Can You Use Vinegar as a Disinfectant?

Plus 10 surfaces it cleans in your home.

Given the current affairs of the world, you’re likely more interested in vinegar’s reputation as a natural disinfectant than how it jazzes up a mozzarella salad.

Or maybe you’re hoping to nerd out on ways it can clean different surfaces of your home. Friends, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s the deal: while we do love a good DIY, when it comes to disinfecting your home, homemade vinegar solutions aren’t the best choice. Why? Because disinfectants by definition kill and eliminate bacteria. Most studies show that while vinegar does have some disinfecting properties (mostly related to food prep areas), it falls way flat when compared to commercial-grade products. (Note that the EPA doesn’t include vinegar on their list of certified disinfectants.)

But don’t count vinegar out yet. It may not always kill bacteria, but it does do a great job of cleaning up some of the most challenging areas in your home. Its acidic properties break down dirty compounds, leaving shiny, sparkly surfaces—from dirty showerheads to that old coffee stain on your favorite mug.

10 things you can clean now with a little vinegar magic:

  1. Glass

Yes, a streak-free glass door, window, or table can be yours. First, remove any lingering dust with a slightly damp cloth. Then, mix two cups of water, ¼ cup white vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of dish soap in a spray bottle. Spritz your glass surface all over, then use a rag to wipe the vinegar in. Using a downward motion, use another rag to dry the glass off.

  1. Countertops

Shiny countertops are not only for the rich and famous, they’re for anyone with a bottle of vinegar! Pour a few cups of it into a spray bottle and keep it handy for anytime you need to wipe away food residue, splashes of water, or drink spills. Just make sure to avoid using it on anything with a granite or marble surface because the acid in the vinegar will cause those dreaded etch marks.

  1. Stovetops

To get stubborn grease off of your stovetop, mix equal parts lemon juice and vinegar in a spray bottle. If you have an electric stovetop, remove the grease catchers and heating coils, first. If you have a gas stovetop, make sure to remove the grills. Spray the solution liberally all over and allow it to sit for five minutes. Use a soft cloth dampened with warm water and wipe the entire area clean.

  1. Showerheads

Nothing makes you doubt the cleanliness of your shower experience like glancing up and seeing a gross showerhead. What is all that stuff, anyway? It’s chalky build up from hard water mineral deposits and not only is it gross to look at, it clogs the showerhead and ruins the water pressure. To clean it, remove the showerhead from the pipe by twisting it counterclockwise. Put it in a pot just big enough to hold it, and cover with white vinegar. Let it soak for 1 hour up to 8 hours, depending on how dirty it is. Take it out of the vinegar and scrub all the nooks and crannies with a toothbrush, then dry it off and replace it in the shower.

  1. Coffee Makers

The basin of your coffee maker is an all-too-often forgotten place where there can be odors and hard water build-up. The fix? Pour 4 cups of undiluted vinegar inside and let it stand for about half an hour. Run the vinegar through a normal brewing cycle. (Don’t even think about drinking it.) Then, run two or three more brewing cycles with plain water until the vinegar smell is gone. Bonus: doing this will make your coffee taste better. Don’t blame us when you start sticking your pinky out as you sip and insisting you detect notes of cocoa and honey.

  1. Bathtub

To get rid of soap scum in your bathtub, soak a sponge with vinegar, then wipe down the tub in its entirety. For extra cleaning power, apply a sprinkle of baking soda, follow with another good scrub, and rinse with water. Now you can enjoy a relaxing soak in the tub without feeling like you’re actually getting dirtier.

  1. Mugs

If it’s simply too heartbreaking to part with your favorite mug, but the coffee stain in it repels your lips, vinegar to the rescue. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of vinegar inside the mug. Let it sit for five minutes, then scrub it thoroughly. This little hack will make your morning ritual that much more enjoyable.

  1. Drains

Sinks, tubs, or showers smelling a little funky? Pour 2 cups of boiling water down the drain, then follow with 1 cup of baking soda and a mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of water. Cover the drain and let it soak for 10 minutes. Finish by pouring more boiling water down the drain again. Pro tip: save some time by doing this when you make tea. You’ve already got the boiling water ready—all you need to do is grab that vinegar and baking soda and get to work.

  1. Laundry

You know your faded black jeans that you can’t seem to get rid of with but have seen better days? That “fading” is actually just built-up residue like odors, oils and hard water metals trapped deep inside. Enter: vinegar. Yes, vinegar can even revamp your clothes. For this, consider a vinegar powered detergent like 9 Elements with a uniquely low pH chemistry that can help purify fabrics and leave them softer, brighter and odor free. All the best qualities of vinegar supercharged with 9 Elements unique formula.

  1. Microwave Residue

For stubborn food baked into the tray of your microwave, mix together 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Microwave it until the solution starts to steam. Open the door, and wipe the food out with a rag. If that trick doesn’t cut it, check out 11 more ways to clean your microwave.

As you start to take advantage of the full cleaning power of vinegar, you’ll likely discover more and more ways to incorporate it into your routine. As you do, keep in mind that you should never use it on waxed wood, granite, marble, soapstone, aluminum, or cast iron. You do, however, have full permission to continue its use in your mozzarella salads.

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