Around the Bathroom
Wipe away mildew
When you want to remove mildew stains, reach for white vinegar first. To eliminate heavy mildew accumulations, use it full strength. For light stains, dilute it with an equal amount of water.
Shine ceramic tiles
If soap scum or water spots have dulled the ceramic tiles around your sink or bath, bring back the brightness by scrubbing them with 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup ammonia, and 1/4 cup borax mixed in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) warm water. Rinse well with cool water and let air-dry.
Clean sinks and bathtubs
Put the shine back in your porcelain sinks and bathtubs by giving them a good scrubbing with full-strength white vinegar, followed by a rinse of clean cold water. To remove hard-water stains from your tub, pour in 3 cups white vinegar under running hot tap water. Let the tub fill up over the stains and allow it to soak for four hours. When the water drains out, you should be able to easily scrub off the stains. To whiten the grout, dip a toothbrush in white vinegar and scrub away.
Shine up your shower doors
To leave your glass shower doors sparkling clean — and to remove all of those annoying water spots — wipe them down with a cloth dipped in a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup ammonia, and 1/4 cup baking soda mixed in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) warm water.
Wash out your rinse cup
If several people in your home use the same rinse cup after brushing their teeth, give it a weekly cleaning by filling it with equal parts water and white vinegar, or just full-strength vinegar, and let it sit overnight. Rinse thoroughly with cold water before using.
Remove mineral deposits from showerheads
Wash away blockages and mineral deposits from removable showerheads by placing them in 1 quart (1 liter) boiling water with 1/2 cup distilled vinegar for 10 minutes (use hot, not boiling, liquid for plastic showerheads). When you remove it from the solution, the obstructions should be gone. If you have a nonremovable showerhead, fill a small plastic bag half full with vinegar and tape it over the fixture. Let it sit for about 1 hour, then remove the bag and wipe off any remaining vinegar from the showerhead.
Disinfect shower door tracks
Use vinegar to remove accumulated dirt and grime from the tracks of your shower doors. Fill the tracks with about 2 cups full-strength white vinegar and let it sit for three to five hours. (If the tracks are really dirty, heat the vinegar in a glass container for 30 seconds in your microwave first.) Then pour some hot water over the track to flush away the gunk. You may need to use a small scrub brush, or even a recycled toothbrush, to get up tough stains.
Wipe down bathroom fixtures
Don’t stop at the shower when you’re cleaning with vinegar! Pour a bit of undiluted white vinegar onto a soft cloth and use it to wipe your chrome faucets, towel racks, bathroom mirrors, doorknobs, and such. It’ll leave them gleaming.
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Fight mold and mildew
To remove and inhibit bathroom mold and mildew, pour a solution of 3 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 teaspoon borax, and 2 cups hot water into a clean, recycled spray bottle and give it a few good shakes. Then spray the mixture on painted surfaces, tiles, windows, or wherever you see mold or mildew spots. Use a soft scrub brush to work the solution into the stains or just let it soak in.
Disinfect toilet bowls
Want an easy way to keep your toilet looking and smelling clean? Pour 2 cups white vinegar into the bowl and let the solution soak overnight before flushing. Including this vinegar soak in your weekly cleaning regimen will also help keep away those ugly water rings that typically appear just above the water level.
Clean your toothbrush holder
Get the grime, bacteria, and caked-on toothpaste drippings out of the grooves of your bathroom toothbrush holder by cleaning the openings with cotton swabs moistened with white vinegar.
Around the Laundry Room
Get the chemicals, dust, odor, and whatever else out of your brand-new or secondhand clothes by pouring 1 cup white vinegar into the wash cycle the first time you wash them.
Stop reds from running
Unless you have a fondness for pink-tinted clothing, take one simple precaution to prevent red — or other brightly dyed — washable clothes from ruining your wash loads. Soak your new garments in a few cups of undiluted white vinegar for 10-15 minutes before their first washing. You’ll never have to worry about running colors again!
Wash mildew from shower curtains
Clean those ugly mildew stains off your plastic shower curtain by putting it and a couple of soiled towels in your washing machine. Add 1/2 cup laundry detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda to the load, and wash it in warm water on your machine’s regular cycle. Add 1 cup white vinegar to the first rinse. Before the machine goes into the spin cycle, remove the curtain and let it hang-dry.
Clean your washing machine
An easy way to periodically clean out soap scum and disinfect your clothes washer is to pour in 2 cups vinegar, then run the machine through a full cycle without any clothes or detergent. If your washer is particularly dirty, fill it with very hot water, add 2 gallons (7.5 liters) vinegar, and let the agitator run for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the washer and let the solution stand overnight. In the morning, empty the basin and run your washer through a complete cycle.
Soften fabrics, kill bacteria, eliminate static, and more
There are so many benefits to be reaped by adding 1 cup white vinegar to your washer’s rinse cycle that it’s surprising that you don’t find it prominently mentioned inside the owner’s manual of every washing machine sold. Here are the main ones:
- A single cup of vinegar will kill off any bacteria that may be present in your wash load, especially if it includes cloth diapers and the like.
- A cup of vinegar will keep your clothes coming out of the wash soft and smelling fresh — so you can kiss your fabric-softening liquids and sheets good-bye (unless, of course, you happen to like your clothes smelling of heavy perfumes).
- Added to the last rinse, a cup of vinegar will keep your clothes lint- and static-free.
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Brighten your loads
Why waste money on that costly all-color bleach when you can get the same results using vinegar? Just add 1/2 cup white vinegar to your machine’s wash cycle to brighten up the colors in each load.
Whiten your dingy crew socks
If it’s getting increasingly difficult to identify the white socks in your sock drawer, here’s a simple way to make them so bright you can’t miss them. Start by adding 1 cup vinegar to 1 1/2 quarts (1.5 liters) tap water in a large pot. Bring the solution to a boil, then pour it into a bucket and drop in your dingy socks. Let them soak overnight. The next day, wash them as you normally would.
Get the yellow out of clothing
To restore yellowed clothing, let the garments soak overnight in a solution of 12 parts warm water to 1 part vinegar. Wash them the following morning.
Spray away wrinkles
In a perfect world, laundry would emerge from the dryer freshly pressed. Until that day, you can often get the wrinkles out of clothes after drying by misting them with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Once you’re sure you didn’t miss a spot, hang it up and let it air-dry. You may find this approach works better for some clothes than ironing; it’s certainly a lot gentler on the material.
To eliminate mineral deposits and prevent corrosion on your steam iron, give it an occasional cleaning by filling the reservoir with undiluted white vinegar. Place the iron in an upright position, switch on the steam setting, and let the vinegar steam through it for 5-10 minutes. Then refill the chamber with clean water and repeat. Finally, give the water chamber a good rinsing with cold, clean water. You can remove scorch marks from the soleplate of your iron by scrubbing it with a paste made by heating up equal parts vinegar and salt in a small pan. Use a rag dipped in clean water to wipe away the remaining residue.
Reshape your woolens
Shrunken woolen sweaters and other items can usually be stretched back to their former size or shape after boiling them in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for 25 minutes. Let the garment air-dry after you’ve finished stretching it.
Brush off stains on suede
To eliminate a fresh grease spot on a suede jacket, skirt, or shoes, gently brush it with a soft toothbrush dipped in white vinegar. Let the spot air-dry, then brush with a suede brush. Repeat if necessary.
Pat away water-soluble stains
You can lift out many water-soluble stains — including beer, orange and other fruit juices, black coffee or tea, and vomit –from your cotton-blend clothing by patting the spot with a cloth or towel moistened with undiluted white vinegar just before placing it in the wash. For large stains, you may want to soak the garment overnight in a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part cold water before washing.
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Blood, cola, hair dye, ketchup, and wine stains on washable cotton blends should be treated as soon as possible (that is, within 24 hours). Sponge the area with undiluted vinegar and launder immediately afterward. For severe stains, add 1-2 cups vinegar to the wash cycle as well. Older, set-in stains will often come out in the wash after being pretreated with a solution of 3 tablespoons white vinegar and 2 tablespoons liquid detergent in 1 quart (1 liter) warm water. Rub the solution into the stain, then blot it dry before washing.
Remove perspiration discoloration
Are you tired of seeing those old sweat rings around your shirt collars or under the arms? What about the annoying discoloration along the edges of your cuffs? Give them the boot by scrubbing the material with a paste made from 2 parts white vinegar to 3 parts baking soda. Let the paste set for half an hour before washing (this also works on ink stains). This approach also works to remove light mildew stains from clothing. You can also pour a bit of vinegar directly on the stain and rub into the fabric before washing.
Around the Yard
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
Around the Garage
Get rid of rust
If you want to clean up those rusted old tools you recently unearthed in your basement or picked up at a tag sale, soak them in full-strength white vinegar for several days. The same treatment is equally effective at removing the rust from corroded nuts and bolts. And you can pour vinegar on rusted hinges and screws to loosen them up for removal.
Disinfect air-conditioner and humidifier filters
An air-conditioner or humidifier filter can quickly become inundated with dust, soot, pet dander, and even potentially harmful bacteria. Every 10 days or so, fill a bucket with equal parts white vinegar and warm water and let the filter soak in the solution for an hour, then simply squeeze it dry before using. If your filters are particularly dirty, let them soak overnight. You can also keep them clean by periodically wiping them down with full strength vinegar.
Keep the paint on your cement floors
Painted cement floors have a tendency to peel after a while. But you can keep the paint stuck to the cement longer by giving the floor an initial coat of white vinegar before you paint it. Wait until the vinegar has dried, then begin painting. This same technique will also help keep paint affixed to galvanized metal.
Revive your paintbrushes
To remove dried-on paint from a synthetic-bristle paintbrush, soak it in full-strength white vinegar until the paint dissolves and the bristles are soft and pliable, then wash in hot, soapy water. Does a paintbrush seem beyond hope? Before you toss it, try boiling it in 1-2 cups vinegar for 10 minutes, followed by a thorough washing in soapy water.
Next: Miscellaneous uses for vinegar