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 YARD

landscaper secrets lawn mowerClean your lawn mower blades

Grass, especially when it’s damp, has a tendency to accumulate on your lawn mower blades after you cut the lawn — sometimes with grubs or other insects hiding inside. Before you park your mower back in the garage or tool shed, wipe down the blades with a cloth dampened with undiluted white vinegar. It will clean off leftover grass on the blades, as well as any pests that may have been planning to hang out awhile.

Eliminate insects around the garden

If the bugs are feasting on the fruits and vegetables in your garden, give them the boot with this simple, nonpoisonous trap. Fill a 2-liter soda bottle with 1 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup sugar. Next, slice up a banana peel into small pieces, put them in the bottle, add 1 cup cold water, and shake it up. Tie a piece of string around the neck of the bottle and hang it from a low tree branch, or place it on the ground, to trap and kill the six-legged freeloaders. Replace used traps with new ones as needed.

Test soil acidity or alkalinity

To do a quick test for excess alkalinity in the soil in your yard, place a handful of earth in a container and then pour in 1/2 cup white vinegar. If the soil fizzes or bubbles, it’s definitely alkaline. Similarly, to see if your soil has a high acidity, mix the earth with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup baking soda. This time, fizzing would indicate acid in the soil. To find the exact pH level of your soil, have it tested or pick up a simple, do-it-yourself kit or meter.

Clean a hummingbird feeder

Hummingbirds are innately discriminating creatures, so don’t expect to see them flocking around a dirty, sticky, or crusted-over sugar-water feeder. Regularly clean your feeders by thoroughly washing them in equal parts apple cider vinegar and hot water. Rinse well with cold water after washing, and air-dry them outdoors in full sunlight before refilling them with food.

Speed germination of flower seed

You can get woody seeds, such as moonflower, passionflower, morning glory, and gourds, off to a healthier start by scarifying them-that is, lightly rubbing them between a couple of sheets of fine sandpaper-and soaking them overnight in a solution of 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 pint (half liter) warm water. Next morning, remove the seeds from the solution, rinse them off, and plant them. You can also use the solution (minus the sandpaper treatment) to start many herb and vegetable seeds.

Wipe away mealybugs

They’re among the most insidious and common pests on both houseplants and in the garden. But you can nip a mealybug invasion in the bud by dabbing the insects with a cotton swab dipped in full-strength white vinegar. You may need to use a handful of swabs, but the vinegar will kill the fluffy monsters and any eggs left behind. Be vigilant for missed targets, and break out more vinegar-soaked swabs if you spot bugs.

healing plants to grow, lemon balmStop yellow leaves on plants

The sudden appearance of yellow leaves on plants accustomed to acidic soils-such as azaleas, hydrangeas, and gardenias-could signal a drop in the plant’s iron intake or a shift in the ground’s pH above a comfortable 5.0 level. Either problem can be resolved by watering the soil around the afflicted plants once a week for three weeks with 1 cup of a solution made by mixing 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in 1 quart (1 liter) water.

Encourage blooms on azaleas and gardenias

A little bit of acid goes a long way toward bringing out the blooms on your azalea and gardenia bushes — especially if you have hard water. Both bushes do best in acidic soils (with pH levels between 4 and 5.5). To keep them healthy and to produce more flowers, water them every week or so with 3 tablespoons white vinegar mixed in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Don’t apply the solution while the bush is in bloom, however; it may shorten the life of the flowers or harm the plant.

Treat rust and other plant diseases

You can use vinegar to treat a host of plant diseases, including rust, black spot, and powdery mildew. Mix 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in 2 quarts (2 liters) water, and pour some into a recycled spray bottle. Spray the solution on your affected plants in the morning or early evening (when temperatures are relatively cool and there’s no direct light on the plant) until the condition is cured.

Keep out four-legged creatures

Some animals — including cats, deer, dogs, rabbits, and raccoons — can’t stand the scent of vinegar even after it has dried. You can keep these unauthorized visitors out of your garden by soaking several recycled rags in white vinegar, and placing them on stakes around your veggies. Resoak the rags about every 7-10 days.

Exterminate dandelions and unwanted grass

Are dandelions sprouting up in the cracks of your driveway or along the fringes of your patio? Make them disappear for good by spraying them with full-strength white or apple cider vinegar. Early in the season, give each plant a single spritz of vinegar in its midsection, or in the middle of the flower before the plants go to seed. Aim another shot near the stem at ground level so the vinegar can soak down to the roots. Keep an eye on the weather, though; if it rains the next day, you’ll need to give the weeds another spraying.

tableClean outdoor furniture and decks

If you live in a hot, humid climate, you’re probably no stranger to seeing mildew on your wooden decks and patio furniture. But before you reach for the bleach, try these milder vinegar-based solutions:

  • Keep some full-strength white vinegar in a recycled spray bottle and use it wherever you see any mildew growth. The stain will wipe right off most surfaces, and the vinegar will keep it from coming back for a while.
  • Remove mildew from wood decks and wood patio furniture by sponging them off with a solution of 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda mixed in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Keep an old toothbrush on hand to work the solution into corners and other tight spaces.
  • To deodorize and inhibit mildew growth on outdoor plastic mesh furniture and patio umbrellas, mix 2 cups white vinegar and 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap in a bucket of hot water. Use a soft brush to work it into the grooves of the plastic as well as for scrubbing seat pads and umbrella fabric. Rinse with cold water; then dry in the sun.

Make a trap to lure flying insects

Who wants to play host to a bunch of gnats, flies mosquitoes, or other six-legged pests when you’re trying to have a cookout in your yard? Keep the flying gate-crashers at bay by giving them their own VIP section. Place a bowl filled with apple cider vinegar near some food, but away from you and guests. By the evening’s end, most of your uninvited guests will be floating inside the bowl.

Give ants the boot

Serve the ants on your premises with an eviction notice. Pour equal parts water and white vinegar into a spray bottle. Then spray it on anthills and around areas where you see the insects. Ants hate the smell of vinegar. It won’t take long for them to move on to better-smelling quarters. Also keep the spray bottle handy for outdoor trips or to keep ants away from picnic or children’s play areas. If you have lots of anthills around your property, try pouring full-strength vinegar over them to hasten the bugs’ departure.

Clean off bird droppings

Have the birds been using your patio or driveway for target practice again? Make those messy droppings disappear in no time by spraying them with full-strength apple cider vinegar. Or pour the vinegar onto a rag and wipe them off.

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