We all want to clean our homes without exposing ourselves and our families to unnecessarily harsh chemicals from cleaning products. Accidentally mixing the wrong ingredients can make cleaning especially dangerous.
For those reasons, I often use clean with vinegar around the house. Not only it is a natural and non-toxic antibacterial cleaner, but it’s cheap too—you can get a gallon at most stores for just a few dollars. Plus, cleaning vinegar is highly versatile and can be used to clean a lot of different surfaces!
But it’s important to know that vinegar is not an all-purpose cleaner, today’s post is all about what you should and should not be cleaning with vinegar. I get a lot of questions from readers asking what they can or can’t use cleaning vinegar on, so hopefully this post will help clarify the issue for everyone!
We’ll start by exploring things you shouldn’t use vinegar to clean and why, along with suggestions of what you could use instead. After that, we’ll go over things you can clean with vinegar (or an abbreviated list, anyway, because an exhaustive list would us take all day!).
By the time you’re finished reading this post, you’ll feel totally confident about using vinegar as a natural cleaner around your house.
Does Vinegar Disinfect?
Vinegar is a great choice for cleaning or sanitizing surfaces around your home that are soiled with normal levels of dirt and grime.
Vinegar will kill pathogens and certain bacteria, like E. coli, that are commonly found in the home. And using the strongest possible cleaning products can be dangerous, even if you don’t come into direct contact with them. According to the CDC, nearly 50 thousand calls were placed to poison control centers between January and March 2020 from people experiencing difficulty breathing or dizziness related to exposure to cleaning product fumes.
In most cases, a natural antibacterial cleaner like vinegar is enough to sufficiently clean a surface. When you need a deeper clean (like after someone in the house has been sick), a stronger disinfectant can be helpful. If you aren’t sure when you need to clean, disinfect, or sanitize, you can read my post on the topic here.
Things You SHOULD NOT Clean With Vinegar
The acidic nature of vinegar is great for cutting through tough grease, grime, and mineral deposits. But vinegar’s acidity can also damage certain surfaces, so it’s important to know what those are so you can avoid them.
Here are the items you never want to use vinegar on, as well as safe alternative cleaners you can use instead:
- Granite, Marble, Or Soapstone Countertops: Using vinegar on natural stones like granite, marble, and soapstone can cause pitting and make them lose their shine. Try my homemade granite cleaner instead.
- Kitchen Knives: If you want to keep your knife like new, avoid cleaning them with acids like vinegar. Wash them with soap and water instead.
- Egg-Based Messes: Vinegar can cause the proteins in eggs to coagulate, creating a gluey substance that’s even harder to clean up. Clean up eggs with a damp, soapy washcloth instead.
- Clothes Iron: Vinegar can damage the inner workings of your iron. Read my post 4 Ways To Clean An Iron for safer cleaning methods.
- Solid Wood Furniture: It isn’t a good idea to clean wood with undiluted vinegar. In addition to leaving watermarks, the acid in the vinegar could “eat” through certain finishes. Try my natural conditioning furniture polish instead.
- Metal Surfaces: Acidic vinegar can eat through protective layers on metals like aluminum, so avoid letting undiluted vinegar sit for too long on sink faucets, doorknobs, pots, and pans. Use this instead: A cloth with warm soapy water.
Never mix vinegar with hydrogen peroxide into the same container. This can create a toxic gas called peracetic acid.
Things You Can CAUTIOUSLY Clean With Vinegar
There are some surfaces you can clean with vinegar, but you should use it sparingly. Porous surfaces like wood, stone, and grout are susceptible to damage from acidic cleaners like vinegar, but it can be safely by diluting the vinegar with water or other ingredients.
These “proceed with caution” items include:
- Hardwood floors
- Stone floors
Things You SHOULD Clean with Vinegar
While there are a few things you shouldn’t use vinegar on, there are definitely more things that you CAN and SHOULD clean with vinegar. You can save money on store-bought cleaning supplies by using vinegar whenever you can, which will make your other products last longer.
I’ve written about a lot of things you can clean with vinegar over the years, and I’ve listed some of my favorite ones below. Click the links for more details, and happy cleaning! 🙂
- Washing machine
- Stainless steel surfaces
- Toilet bowl
- Clogged drains
- Sticky stuff
- Windows and mirrors
- Shower heads
- Toothbrush holders
- Hard water stains
- Soap scum
- Smelly rags and towels
- Mildew and surface mold
- Garbage disposals
- Coffee makers
- Oily skin
- Vinyl auto interiors
- Reusable shopping bags
- Yoga mats
What sorts of things do you clean with vinegar at home?