Thursday, 16 April 2009

20 Household Uses For Vinegar

Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

I have stopped buying traditional cleaning products completely now, and have a cleaning cupboard that holds just a few things: vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, olive oil, lemon juice, Bon Ami, and locally-made biodegradable soap made from olive oil.

Vinegar is my most frequently-used item, so I thought I'd share how I use it first!

Worried About The Scent Of Vinegar?

With all of these uses below, there will be a faint scent of vinegar. Remember when I wrote about Redefining Normal? Think of this as the new normal! The vinegar scent will go away quickly, pretty much as soon as the vinegar dries. And it is a lot better than the smell of artificial chemicals and fragrances that just aren't good for you to be breathing. If you truly hate the smell, try adding a few drops of lemon juice, a cinnamon stick, or a sprig of rosemary, oregano, or lavender to your vinegar solutions.

Also, I use organic white vinegar because I think the scent is easier to cover up and it dissipates more quickly, but many people prefer apple cider vinegar. Try both and see which works best for you!

Twenty Household Uses For Vinegar

1. Washing Windows and Mirrors. I have a small spray bottle, bought in a drug store, that I fill at about 1 part vinegar to three parts water. Just good old-fashioned white vinegar you can buy in any store, or make yourself. With that, I spray windows and mirrors with the vinegar solution, and wipe with a soft, clean towel. Others use newsprint and swear by it - that has just never worked for me, but give it a go if you have newspapers lying around.

2. Washing Kitchen and Bathroom Surfaces. When cleaning my bathroom or kitchen, I use Bon Ami and a rag to really wash the surfaces. Then I spray all surfaces with that same spray bottle of 1:3 (vinegar:water), and wipe with a rag. The vinegar gives a shine to the surfaces, gets rid of soap scum, and also kills most germs and molds.

According to a Heinz spokesperson in this article, repeated studies have shown that their vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of viruses. Quite frankly, we are as a society far too focused on antibacterial everything - we need a few of them around for our children's immune systems to develop fully, for our immune systems to adapt, and to ensure that we're not creating monster super-viruses.

If you cook with meat and want to be extra safe, you can always wash cutting board surfaces with hydrogen peroxide to kill the other 1% of bacteria (I do not clean with chlorine bleach as I think it is awful stuff).

3. Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Pour 1/2 cup straight vinegar into the bowl, let stand for 20 minutes, and scrub clean. You can do this with hydrogen peroxide as well.

4. Mopping Unwaxed Floors. Add 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon hot water. This makes them shine nicely, too. On some wood floors, the vinegar will actually strip the wax. Ours are so old and have so many layers of wax on them, that it works great.

5. Dusting. I don't use this mixture on wood (I use a pure oil instead). But I do use it on other hard surfaces. The same way I use it in the kitchen: spray with the 1:3 solution, and wipe with a rag. Alternatively, spray on the rag and then wipe the surface clean.

6. Cleaning the coffee machine, coffee and tea pot, coffee filter, and tea strainer. If your coffee machine is not making as good of coffee as it used to, chances are that there is a buildup of minerals, coffee oils, and other residue. Fill your coffee pot or espresso reservoir up to the full level, with 1 part vinegar to two parts water, and run that through the machine. If you haven't done this in a while, you may want to repeat the process. Then run just pure water through the machine to clear it out. And you can soak coffee and tea pots, coffee filters, and tea strainers in the same solution to remove residue and stains.

7. Cleaning the refrigerator. That same 1:3 solution works perfectly. I usually make a fresh batch with warm water, as that seems to work better inside the cold refrigerator.

8. Unclogging Drains. If water hasn't yet backed up, pour 1 cup of baking soda down, followed by 3 cups boiling water. Repeat if the drain doesn't clear. If the drain still doesn't clear, follow with 1 cup of vinegar. This makes it bubble, fizz and usually that does the trick! If this does not work, we usually buy enzymes from the local health food store.

9. Cleaning the Iron. I have only done this once, because I so rarely use my iron (I spray clothing with a fine water mist to get wrinkles out), but this does work! When an iron needs to be cleaned, you'll see white or murky residue inside the water reservoir. Fill the reservoir with 1 part vinegar to two parts water, and then run the iron on steam mode until it's out of water (you can do this in the air or onto a rag). If the residue isn't gone, you may need to repeat the process. Then run straight water through and do the same thing.

10. Fabric Softener. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse water. Note: Most natural fibers do not cling very much, so don't worry about fabric softeners at all if your load is all cotton. And make sure you don't over-dry. Or better yet, line dry your clothing and you don't have to worry about it!

11. Alternative to color-safe bleach. Yes, you can have two-in-one power! Vinegar doubles as a color-safe bleach and fabric softener: add 1/2 cup vinegar to the wash water, add the soap, and let the washer fill up before putting clothing in. If you're also looking for a fabric softener, you probably won't have to add more vinegar during the rinse cycle (above), but try both ways and see what works.

12. Vinegar Hair Rinse. I have posted here and here about my hair treatment. I haven't used shampoo nor conditioner in over 6 months, and I love it. Basically, I mix 1 part vinegar with 8 parts water, and add a cinnamon stick and a bit of vanilla for a nice fragrance. Did I mention I love it??!

13. Denture & Mouthguard Cleaner. Soak them overnight in pure vinegar, and rinse in the morning. (Note: I'm not to the denture age yet, but I do have a mouthguard because I grind my teeth at night!)

14. Kill Weeds. Yes, it's true! My mom taught me this. Pour vinegar full strength onto weeds in sidewalk cracks, and along the edges of the yard, and presto - they die! She's been doing it for years. Gardening aficionados, do you know what it's doing? It's neutralizing the nitrogen, so it's essentially starving the weeds.

15. Ant Deterrent. It's not perfect, but it will help. Clean the surfaces with a 1:3 vinegar solution. Then make your own - or purchase - a natural cleaning solution that contains orange oil and spray it on the ant paths. Leave for at least a few days, until the ants find another place to go. Then clean it up with the vinegar solution. This has worked for me all over the country: north, south, east, and west.

16. Increase soil acidity. If you've tested your soil and found it to be not quite acidic enough, you can add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water when watering acid-loving plants, or when preparing the soil to be planted. Wait a few days before planting seeds or fragile seedlings, but hardier plants will be fine.

17. Cat urine. Yes, this is where we really discovered the magic of vinegar. If a cat pees on something that you can throw in the washing machine: wash it in hot water with a cup of vinegar (if it's really bad, it doesn't hurt to put in more vinegar). If a cat pees on furniture (eg, sofa, bed, plush chair): first blot up as much pee as you can with a towel. Then you want to really douse the area with vinegar, full strength, making sure that it gets deep into the cushions as far as the cat urine had. After several minutes, dab the area with a towel (or two), to get up as much vinegar as you can. And then cover the area with a doubled-up towel, and top with a couple of heavy books to help get up the rest of the liquid. Leave that for several hours.

This works because the main ingredient in urine is ammonia (like the nitrogen discussed above, when killing weeds). Ammonia is a base, so vinegar, an acid, neutralizes it.

Note: We have used this method on a couple of furniture items that we really cared about, and it did not stain them. But do use with caution. At the same time, generally the cat pee has a greater chance of staining than the vinegar (so at that point, what do you have to loose).

18. Cleaning Gold Jewelry and Tarnished Brass. Ok, I haven't done it (because when I wear jewelry it's generally silver), but I know many people that swear by it. Submerge jewelry in apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes. Then remove the jewelry and dry with a towel. For tarnished brass, simply pour a bit of vinegar on a rag and rub off the tarnish. For super sticky tarnish you may need to soak it a bit in the vinegar.

19. Food-Related Uses: For Instance, Pickling, Canning, Curdling Milk or Soymilk to Simulate Buttermilk, Homemade Salad Dressing, A Nice Addition To Pasta, etc. This topic is for another post, but of course in addition to all of the above uses, vinegar is incredibly useful as food!

20. There Are Many More. If you have another use for vinegar, please share it with us in the comments!!

Save Money, Time, and Anguish!

Ok so, with this list, you can now stop buying a whole lot of other products that you don't need and save a ton of money! Also, there is no need to worry about trying to find natural products in the grocery store, because now you can make them with vinegar and water (and sometimes one other ingredient).

If you want to save more money by making your own vinegar, check out Rhonda Jean's great instructions (with more here) - it's surprisingly easy.

And finally, if you have children and/or pets, please consider replacing your hazardous cleaning products with safe products such as vinegar. If you need incentive to do so, please read Kendra's post here.

What Else?

For those of you who are using vinegar for household needs, what did I leave off this list?