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11+ Uses for Vinegar You Need to Know About

By Heather Levin

household uses for vinegarWhen I buy vinegar, I buy it in bulk from Costco. Why on earth do I need that much vinegar, you ask?

Because vinegar, like baking soda uses, is one of those miracle products that I use for dozens of different things. I use it  to can vegetables, to clean my house, to remove stains – it’s a truly amazing, versatile, and eco-friendly product.

The wonderful thing about vinegar is that, because it can be used in so many different ways, you really will save money by using it. You don’t need 5 or 10 different household cleaners – you just need two.

Here are just a few of the literally dozens of ways you can use this miracle product.

1. Clean Your House
I haven’t bought commercial cleaners in years. Vinegar, baking soda, and sometimes lemons, fit the bill just fine. With these 3 products, you’ll be able to attain cheaper household cleaning.

To clean your toilet, dump 3/4 cup of baking soda into the bowl and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, dump in a few glugs of vinegar and clean with your toilet brush. This works on porcelain sinks and bathtubs, too (minus the toilet brush).

Vinegar also works great for cleaning windows and other hard surfaces. I mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part water and keep it in a spray bottle under my sink. And of course, you’ll still need to utilize a house cleaning schedule or checklist in order to maximize the benefits.

2. Freshen Your Air
Don’t waste money on Febreeze (which is loaded with harmful chemicals anyway). Vinegar neutralizes odors just as well!

Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, and 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. After it has stopped frothing, spritz wherever odor is bad. Or you can mix half water and half vinegar in a small spray bottle with a few drops of your favorite essential oil, and make your own “room fragrance.”

3. Deter Ants and Cats
Ants (in fact, all insects) don’t like vinegar. Spray it on doors and windows to keep them at bay get rid of household bugs.

Cats also don’t like vinegar. If you want to keep them off the sofa, or out of a room, spray the carpet or fabric with vinegar. Just make sure you test the fabric for colorfastness first – vinegar will bleach some fabrics.

4. Keep Frost off Your Windshield
I hate scraping off those thin layers of frost on cold mornings. You can keep frost off your car windows by coating them with 3 parts vinegar and 1 part water the night before.

5. Soothe a Sore Throat
Gargle a mixture of one tablespoon apple cider vinegar in eight ounces of warm water. Swallow at least two mouthfuls every hour, for several hours.

6. Fight Dandruff
Mix a few glugs of apple cider vinegar in two cups of warm water, and use it as a rinse after you shampoo. This will help keep dandruff at bay, and make your hair super shiny.

7. Unclog Drains
Commercial drain cleaners are not only expensive but they’re incredibly bad for the environment, as well as your plumbing. I never use them!

Instead, I pour 1/2 cup baking soda into the drain, followed by at least 1 cup of vinegar. After it foams, pour hot water (boiling is best) down the drain. Wait a few minutes, and then flush with cold water. Do this regularly and it will prevent clogs.

This is also a great way to deodorize your drain when it gets stinky.

8. Deodorize Containers
Back in grade school, I had a Care Bears lunch box. A month or so into the school year, it would start to smell like an unpleasant mixture of stale sandwiches and old fruit.

If you pack your own kids’ lunches, then you know the smell I’m talking about. The good news? Vinegar gets rid of it! Soak a piece of white bread in a bowl of vinegar, and then put that soggy bread in the lunch box (or thermos, or car trunk, or any other small space that stinks). The smell will be gone the next morning. This trick may allow you to reuse household items like boxes and food containers much longer.

9. Remove Water Rings from Wood
You had a big Super Bowl party last weekend, and your rowdy guests neglected to use the coasters you discreetly left out for them. Now, your furniture is dotted with pop-art-style “O” rings from their wet glasses. Not good.

You can remove water rings from your wood furniture by combining equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Rub the mixture into the wood, going with the grain, and then buff with a clean cloth.

You can also get rings off leather furniture by rubbing it with full strength vinegar, and then buffing with a clean cloth.

10. Clean Your Microwave
Microwaves can get pretty nasty. Especially when weeks, or months, worth of baked food is left on the sides. Yuck.

Fortunately, you can easily steam-clean your microwave with vinegar. In a glass bowl, mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water, and nuke it for 5 minutes. After the water has cooled a bit, wet a cloth in the mixture and wipe out the microwave. The food will come right off.

11. Disinfect Cutting Boards
Cutting boards can harbor bacteria when they’re not cleaned correctly, especially when you use your boards to chop up meat and fish. This bacteria can quickly give you and your family food poisoning if you’re not careful.

Make sure this doesn’t happen by regularly disinfecting your cutting boards with vinegar. Wash your boards with hot soapy water after each use. Then, wipe them down with full strength white vinegar.

You can also clean wooden chopping boards by spreading baking soda on them, and then pouring on the vinegar.

Bonus Tip
Vinegar also works great for cleaning out your coffee pot. I use a 1960′s-era percolator, and it’s easy for coffee oils to build up on the inside especially since I frequently make coffee recipes at home. But filling it halfway with vinegar and letting it run through a cycle leaves it sparkling clean!

Do you use vinegar around the house? Do you have any clever vinegar tips you’d like to share? Please share them here!

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • Casey Slide

    Oh wow, great tip about the percolator! I have one too, and it needs cleaning really bad. I will try that.

    Malt vinegar is also great for dandruff, especially if you have oily dandriff (yellow and crusty) instead of dry dandruff (white and flaky). In fact, I find it works better than the expensive dandruff shampoos. I only need to use it about once a week for it to keep my dandruff at bay. The smell does linger in my hair for a few days though.

    • Heather Levin

      Case, the vinegar works awesome on my percolator, getting that built up coffee oil off the sides. Running it through once a week keeps the coffee tasting awesome (which is the hallmark of those old percolators!)

  • http://www.BodyAxis.com Dan

    Apple cider vinegar does indeed offer relief from an extensive list of conditions while also promoting weight loss and increasing your daily supply of energy, and it does so not by being any sort of magic bullet but simply by reinforcing the body’s own processes. The body is a remarkable thing, capable of building and repairing itself almost indefinitely. Unfortunately, our diets and habits don’t offer the body the nutrition and movement it needs to work optimally. Apple cider vinegar works to increase digestive efficiency, the flow of nutrition and waste throughout and out of the body, and the potency of all the body’s circulatory, digestive, immune, excretory, and other systems.

    In particular, the hair and scalp are both healthiest when slightly acidic, however most of our shampoos and conditioners are rather alkaline and leave our hair more basic as well. That’s another part of the reason that an occasional apple cider vinegar and water rinse can really restore the health and shine of your hair, while its naturally antibiotic and antibacterial characteristics fight the causes of dandruff and itchiness.

    • Heather Levin

      Dan, wow thanks for that awesome information! I didn’t know that apple cider vinegar was so effective.

  • http://wisefinish.com Wise Finish

    Costco does have a decent everyday price for brand-name white vinegar, but I have found that no-name white vinegar at a local home improvement store is much cheaper, especially when it goes on sale around the time of year when people are canning.

    I don’t think there is that much of a difference between brand-name white vinegar and store-brand or no-name-brand white vinegar, but I would be interested if someone could make a case for it!

    • Heather Levin

      Wise Reply, I didn’t know you could buy vinegar at home improvement stores. I never even thought to look there! I do a lot of summer canning though, so I’ll definitely keep that in mind come June…hopefully it will go on sale and I can stock up for summer pickles!

  • not given

    I quit using fabric softener and put white vinegar in the cup instead.

    I spray a mix of vinegar and water on the counters before scrubbing and rinsing, then if I want to disinfect, I spray some more on and let it sit for 10 minutes before drying it off.

    It’s good for washing greens and other produce from the garden, too. Slightly warm water, some baking soda and vinegar, soak it, stirring it around a couple of times, rinse in cool water.

  • http://www.squirrelers.com Squirrelers

    This reminds me of the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, where the girl’s father uses windex for everything around the house:)

    Actually, I do agree that vinegar is a very versatile product that can save people a decent amount of money. We’re all conditioned to think that we need to buy a product that’s specifically used for one thing, and smart branding and marketing has gotten us to that point. But we could probably cut out a few products, and this post is a good example of that.

  • http://GreenerLivingBlog.com AliciaRYoung

    I also use vinegar as a laundry softener; I use about 1/4 cup in one of those downy balls and throw it in after the washer is loaded. My clothes do not smell like vinegar, but maintain that soft feel you normally get from other commercial softeners. Keep a bottle next to your other laundry detergent or homemade laundry detergent.

  • Blrush

    If your really trying to save money why would one ever waste cash on coffee.

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