95+ Household Uses for Vinegar

With so many different uses around the house, this super item — in its white vinegar as well as its apple cider vinegar versions — deserves a special place in your pantry.

From Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things (Reader's Digest Association Books)

AROUND THE KITCHEN

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Unclog and deodorize drains

The combination of vinegar and baking soda is one of the most effective ways to unclog and deodorize drains. It’s also far gentler on your pipes (and your wallet) than commercial drain cleaners.

Use a funnel to pour 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup vinegar into the drain. When the foaming subsides, flush with hot tap water. Wait five minutes, and then flush again with cold water. Besides clearing blockages, this technique also washes away odor-causing bacteria.

Get rid of smoke odor

If you’ve recently burned a steak — or if your chain-smoking aunt recently paid you a surprise visit — remove the lingering smoky odor by placing a shallow bowl about three-quarters full of white or cider vinegar in the room where the scent is strongest. Use several bowls if the smell permeates your entire home. The odor should be gone in less than a day. You can also quickly dispense of the smell of fresh cigarette smoke inside a room by moistening a cloth with vinegar and waving it around a bit.

Clean chrome and stainless steel

To clean chrome and stainless steel fixtures around your home, apply a light misting of undiluted white vinegar from a recycled spray bottle. Buff with a soft cloth to bring out the brightness.

Give grease stains the slip

Eliminate grease stains from your stove, broiler, kitchen table, or counter by wiping them down with a cloth dampened in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. In addition to removing the grease, the vinegar will neutralize any odors on the surface (once its own aroma evaporates, that is). For daily grease-fighting action, pour 3-4 tablespoons white vinegar into your favorite brand (especially bargain brands) of liquid dishwashing detergent and give it a few shakes. The added vinegar will not only increase the detergent’s grease-fighting capabilities, but also provide you with more dishwashing liquid for the money, because you’ll need less soap to clean your dishes. You can also boil 2 cups vinegar in your greasy pan for about 10 minutes to give it a natural non-stick quality that lasts several months, or boil 1 cup vinegar and water in a stainless steel pot to melt off stubborn slicks.

Deodorize lunch boxes

Has your child’s lunch box has taken on the bouquet of week-old tuna? Quit holding your breath every time you open it, and save them from lunchtime embarrassment with a quick deodorizing treatment. Soak a slice of white bread in white vinegar and leave it in the lunchbox overnight. The smell should be gone by morning.

keep your sanity on thanksgiving by using the microwave

Steam-clean your microwave

To clean your microwave, place a glass bowl filled with a solution of 1/4 cup vinegar in 1 cup water inside, and zap the mixture for five minutes on the highest setting. Once the bowl cools, dip a cloth or sponge into the liquid and use it to wipe away stains and splatters on the interior.

Refresh your refrigerator

Did you know that vinegar might be an even more effective safe cleanser for your refrigerator than baking soda? Use equal parts white vinegar and water to wash both the interior and exterior of your fridge, including the door gasket and the fronts of the vegetable and fruit bins. To prevent mildew growth, wash the inside walls and bin interiors with some full-strength vinegar on a cloth. Also use undiluted vinegar to wipe off accumulated dust and grime on top of your refrigerator. Of course, you’ll still want to put that box of baking soda inside your refrigerator to keep it smelling clean when you’re done.

Disinfect cutting boards

To disinfect and clean your wood cutting boards or butcher block countertop, wipe them with full-strength white vinegar after each use. The acetic acid in the vinegar is a good disinfectant, effective against such harmful bugs as E. coliSalmonella, and Staphylococcus. Never use water and dishwashing detergent, because it can weaken surface wood fibers. When your wooden cutting surface needs deodorizing as well as disinfecting, spread some baking soda over it and then spray on undiluted white vinegar. Let it foam and bubble for five to ten minutes, then rinse with a cloth dipped in clean cold water.

Shine your silver

Make your silverware — as well as your pure silver bracelets, rings, and other jewelry — shine like new by soaking them in a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons baking soda for two to three hours. Rinse them under cold water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.

Polish brass and copper items

Put the shimmer back in your brass, bronze, and copper objects by making a paste of equal parts white vinegar and salt, or vinegar and baking soda (wait for the fizzing to stop before using). Use a clean, soft cloth or paper towel to rub the paste into the item until the tarnish is gone. Then rinse with cool water and polish with a soft towel until dry.

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Refresh your ice trays

If your plastic ice trays are covered with hard-water stains — or if it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned them — a few cups of white vinegar can help you in either case. To remove the spots or disinfect your trays, let them soak in undiluted vinegar for four to five hours, then rinse well under cold water and let dry.

Clean a coffeemaker

If your coffee consistently comes out weak or bitter, odds are, your coffeemaker needs cleaning. Fill the decanter with 2 cups white vinegar and 1 cup water. Place a filter in the machine, and pour the solution into the coffeemaker’s water chamber. Turn on the coffeemaker and let it run through a full brew cycle. Remove the filter and replace it with a fresh one. Then run clean water through the machine for two full cycles, replacing the filter again for the second brew. If you have soft water, clean your coffeemaker after 80 brew cycles — after 40 cycles if you have hard water.

Clean china, crystal, and glassware

Put the sparkle back in your glassware by adding vinegar to your rinse water or dishwater.

  • To keep your everyday glassware gleaming, add 1/4 cup vinegar to your dishwasher’s rinse cycle.
  • To rid drinking glasses of cloudiness or spots caused by hard water, heat up a pot of equal parts white vinegar and water (use full-strength vinegar if your glasses are very cloudy), and let them soak in it for 15-30 minutes. Give them a good scrubbing with a bottle brush, then rinse clean.
  • Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to your dishwater when cleaning your good crystal glasses. Then rinse them in a solution of 3 parts warm water to 1 part vinegar and allow them to air-dry. You can also wash delicate crystal and fine china by adding 1 cup vinegar to a basin of warm water. Gently dunk the glasses in the solution and let dry.
  • To get coffee stains and other discolorations off china dishes and teacups, try scrubbing them with equal parts vinegar and salt, followed by rinsing them under warm water.

Clean a teakettle

To eliminate lime and mineral deposits in a teakettle, bring 3 cups full-strength white vinegar to a full boil for five minutes and leave the vinegar in the kettle overnight. Rinse out with cold water the next day.

Clear the air in your kitchen

If the smell of yesterday’s cooked cabbage or fish stew is hanging around your kitchen longer than you’d like, mix a pot of 1/2 cup white vinegar in 1 cup water. Let it boil until the liquid is almost gone. You’ll be breathing easier in no time.

Things That Should Last a Lifetime, cast-iron panMake an all-purpose scrub for pots and pans

How would you like an effective scouring mix that costs a few pennies, and can be safely used on all of your metal cookware — including expensive copper pots and pans? Want even better news? You probably already have this “miracle mix” in your kitchen. Simply combine equal parts salt and flour and add just enough vinegar to make a paste. Work the paste around the cooking surface and the outside of the utensil, then rinse off with warm water and dry thoroughly with a soft dish towel.


Sanitize jars, containers, and vases

Do you cringe at the thought of cleaning out a mayonnaise, peanut butter, or mustard jar to reuse it? Or worse, getting the residue out of a slimy vase, decanter, or container? There is an easy way to handle these jobs. Fill the item with equal parts vinegar and warm, soapy water and let it stand for 10-15 minutes. If you’re cleaning a bottle or jar, close it up and give it a few good shakes; otherwise use a bottle brush to scrape off the remains before thoroughly rinsing.

Clean a dirty thermos

To get a thermos bottle clean, fill it with warm water and 1/4 cup white vinegar. If you see any residue, add some uncooked rice, which will act as an abrasive to scrape it off. Close and shake well. Then rinse and let it air-dry.

Purge bugs from your pantry

Do you have moths or other insects in your cupboard or pantry? Fill a small bowl with 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar and add a couple of drops of liquid dish detergent. Leave it in there for a week; it will attract the bugs, which will fall into the bowl and drown. Then empty the shelves, and give the interior a thorough washing with dishwashing detergent or 2 cups baking soda in 1 quart (1 liter) water. Discard all wheat products (breads, pasta, flour, and such), and clean off canned goods before putting them back.

Brush-clean can opener blades

Does that dirty wheel blade of your electric can opener look like it’s seen at least one can too many? To clean and sanitize it, dip an old toothbrush in white vinegar, and then position the bristles of the brush around the side and edge of the wheel. Turn on the appliance, and let the blade scrub itself clean.

Trap fruit flies

Did you bring home fruit flies from the market? You can make traps for them that can be used anywhere around your house by filling an old jar about halfway with apple cider. Punch a few holes in the lid, screw it back on, and you’re good to go.

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