Cleaning with Vinegar
Recently, we have been asked about the efficacy (or effectiveness) of vinegar as a household cleaner. In this post, we discuss what vinegar is and discuss some of its uses in household cleaning applications as well as when to avoid using it.
What is Vinegar?
Vinegar is a solution containing acetic acid in water1 that is made via a two-step fermentation process. During the first fermentation stage, yeast helps to convert sugar or starch from either fruit, grains, potatoes or rice into ethanol. During the second phase of the process, the ethanol is exposed to oxygen via acetic acid bacteria (AAB, often from the genus Acetobacter) which continue the fermentation process and oxidize the ethanol to form acetic acid.1 In order to be considered a food vinegar, the FDA requires that solution contain at least 4% acetic acid by volume and be made by fermentation process.3 Although the main components of a vinegar solution are acetic acid and water, vinegars also contain trace amounts of vitamins, mineral salts, amino acids and polyphenolic compounds.1 It is important to note that the FDA does not consider a simple dilution of acetic acid (to make 4-8% acetic acid in water solution) to be a food “vinegar” and must be labeled as “acetic acid” or “diluted acetic acid”.4
Vinegar’s Applications in Cleaning
Besides being used as an ingredient in foods, vinegar solutions can also be used in many cleaning applications. As vinegar contains acetic acid, it has a low or acidic pH. Many vinegars typically have a pH between 2-3, making them optimal for use in cleaning/removing soap scum and hard water stains (made from salts of calcium or magnesium), from a non-porous surface. Additionally, vinegar solutions can be used to effectively clean grime from stainless steel or glass surfaces like windows.5
Cleaning vinegar solutions should not be used to clean porous surfaces like hard wood or natural stone, tile, granite, or quartz counter tops as the acidity of the solution can be damaging to surface with long term or repeated exposure.5 Although vinegar may be useful to treat some stains in fabrics like those caused from spilling baked beans6 it should not be used to treat stains found in fabrics that have set in or have been caused by blood as vinegar may not completely remove these stains from the fabric.
Some Do’s and Don’ts About Vinegar
- Use to remove soap scum or hard water stains found on sealed bathroom tile, stainless steel or in tubs
- Use to clean stainless steel surfaces
- Use to clean glass surfaces like windows or mirrors
- Follow manufacturers’ instructions for coffee makers, dishwashers, washing machines, and other appliances*
- Do NOT use on porous surfaces like hard wood or stone/granite countertops
- Do NOT use to treat set in fabric stains (especially those caused by blood)
- Do NOT use in irons or other appliances unless specifically stated by the manufacturer*
* While many of the small and major appliances are “safe” to use with vinegar, manufacturers use different parts and may have different recommendations – even within their own product lines. GE does recommend using vinegar in some cases with their dishwashers.7 Samsung recommends using vinegar in their dishwashers for routine cleaning or cleaning removable parts, but does not address using vinegar with their washing machines.8-9
Plastic and rubber manufacturers have charts that show some plastics and rubbers are compatible with acetic acid or vinegar, while other plastics and rubbers should not be used with acetic acid or vinegar. 10-11
If your product manual or manufacturer does not specifically address using vinegar, it is best to avoid it – just in case!
If you don’t have time to make your own. We can cover you for a long time! Our 1-gallon refills can last the common user to 3 months! Comes with a complimentary spray bottle!