Cleaning With Vinegar: Everything You Can Clean Plus How To

Vinegar is undeniably the MVP of DIY cleaning solutions.

If you’ve read any of our other cleaning articles, you’re likely hip to the fact that we love vinegar. Not only does it create delicious salad dressings, but its abrasive and acidic qualities make it an excellent cleaning agent for nearly anything. And the best part of cleaning with vinegar is that you probably already have some in your pantry. We prefer white vinegar as our cleaning condiment of choice, which is so inexpensive that it’s practically free.

So here is our ode to vinegar—natural cleaning solvent of all things, from showerheads and coffeepots to stainless steel and carpet.

Is vinegar an effective cleaning solution?

You already know the answer to this question because you’re here. And that answer is emphatically yes! Vinegar breaks down dirty compounds and neutralizes odors. Plus, when you combine it with baking soda, the chemical reaction cuts even the most baked-on grease from your grill, oven and stovetop.

Something important to note is that people often mistake vinegar with a disinfectant. It’s not. Vinegar does many things, but it technically doesn’t kill or eliminate bacteria. While it contains some disinfecting properties, vinegar doesn’t come close to disinfecting surfaces when compared to a ready-to-use product like Microban 24.

That being said, when deep cleaning most hard surfaces (especially those high-touch areas), we generally recommend using vinegar to clean, then going the extra step to disinfect with a ready-made cleaner. Or you can skip the in between and choose our favorite line of vinegar-powered cleaning products, 9 Elements—like the fast-acting 9 Elements Multi-Purpose Cleaner.

How to clean your kitchen with vinegar

Stainless steel appliances

You can actually pretreat your stainless steel appliances with vinegar by spritzing some (non-distilled!) white vinegar directly onto the appliance and simply wiping it clean with a dry rag (we like microfiber). This will actually prevent grime and grease and sticky fingerprints from building up and leaving streaks and marks on your stainless steel dishwasher door, fridge, microwave, toaster oven, etc. (Even your stainless steel French press or pressure cooker!)

Kitchen countertops

  • Keeping a spray bottle filled with diluted vinegar (1:1 ratio with warm water) around is the best favor you can do for yourself. Whenever you need to clean up food residue, sauce splashes, coffee drips, smoothie schmears, condiment gunk and the like, your trusty vinegar spray will do the trick.
  • Avoid using vinegar on countertops that are granite or marble, since the acidic vinegar will cause those awful etch marks.

Kitchen floor

  • Many kitchen floors are vinyl or linoleum, which can easily be mopped up with a diluted vinegar solution (same ratio as the countertops). Just mix your vinegar in a mop bucket or in your spray mop’s container, and apply liberally to the floor, being sure to mop from the inside out.

Dishwasher

  • For stainless steel dishwasher doors, just spray some vinegar straight onto the exterior of the door, and give it a good wipe with a microfiber cloth. Watch the fingerprints polish away.
  • For dishwasher smells, you can actually run the empty dishwasher with a bowl of white vinegar fit upright and snugly into the top rack. The vinegar will steam during the cycle and neutralize any weird smells coming from your dishwasher.
    • It will also help any gunk and grease stuck to the dishwasher’s interior walls or door effectively melt away. (But then you should check your dishwasher filter, and give that a good scrub, too.)
  • Try to avoid using vinegar to wash the interior of your dishwasher’s door, especially the hearty rubber bits, since its strong acidity could deteriorate your dishwasher’s seals, which are crucial for keeping the steam and water in.

Microwave

  • For microwave exteriors, just apply some vinegar directly to the exterior of your microwave, from its door and handle to the keypad, and rub it in with a microfiber rag.
  • For microwave interiors, try nuking a bowl of vinegar for a minute on high. The steaming vinegar will help to dislodge any crusted-on food stains and splatters, so you can proceed to wipe them off with a damp rag. Plus, the vinegar will help if your microwave is omitting any unsavory smells.

Stovetops

  • For glass stovetops, spray some distilled white vinegar all over your stovetop’s (cooled!) surface. For bad food stains, add baking soda on top of the vinegar, and watch as the grease smears fizz and bubble. Lay a hot, wet towel over the baking soda and vinegar mixture, and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then remove the towel, and rinse everything with a clean, damp sponge.
  • For electric stovetops, be sure to remove grease catchers and heating coils. Then spray distilled vinegar solution all over the stove, let it sit for about 5 minutes and wipe away with a clean, wet rag.
  • For gas stovetops, be sure to remove the grills. Then spray distilled vinegar solution all over the stove, let it sit for about 5 minutes and wipe away with a clean, wet rag.

How to clean your bathroom with vinegar

Shower curtain & liner

  • You can actually pretreat your shower curtains to prevent mold and mildew growth by running them through the washing machine with ¼ cup of white vinegar. Use a cold or warm cycle, so as to not melt the shower curtain.
  • Continue your quest for mildew mitigation by spraying down your shower curtain and liner with a diluted vinegar and warm water solution routinely (maybe once a week or so, depending how humid your bathroom gets).

Glass shower doors

  • Make a DIY glass cleaning solution with white vinegar and warm water (¼ cup vinegar with 2 cups water), and use it instead of ready-made glass cleaner. You can also fill a small bucket with vinegar and apply it to your glass shower doors by soaking a sponge in the solution, wringing it out and wiping it onto the doors.
  • Let the vinegar sit on the shower doors for about 30 minutes before wiping it off with hot water and a clean rag. If your shower doors are especially scummy, you can do a prewash with several drops of a concentrated dish soap like Dawn mixed with 2 cups of warm water to eliminate some of that grime before applying your vinegar wash.

Showerhead

  • To clean your showerhead, remove it and soak it in a bucket of white vinegar overnight. The vinegar will effectively dissolve any mineral buildups that are blocking the water stream, plus it’ll get rid of hard water spots.
  • Scrub the face of the showerhead with a soft-bristled scrub brush or an old toothbrush to be sure everything is clear and unclogged. Rinse the showerhead with hot water to get rid of any vinegar residue.

Sink & countertop

  • Grab your handy bottle of diluted white vinegar to spray down and wipe off bathroom countertops and sinks to clean up any makeup residue, toothpaste spatter, rogue hair product, lotion globs, etc.

Mirror

  • Once again, use your DIY glass cleaning solution of white vinegar and warm water (¼ cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water), and use it on the mirror in lieu of ready-made glass cleaner. Say goodbye to all of those hard water splatters from your water flosser, sticky hairspray residue streaks and fingerprints.

Windows

  • Still got any of that DIY glass cleaning solution left? Great, use it on your windows, too.

Drains

  • To unclog drains, pour a pot of boiling water down it to loosen up the gunk. Then add about 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar. Wait about 5–10 minutes, then finish by pouring more boiling water down the drain.

How to clean your living and dining rooms with vinegar

Carpet

  • From smoke to pet messes to mildew, vinegar is excellent for deodorizing carpet. Mix your vinegar solution in a spray bottle (try 1 cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water), and lightly mist the offending carpet. Let the solution air dry.
  • For really stinky carpet, sprinkle baking soda onto the area, and let it sit overnight. Vacuum up baking soda residue in the morning, then hit the carpet with your vinegar spray to seal the deal.

Windows

  • Bust out that DIY glass cleaning solution of white vinegar and warm water (¼ cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water), and use it on your windows in lieu of ready-made glass cleaner. You can also use it on window sills and to remove rust from window screens.
  • For window treatments, you can lightly mist your fabric curtains or drapes with a diluted vinegar spray to neutralize any lingering smells, like smoke or mildew.

Walls

  • Generally, you can simply use a dish soap like Dawn and warm water to clean your walls if they’re just a bit dusty and tired looking. But if you’re dealing with walls covered in handprints, grease stains or musty smells you’re trying to get rid of, a vinegar solution will do that trick.
  • Mix together ½ cup of vinegar and 2 cups of warm water. Put the solution into a spray bottle, and apply a light layer onto the wall (don’t oversaturate it). Let the solution soak in for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a soft sponge. Rinse the walls with a clean, damp rag to remove any residue once you’re done cleaning, and let them air dry.

Upholstered furniture

  • Vinegar is great on couches and upholstered furniture, too. You can spot treat stains (from red wine to blood) with a vinegar and baking soda mixture. Diluted vinegar is also the perfect odor neutralizer when lightly misted onto upholstered furniture. The vinegar scent dissipates quickly, leaving your upholstered furniture scent-free.

How to clean your floors with vinegar

Hardwood floors

  • Dilute white vinegar with warm water (½ cup of vinegar to one gallon of warm water), and apply it to your hardwood floor with a microfiber-head mop once a week or so. Avoid saturating hardwood floors because too much water can cause warping on both finished and unfinished wood floors.

Vinyl floors

  • Vinyl is super hearty and can handle high acidity cleaning solutions, so you can actually just use straight white vinegar (without diluting it) to mop your vinyl floors.

How to clean household items with vinegar

Glass

  • An important trick when cleaning glass with any solution is to dust it first. (You’re welcome.)
  • A DIY cleaning solution of white vinegar and warm water (about ¼ cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water) works wonders on all glass surfaces, from mirrors and windows to shower doors and stovetops.
  • The best part about using vinegar? It’s streak-free! (Especially if you use a microfiber cloth … and remember to dust first!)

Showerheads

  • Two words: water pressure. Vinegar can effectively unclog your showerhead and restore your water pressure situation back to oh-so-satisfying (that is, if it was to begin with).

Coffee makers

  • Do you know you ought to regularly descale your coffee maker? Same with your electric tea kettle. Mineral build up from hard water might be affecting the taste and quality of your morning brew.
  • Pour several cups of straight white vinegar into your coffee maker’s water chamber and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then run the coffee maker to brew the vinegar (without coffee grinds, obviously).
  • Then run a few more brewing cycles with just plain water to rinse the vinegar out.
  • Open all of the coffee maker’s compartments, and let it air dry.

Bathtub

  • Give your tub a thorough wipe down with a sponge soaked in white vinegar to banish soap scum, mildew and hard water spots. If your tub is looking a little worse for the wear, sprinkle baking soda throughout, and let it sit for a bit before giving it a vinegar bath. Baking soda will also help to remove stains or discoloration. Rinse everything clean with warm water when you’re done.

Mugs

  • Do you use the same mug for coffee every morning? It’s likely stained with brown rings. Mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda inside the mug, and let it sit for about 5 minutes (do this in the sink—it’ll fizz up!). Then wash the mug as you would normally.

Drains

  • For stinky or clogged sinks, pour a pot of boiling water down it to loosen up the gunk. Then add about 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar. Wait about 5–10 minutes, then finish by pouring more boiling water down the drain.

Laundry

  • Add ¼ cup of vinegar to any load of laundry (plus regular laundry detergent) to neutralize clothing odors and even to enhance the colors. When clothes seem to fade in hue, it’s often actually built-up residue trapped in them that vinegar helps to wash away.

Smells

  • Whether it’s your drain, dishwasher, carpet, couch or microwave that smells unsavory, a quick mist of white vinegar ought to zap the smell. Yes, it may smell a bit like vinegar for a while, but if you open a window or turn on a fan, that vinegar odor will fade fast.

Things you should not clean with vinegar

  • Vinegar is awesome for cleaning most things, but there are also many materials that it can damage, due to its high acidity levels. Never, ever clean the following surfaces with vinegar—or risk ruining them by either damaging the finish, causing etching or corroding the metal.

  • Waxed wood

  • Granite

  • Marble

  • Soapstone

  • Aluminum

  • Cast iron

See, vinegar does so much more than make yummy salad dressing and pickles! The next time you’re thinking of opting out of a chore because you don’t have the proper cleaning agents, think again. You know you’ve got that giant plastic gallon of white vinegar beneath your kitchen sink just waiting to dissolve grease, grime, soap scum and mildew.

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