture: It isn’t a good idea to clean wood with pure, undiluted vinegar. In addition to leaving watermarks, the acid in the vinegar could “eat” certain kinds of finishes. (However, for polishing wood, a homemade cleaning solution of equal parts olive oil and white vinegar can buff up stained and oiled wood finishes nicely). Use this instead: All-Natural Conditioning Furniture Polish
- Metal surfaces: Acidity in vinegar will eat through protective layers on metal (like aluminum) and, so avoid high concentrations sitting on sink faucets, doorknobs, pots, and pans. Use this instead: A cloth with warm soapy water.
Never mix vinegar with hydrogen peroxide into the same container. This can create a toxic gas called peracetic acid.
Use Vinegar, But Clean with Caution!
There are some surfaces you can clean with vinegar, but only sparingly or in small amounts. Porous surfaces like wood, stone, and grout are susceptible to damage from acidic cleaners like vinegar. However, this effect is mitigated if the vinegar is heavily diluted with water or other cleaning ingredients. So use your best judgment when using vinegar to clean the following items:
- Hardwood floors
- Stone floors
Vinegar makes a great DIY pesticide for unwanted pests on your plants and a weed killer! To use it for infested plants, use apple cider vinegar and spray AROUND your plants (not directly on them) to drive bugs away. Use white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle to coat weeds popping up in your driveway seams, rock borders, or sidewalk cracks, killing them naturally!
Things You SHOULD Clean with Vinegar!
When you can clean with vinegar, take the opportunity to do so!
While there are a few things you shouldn’t use vinegar on, there are FAR more things that you CAN and should clean with vinegar! You can cut down on cleaning supplies by using vinegar as a substitute.
I’ve successfully cleaned a lot of items with vinegar over the years, and I’ve listed some of my favorite ones below. There are different types of vinegar, but in most cases, white vinegar (or cleaning vinegar) works best. Click for more details. So read on my friends, and happy cleaning! :-)
- Washing machine
- Stainless steel surfaces (dilute into a water solution first)
- Toilet Bowl
- Clogged Drains
- Sticky stuff
- Windows & mirrors
- Toothbrush holder
- Hard water stains
- Soap scum
- Smelly rags and towels
- Mildew and surface mold
- Garbage disposal
- Coffee maker
- Oily skin
- Vinyl auto interiors
- Reusable Shopping Bags
- Yoga mat
- Getting slime out of fabric or carpet (use a soft brush)
The Danger of Being “Too Clean”
To kill germs with cleaning vinegar, let it sit for at least 15 minutes before wiping clean. Vinegar is a great cleaning agent for eliminating odors and getting many surfaces clean. Keep looking for natural cleaning alternatives so you can reduce your family’s exposure to dangerous chemicals and over-sterilizing. The BBC reports:
Yet not all microbes are bad. Yes, there are bacteria that cause unpleasant or even deadly diseases, but lots of them are extremely useful and beneficial to our health. They make vitamins in our gut, coat our skin to protect us from harmful microbes, and help us digest food. Outside of our bodies, they decompose organic waste, make half the world’s oxygen and fix nitrogen levels in the air – helping make the Earth the life-supporting planet it is. Today, many scientists argue that people have become “too clean” for their own good.
So, this is one reason I really like vinegar as a multipurpose cleaner for daily use. We do not want to kill the microbes and bacteria that our body uses to be healthy. We do want to keep our surfaces clean, odor-free, and safe. In some cases, adding baking soda to your vinegar can help aid your cleaning.
For more housekeeping tips, check out my recent posts on cleaning!