Cleaning with white vinegar

I don’t know if it was a stroke of brilliance or sheer stupidity. Probably a bit of both. Yet at some point in history, people figured out that vinegar can be used for cleaning. And lo and behold, centuries later, we’re still wielding it like a gift from the heavens.

What makes vinegar so fascinating is the sheer vastitude of daily uses. People have used it to do just about anything – clean their microwave oven, cure a hangover, disinfect their toilet, and, in the Middle Ages – as a perfume to avoid the plague.

White vinegar has a multitude of uses. And, as a versatile and natural product, it’s become a bit of a snake oil. While it’s certainly a powerful weapon on many occasions, you shouldn’t see this natural fermentation byproduct as manna from heaven. So let’s dispel some of the malarkey surrounding white vinegar, especially in regards to cleaning.

In this article:

  • What's white vinegar good for?
  • What isn't white vinegar good for?
  • What should you never use white vinegar for?
  • Conclusion

What’s white vinegar good for?

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. Many people swear by white vinegar as being the be-all, end-all universal natural cleaning product. Many people don’t know what they’re talking about.

Yes, white vinegar is especially effective in some contexts but lacks even basic utility in others (more on this in the next section). It’s a straightforward and unassuming little miracle when it comes to cutting through minerals and completely obliterating bacteria.

Here are a few ideas on how you can use white vinegar for cleaning:

  • Homemade glass cleaner – mix 1 part water and 2 parts white vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake it, don’t stir it. And you have yourself an excellent glass cleaner. Those hard water stains and streaks will disappear for good.
  • Cleaning countertops – you can use a similar mixture to clean your countertops after cooking. It’s great for disinfection.

Note: Do NOT use white vinegar on wooden, stone, or marble countertops. The acetic nature of the product can damage them.

  • Clean your faucets and fixtures – soak some rags or recyclable paper towels in white vinegar and wrap them around your faucets. Let them sit for an hour or two, rinse them, and dry them off with a microfibre cloth.
  • Remove soap scum from your bathtub – soap is basic in nature, so you need an acid to neutralise it. And guess what white vinegar is. Simply spray the soap scum with white vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes while you have a cup of tea, then clean your bathtub.
  • Use white vinegar to aid in cleaning your ceramic hob – we have a full article on cleaning your ceramic hob using natural products. Check it out if it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned yours.

It’s crystal clear white vinegar is a champion in these areas. But what isn’t it good for?

What isn’t white vinegar good for?

With all the mythology around cleaning with white vinegar, it’s hard to imagine there’s anything it isn’t good for. But there’s actually plenty of cases where you’d have better luck trying to clean with pure water.

Indeed, oftentimes white vinegar gets completely outclassed by its less famous partner – baking soda. I say “partner” because people often use them together, which is not as effective as you may think.

White vinegar is not great for cleaning dirt and grime. While soap and baking soda (both are bases) are great at mechanically getting in there and destroying filth from the inside, white vinegar only huffs and puffs in the face of it.

Our favourite natural cleaner is also touted as a grease cutter, which is also nonsense. If you want to deal with grease, what you need is an alkaline cleaner (again, soap or baking soda), not an acidic one.

I’m honestly flabbergasted at some of the rubbish I read online when I start doing research. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, which is why I always try to double and triple-check the sources.

What should you never use white vinegar for?

And then there’s the outright harmful information. There are some tips that may cause actual harm, or at least hit your wallet with a baseball bat.

Here are a few ways I don’t recommend using white vinegar:

  • Running vinegar through your dishwasher – supposedly, white vinegar is the best alternative to dishwasher cleaners. However, since it’s highly acidic, it can damage the appliance by weakening rubber gaskets and hoses, causing a leak.
  • Marble and granite surfaces – trying to clean natural stone with white vinegar turns it into a dull, lacklustre mess.
  • Wooden furniture and floors – your fancy solid wood desk is a few spritzes of white vinegar away from a complete catastrophe. The same goes for your hardwood floors.
  • Cleaning computer or smartphone screens – I don’t know who came up with this idea, but they were probably working for smartphone manufacturers. Because you’ll definitely need to buy a new phone sooner rather than later if you clean the screen with vinegar.
  • Cleaning your fancy kitchen knives –  some people disinfect their knives with vinegar after every use. It boggles the mind how one can spend a couple of hundred quid on a set of kitchen knives and then ruin them like that. Vinegar’s acidic properties will dull and corrode the blade. If you want to ensure the longevity of your cutlery, use water and dishwashing liquid like everyone else. 

Conclusion

While white vinegar certainly has its uses, it’s by no means the ultimate cleaner. In fact, there is no such thing as an “ultimate” cleaner. Every cleaning product (natural or otherwise) has its uses.

The general rule of thumb is to use acids (like white vinegar) when dealing with mineral deposits and disinfection. Use alkaline cleaners (like soap and baking soda) when you’re dealing with organic compounds (oils, dirt, grime, etc.).

And don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

Samyx Cleaning - Branding Consultant - Atanas

Author: Atanas Dzhingarov

Hi, I’m Atanas - brand consultant and writer. I’m helping Samyx Cleaning create the best cleaning company blog on the Internet. Join us on our journey and learn how to live a cleaner, healthier, happier life in the process.