Cleaning & Organizing
95 Household Vinegar Uses You Never Knew About
With so many different uses around the house, this trusted item—in its white vinegar as well as its apple cider vinegar versions—deserves a special place in your pantry.
Clear dirt off PCs and peripherals
These vinegar uses will have your office looking clean and new. 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). These are the things that professional housecleaners do in their homes every day.
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. Watch out for these ways you didn’t realize you’re overcleaning your house.
Clean your window blinds
These vinegar uses will bring your house cleaning game to another level. 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.
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. Try these tricks for cleaning hard-to-clean household items.
Remove carpet stains
Here are some vinegar uses 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 and 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 non-sudsy 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.
Brighten up brickwork
Try these vinegar uses around the outside of your home to give it an update. 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.
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 and more vinegar for lighter shades. You’ll want to steal these genius cleaning hacks from professional house cleaners.
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.
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
There are also many vinegar uses for your kitchen. 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. This method takes advantage of multiple vinegar uses: 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.
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. Here’s how often you should be cleaning everything in your house.
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 in 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. coli, Salmonella, 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. Here are some more great techniques for how to polish silver.
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.
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.
Make 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. Here’s how you can clean your kitchen in just five minutes.
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. Here are some other simple things you can do to keep your kitchen bug-free.
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 vinegar. Punch a few holes in the lid, screw it back on, and you’re good to go.
Clean windshield wiper blades
There aren’t just vinegar uses for your home, try out this amazing cleaner on your car as well. 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. Here are some more little-known car-cleaning hacks.
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.
Shine ceramic tiles
Try these vinegar uses around your bathroom. 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. You can safely ignore these cleaning myths.
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 of 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! There are all sorts of other bathroom vinegar uses. For instance, 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.
Fight mold and mildew
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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.
Make new clothes ready to wear
There are also a lot of helpful vinegar uses when it comes to doing laundry. 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. Watch out for these ways you’re cleaning your bathroom wrong.
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 vinegar uses that boost your laundry game:
- 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.
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.
Maintain your iron
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
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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. Check out these cleaning tasks you can do in one minute or less.
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.
Clean 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
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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. Try these simple ways to keep your home pest free all season.
Stop yellow leaves on plants
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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. Try these other chemical-free ways to clean your home.
Clean 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.
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. Try these brilliant DIY cleaning products for every room in the house.
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.
Freshen a musty closet
Got a closet that doesn’t smell as fresh as you’d like? First, remove the contents, then wash down the walls, ceiling, and floor with a cloth dampened in a solution of 1 cup each of vinegar and ammonia and 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Keep the closet door open and let the interior dry before replacing your clothes and other stuff. If the smell persists, place a small pan of cat litter inside. Replenish every few days until the odor is gone.
Unglue stickers, decals, and price tags
To remove a sticker or decal affixed to painted furniture or a painted wall, simply saturate the corners and sides of the sticker with full-strength white vinegar and carefully scrape it off (using an expired credit card or a plastic phone card). Remove any sticky remains by pouring on a bit more vinegar. Let it sit for a minute or two, and then wipe with a clean cloth. This approach is equally effective for removing price tags and other stickers from glass, plastic, and other glossy surfaces.
Keep cut flowers fresh
Everyone likes to keep cut flowers around as long as possible, and there are several good vinegar uses that can help with this. One way is to mix 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar with the vase water before adding the flowers. Be sure to change the water (with more vinegar and sugar, of course) every few days to enhance your flowers’ longevity.
Peel off wallpaper
Removing old wallpaper can be messy, but you can make it peel off easily by soaking it with a vinegar solution. Spray equal parts white vinegar and water on the wallpaper until it is saturated and wait a few minutes. Then zip the stuff off the wall with a wallpaper scraper. If it is stubborn, try carefully scoring the wallpaper with the scraper before you spritz.
Slow hardening of plaster
Want to keep your plaster pliable a bit longer to get it all smoothed out? Just add a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to your plaster mix. It will slow down the hardening process to give you the extra time you need.
Wash concrete off your skin
Even though you wear rubber gloves when working with concrete, some of the stuff inevitably splashes on your skin. Prolonged contact with wet concrete can cause your skin to crack, and may even lead to eczema. Use undiluted white vinegar to wash dried concrete or mortar off your skin, then wash with warm, soapy water.
Remove paint fumes
Place a couple of shallow dishes filled with undiluted white vinegar around a freshly painted room to quickly get rid of the strong paint smell. Check out these secrets of people who have impeccable homes (they’re not rich).
Keep the kitties away
If you want to keep Snowball and Fluffy out of the kids’ playroom, or discourage them from using your favorite easy chair as a scratching post, sprinkle some full-strength distilled white vinegar around the area or onto the object itself. Cats don’t like the smell of vinegar and will avoid it.
Unmark your pet’s spots
When housebreaking a puppy or kitten, it’ll often wet previously soiled spots. After cleaning up the mess, it’s essential to remove the scent from your floor, carpeting, or sofa. And nothing does that better than vinegar:
- On a floor, blot up as much of the stain as possible. Then mop with equal parts white vinegar and warm water. (On a wood or vinyl floor, test a few drops of vinegar in an inconspicuous area to make sure it won’t harm the finish.) Dry with a cloth or paper towel.
- For carpets, rugs, and upholstery, thoroughly blot the area with a towel or some rags. Then pour a bit of undiluted vinegar over the spot. Blot it up with a towel, then reapply the vinegar-let it air-dry. Once the vinegar dries, the spot should be completely deodorized.
Directly protect against fleas and ticks
To give your dog effective flea and tick protection, fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and vinegar and apply it directly to the dog’s coat and rub it in well. You may have more trouble doing this with cats, because they really hate the smell of the stuff.
Clean your pet’s ears
If you’ve noticed that Rover has been scratching around his ears a lot more than usual lately, a bit of vinegar could bring him some big relief. Swabbing your pet’s ears with a cotton ball or soft cloth dabbed in solution of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water will keep them clean and help deter ear mites and bacteria. It also soothes minor itches from mosquito bites and such. Warning: Do not apply vinegar to open lacerations. If you see a cut in your pet’s ears, seek veterinary treatment.
Remove skunk odor
If Fido has an unpleasant encounter with an ornery skunk, here are some ways to help him get rid of the smell:
- Bathe your pet in a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid soap in 1 quart (1 liter) 3% hydrogen peroxide. Work the solution deep into his coat, give it a few minutes to soak in, then rinse him thoroughly with clean water.
- Bathe your pet in equal parts water and vinegar (preferably outdoors in a large washtub). Then repeat the procedure using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, followed by a good rinsing.
- If you happen to have an unscheduled meeting with skunk, use undiluted vinegar to get the smell out your own clothes. Let the affected clothing soak in the vinegar overnight.
Now that you have an array of vinegar uses in your cleaning archives, check out these secrets of people who always have a clean house.