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.

Around the Office

Keyboard
R. Jason Brunson, U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons

Clear dirt off PCs and peripherals

Your computer, printer, fax machine, and other home office gear will work better if you keep them clean and dust-free. Before you start cleaning, make sure that all your equipment is shut off. Now mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bucket. Dampen a clean cloth in the solution — never use a spray bottle; you don’t want to get liquid on the circuits inside — then squeeze it out as hard as you can, and start wiping. Use cotton swabs to get in tight spaces (like around the keys of your keyboard).

Clean your computer mouse

If you have a mouse with a removable tracking ball, use a 50/50 vinegar-water solution to clean it. First, remove the ball from underneath the mouse by twisting off the cover over it. Use a cloth, dampened with the solution and wrung out, to wipe the ball clean and to remove fingerprints and dirt from the mouse itself. Then use a moistened cotton swab to clean out the gunk and debris from inside the ball chamber (let it dry a couple of hours before reinserting the ball).

Erase ballpoint-pen marks

Has the budding young artist in your home just decorated a painted wall in your home with a ballpoint original or scribbled all over your desk while playing “office?” Don’t lose your cool. Rather, dab some full-strength white vinegar on the “masterpiece” using a cloth or a sponge. Repeat until the marks are gone. Then go out and buy your child a nice big sketch pad.

Burnish your scissors

When your scissor blades get sticky or grimy, don’t use water to wash them off; you’re far more likely to rust the fastener that holds the blades together — or the blades themselves — than get them clean. Instead, wipe down the blades with a cloth dipped in full-strength white vinegar, and then dry it off with a rag or dish towel.

 

Around the Living Room

windowClean your window blinds

You can make the job of cleaning mini-blinds or venetians considerably less torturous by giving them “the white glove treatment.” Just put on a white cotton glove and moisten the fingers in a solution made of equal parts white vinegar and hot tap water. Then slide your fingers across both sides of each slat and prepare to be amazed. Use a container of clean water to periodically wash off the glove.

Clean your piano keys

Here’s an easy and efficient way to get those grimy fingerprints and stains off your piano keys. Dip a soft cloth into a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed in 2 cups water, squeeze it out until there are no drips, then gently wipe off each key. Use a second cloth to dry off the keys as you move along, then leave the keyboard uncovered for 24 hours.

Get rid of water rings on furniture

If your family is too lazy to use coasters, you might end up with white rings dotting the coffee table. To remove marks left by wet glasses on wood furniture, mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil and apply it with a soft cloth while moving with the wood grain. Use another clean, soft cloth to shine it up. To get white water rings off leather furniture, dab them with a sponge soaked in full-strength white vinegar.

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Restore your rugs

If your rugs or carpets are looking worn and dingy from too much foot traffic, bring them back to life by brushing them with a clean push broom dipped in a solution of 1 cup white vinegar in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Your faded threads will perk up, and you don’t even need to rinse off the solution. You can also prevent mildew from forming on the bottoms of rugs and carpeting by misting the backs with full-strength white vinegar from a spray bottle.

Remove carpet stains

For more stubborn stains:

  • Rub light carpet stains with a mixture of 2 tablespoons salt dissolved in 1/2 cup white vinegar. Let the solution dry, then vacuum.
  • For larger or darker stains, add 2 tablespoons borax to the mixture and use in the same way.
  • For tough, ground-in dirt and other stains, make a paste of 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and rub it into the stain using a dry cloth. Let it set for two days, then vacuum.

To make spray-on spot and stain remover, fill a spray bottle with 5 parts water and 1 part vinegar. Fill a second spray bottle with 1 part nonsudsy ammonia and 5 parts water. Saturate a stain with the vinegar solution. Let it settle for a few minutes, then blot thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth. Then spray and blot using the ammonia solution. Repeat until the stain is gone.

vacation rental packing, fireplace

Brighten up brickwork

How’s this for an effortless way to clean your brick fireplace? Just go over the bricks with a damp cloth dipped in 1 cup white vinegar mixed with 1 gallon (3.7 liters) warm water. The hearth will look so good you’ll wonder why you didn’t try this sooner! You can also use this same solution to brighten up any other exposed brick, even brick flooring.

 

Revitalize wood paneling

Does the wood paneling in your den look dull and dreary? Liven it up with this simple homemade remedy: Mix 1 pint warm water, 4 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a container, give it a couple of shakes, and apply with a clean cloth. Let the mixture soak into the wood for several minutes, then polish with a dry cloth.

Wipe off wax or polish buildup

When furniture polish or wax builds up on wood furniture or leather tabletops, get rid of it with diluted white vinegar. To get built-up polish off a piece of wood furniture, dip a cloth in equal parts vinegar and water and squeeze it out well. Then, moving with the grain, clean away the polish. Wipe dry with a soft towel or cloth. Most leather tabletops will come clean simply by wiping them down with a soft cloth dipped in 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Use a clean towel to dry off any remaining liquid.

Revitalize leather furniture

Has your leather sofa or easy chair lost its luster? To restore it to its former glory, mix equal parts white vinegar and boiled linseed oil in a recycled spray bottle, shake it up well, and spray it on. Spread it evenly over your furniture using a soft cloth, give it a couple of minutes to settle in, then rub it off with a clean cloth.

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Conceal scratches in wood furniture

Got a scratch on a wooden tabletop that grabs your attention every time you look at it? To make it much less noticeable, mix some distilled or cider vinegar and iodine in a small jar and paint over the scratch with a small artist’s brush. Use more iodine for darker woods; more vinegar for lighter shades.

Remove candle wax

Candles are great for creating a romantic mood, but the mood can quickly sour if you wind up getting melted candle wax on your fine wood furniture. To remove it, first soften the wax using a blow-dryer on its hottest setting and blot up as much as you can with paper towels. Then remove what’s left by rubbing with a cloth soaked in a solution made of equal parts white vinegar and water. Wipe clean with a soft, absorbent cloth.

Around the Kitchen

drain
iStock/Thinkstock

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.

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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.

wine ice cubes
iStock/Thinkstock

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Around the Car

weird car wash tricks streaky wiper blades

Clean windshield wiper blades

When your windshield actually gets blurrier after you turn on your wipers during a rainstorm, it usually means that your wiper blades are dirty. To make them as good as new, dampen a cloth or rag with some full-strength white vinegar and run it down the full length of each blade once or twice.

Care for your car’s carpets

A good vacuuming will get up the sand and other loose debris from your car’s carpeting, but it won’t do diddly for stains or ground-in dirt. For that, mix up a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar and sponge it into the carpet. Give the mixture a couple of minutes to settle in; then blot it up with a cloth or paper towel. This technique will also eliminate salt residues left on car carpets during the winter months.

Remove bumper stickers

If those tattered old bumper stickers on your car make you feel more nauseated than nostalgic, it’s time to break out the vinegar. Saturate the top and sides of the sticker with undiluted distilled vinegar and wait 10-15 minutes for the vinegar to soak through. Then use an expired credit card (or one of those promotional plastic cards that come in the mail) to scrape it off. Use more full-strength vinegar to get rid of any remaining gluey residue. Use the same technique to detach those cute decals your kids used to decorate the back windshield.

Keep car windows frost-free

If you park your car outdoors during the cold winter months, a smart and simple way to keep frost from forming on your windows is by wiping (or, better yet, spraying) the outsides of the windows with a solution of 3 parts white vinegar to 1 part water. Each coating may last up to several weeks — although, unfortunately, it won’t do much in the way of warding off a heavy snowfall.

Next: Uses for vinegar around the bathroom

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