How To Get Rid Of Vinegar Smell In 3 Easy Steps

Vinegar may be the best thing to ever happen to cleaning. But that smell? It’s gotta go.

If you frequent Home Made Simple, or just cleaning blogs in general, you probably already know that homemade vinegar cleaning solutions have a pretty big fan base. And it’s easy to see why: vinegar has a whole lot of things going for it that make it a true standout among all-purpose cleaners. It’s natural, versatile, cheap, and just kind of a cleaning powerhouse. But there’s one thing we’re a little less crazy about: that smell.

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Yeah, vinegar can be seriously pungent, and even if the smell does dissipate over time (which it totally, totally does), we very much understand that you might not have the time to wait, or might just not want to. With that in mind, we’ve compiled an easy-to-follow guide to help you rid your home of that strong vinegary smell so that you can reap the benefits of vinegar’s cleaning power but skip the lingering odor.

Sound good? Here we go!

Why you should clean with vinegar

Oh distilled white vinegar, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

But seriously, if you haven’t already jumped on the cleaning-with-vinegar train, now is the time. Why? Vinegar is environmentally friendly, super inexpensive and incredibly effective on a multitude of household surfaces (for starters, it is an absolutely essential). Truly, what is there not to love? (Other than that smell, of course, but more on that in a second.)

Even better, if you find yourself in the middle of a cleaning project that involves some particularly tough stains or for some other reason requires a bit more cleaning power, you can easily mix vinegar with one of our other favorite cleaning hacks—baking soda—to create a paste that’s pretty much a cleaning superhero. (Just go slow when mixing these two, lest you accidentally recreate that explosive volcano demonstration we all did in fourth grade science.)

How to remove the smell of vinegar in 3 steps

Okay okay, so vinegar’s great, but oh that smell! What to do about that smell?

Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with some easy-to-follow guidance that will rid your home of that vinegar smell in no time.

Broadly speaking, there are 3 ways to deal with any kind of unpleasant smell: mask it, neutralize it and/or remove it. The smell of vinegar is no exception. Read on for our advice on how these 3 approaches apply to addressing that after-cleaning vinegar smell in your home.

How to mask the smell of vinegar

Normally, we’re not hugely supportive of masking unpleasant smells. After all, odors can be a sign of a serious problem (and you don’t want to just mask and then ignore a potentially serious problem!). Plus masking smells is rarely going to actually deal with the underlying cause, which means the smell will eventually just come back.

However, in the case of a vinegar smell left behind after cleaning, (1) you know what the underlying cause is (your freshly cleaned home!) and it’s nothing bad (quite the contrary!), and (2) the smell will fade with just a bit of time, so it’s not going to return tomorrow when the smell you use to mask the vinegar fades.

Masking the smell of the vinegar you just used to clean your home is therefore A-OK as far as we’re concerned. If you choose to go this route, there are generally 2 approaches you can use: (1) mask the smell of the vinegar cleaning solution itself or (2) mask the smell that lingers after cleaning. We’ve got suggestions for both below.

  1. To help mask the smell of your fabulous homemade vinegar cleaning solution, make it even more fabulous (one might even call it bespoke) by mixing in aromatics of your choosing. You can use lemon—or another kind of citrus—peel, herbs, spices or essential oils. The choice is yours! Note that the longer you allow these aromatics to sit in the vinegar solution before using it, the more effective they will be. (In other words, don’t be afraid to let them really marinate—we’re talking up to a couple days). If you want the cleaning power of vinegar minus the overpowering smell, plus a fresh lemon scent, we strongly recommend the vinegar-powered cleaning line 9 Elements—like their Multi-Purpose Cleaner (also available in eucalyptus!).
  1. Vary your percentages. If you’ve been relying on the same vinegar cleaning solution recipe for a while and are finding that the smell is just too much, try using a bit less vinegar than you normally do when you mix up your next batch. A somewhat less potent version of your vinegar cleaning solution should still pack a plenty big (cleaning) wallop, but will smell a little less ... vinegary. And remember, you can always add more vinegar (or baking soda) if the solution you’ve mixed up doesn’t turn out to be strong enough.

  2. Light a Febreze Candle or other scented candle to combat any after-cleaning vinegar smell. Your favorite scented candle should overtake that vinegar smell in no time. And in its place? A scent that transports you to some far-off island or a citrus grove or, really, wherever you choose (because that's the beauty of scented candles).

  3. If you’re a fan of citrus and looking to transform that vinegar smell into something more appealing, boil some lemon peel on your stovetop after cleaning. Your home is about to smell divine. More of a baking spices person? Throw some of your favorite baking spices onto a baking tray, and put them in the oven at a low temperature. And then get ready for your home to smell like the holidays.

  4. Light some incense or use a diffuser with essential oils of your choosing. Like scented candles, incense and essential oils present so many possibilities.

Take a whiff. Ooh la la. Positively lovely.

How to neutralize the smell of vinegar

Another way to deal with the smell of vinegar? Neutralize it! How do you do this?

  1. Use Febreze Unstopables AIR Fresh to actually clean away odors and help get your home back to peak freshness.

  2. Add baking soda to your vinegar cleaning solution. Not only does baking soda have some seriously formidable cleaning power in its own right, but it also does an excellent job of neutralizing odor—which makes it the perfect partner in crime for vinegar. Try 1 part baking soda to 2 parts vinegar (and feel free to add a spoonful of dish soap in there, too, if you want a little extra boost of cleaning power). The result should be surface cleaner that’s still natural and powerful, but much less odorous.

(Note that when mixing baking soda and vinegar, proceed slowly: these 2 work wonders when used together, but when you combine them, it can cause a bit of a ... fizzy reaction.)

Pro tip: If you’ve got a particularly tough stain, you can change the proportions of your baking soda and vinegar cleaning solution to make more of a paste and then really go to town on that stain with an old toothbrush, sponge or rag.

  1. Get some airflow going. It’s incredibly simple, but making sure your space is well ventilated before, during and after you clean with vinegar will go a long way toward neutralizing that smell. Open your windows and doors to let some fresh air blow through your home (unless it’s February in Chicago, in which case we’d highly recommend you don’t). If you have a fan, set it up; if you have several, all the better. And if you have air-conditioning, running that can help, too. The point is to get some good, strong ventilation going, and blow that vinegar smell right out of your home!

Keep in mind, too, that there's no reason you can’t come at this problem from multiple angles: you should feel very free to mask the smell with aromatics and a scented candle AND neutralize it by keeping your windows open and running a fan.

How to remove the smell of vinegar

When it comes to removing an unpleasant odor, we usually talk about finding the source of the smell and addressing it. In this case, though, we’re actually big fans of the source of the smell (your freshly cleaned home), so instead of removing the vinegar smell, we urge you to mask and/or neutralize it using the above tips!

And remember this: as strong as it might seem right now, that vinegar smell is not here to stay. Even if you don’t take any of the suggestions we’ve outlined above, that vinegar smell will go away on its own. You just have to give it a little time. And hey, what a great excuse to get out of the house and get some fresh air!

Have some other smells in your home that you’re not very fond of? If it’s a musty smell that’s got you bothered, check out our go-to advice for getting rid of musty smells. And take a look at this article for our favorite tips to make your home smell absolutely delectable.

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