Your grandma used it. And so did her grandma. Now it’s time for you to discover one of the most popular cleaning staples around: vinegar.
From showerheads to soapy heads, copper to microwaves, vinegar (especially distilled white vinegar) is a versatile, environmentally safe alternative to store-bought cleaner — and it’s inexpensive, too. Take a look at some of the remarkable uses for this unsung cleaning hero.
How to clean with vinegar
1. Window cleaner
One of the clever uses for white vinegar is cleaning windows. Mix equal parts of distilled white vinegar and water. Apply to windows with a sponge. Wipe clean using a squeegee. (Remember to wet the squeegee blade first so it won’t skip.)
To clean washable blinds, mix 1 cup ammonia, ½ cup white distilled vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon of warm water. Using a sponge or cloth, wipe blinds with the vinegar cleaning solution. Rinse with clear water.
3. Automatic coffee makers
To dissolve minerals and oily buildup, fill the reservoir with distilled white vinegar and run the coffee maker through a brewing cycle. Empty the carafe. Rinse away vinegar residue by running a full reservoir of water through the brewing cycle. (As always, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions.)
4. Kill grass
Cleaning with vinegar isn't the only thing you can do with it. You can also use it on unwanted grass or weeds. No need for store-bought grass and weed killers. Pour full-strength distilled white vinegar on unwanted vegetation. Reapply as needed.
5. Keep cut flowers fresh
White vinegar uses include keeping flowers fresh. Flowers last longer if you add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar to the water in a 1-quart vase. Trim stems and change the water every few days or when water starts to get cloudy.
6. No-wax floors
For rinse-free cleaning, mop the floor using a solution of ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to a half gallon of warm water. Change water as it gets dirty.
Boil a solution of ¼ cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water in the microwave until steam forms on the window. Wipe away food residue.
8. Hair rinse
After every few washings, remove shampoo buildup by rinsing hair with a solution of 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar (either white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar) and 1 cup of water. Adjust the amount of vinegar to suit your hair type — using less vinegar for dry hair and more vinegar for cleaning oily hair. A second rinse with plain water is optional. Hair will be silky and shiny.
9. Cleaner dishes and glasses
For sparkling results, add 1½ to 2 cups white distilled vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher. Wash on regular cycle using the usual amount of detergent.
10. Copper, brass and pewter cleaner
More uses for vinegar include cleaning metals. To effortlessly remove tarnish, apply a mixture of 1 teaspoon salt, ½ cup of white distilled vinegar and enough flour to make a paste. Apply to the metal and allow it to stand for 15 minutes. Rinse with clean water and polish with a soft, dry cloth. (The flour keeps the vinegar and salt in contact with the tarnished surface.)
11. Bathtub film
Remove bathtub film by wiping it first with white distilled vinegar, then with baking soda. Rinse away grime with clean water.
12. Shower doors
To prevent soap scum buildup, wipe shower doors with a sponge soaked in white distilled vinegar. There's no need to rinse.
13. Clogged showerhead
Use vinegar to dissolve mineral buildup in showerheads. Add a cup of vinegar to a plastic storage bag. Position the bag so the showerhead sits in the vinegar. Allow it to soak overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and turn on the shower to rinse.
14. Boiling a cracked egg
When boiling a cracked egg, add some vinegar to the water to poach the egg — about 2 teaspoons to a quart of water. This will keep the white from seeping out.
15. Pet urine in carpets
Blot up as much of the urine as possible by laying several paper towels over the area and walking on them (the extra pressure increases absorption). Replace towels and blot until most of the urine is removed.
Before treating the area with vinegar, test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous place. If colors don’t run, saturate the stain with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Allow it to sit on the area for 10 minutes. Blot as before, replacing towels as needed. When the carpet is mostly dry, sprinkle baking soda on the area. This will help absorb odors. Vacuum in about an hour.
16. Bumper sticker removal
To remove bumper sticker residue, saturate the area with distilled white vinegar. Bumper sticker pieces should peel off easily. Test first on an inconspicuous area of the car to make sure it doesn’t damage the paint.
17. To soften a paintbrush
Additional uses of vinegar: soften stiff paintbrushes. Simply soak each paintbrush in hot white distilled vinegar until the brush softens. Then wash with warm, soapy water.
18. Wine stains
To remove wine stains from cotton, cotton/polyester and permanent press fabrics, it’s important to treat the stain within 24 hours. Sponge white distilled vinegar directly onto the area until the stain disappears. Launder according to directions on care label.
19. Clothes rinse
Remove dingy soap and detergent residue in clothes by adding a cup of white distilled vinegar to the final rinse. To remove soap residue from heavier blankets and quilts, add 2 cups of vinegar to the final rinse.
20. Deodorant and antiperspirant stains
Rub the underarm areas of white or light-colored clothing with white distilled vinegar, and then launder as usual. If the stain remains after washing, do not machine dry. Re-treat the area with vinegar and place garment in the sun to bleach.
21. Keep colors from running
To keep colored fabrics from running in the wash, first soak them for a few minutes in white distilled vinegar.
22. Setting colors
When dying fabric, help set the color by adding a cup of white distilled vinegar to the water during the last rinse.
23. Unclog a steam iron
To dissolve mineral residue in steam irons, pour equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water into the water reservoir. Turn the iron to the steam setting and allow it to steam for five minutes in an upright position. Unplug and cool the iron. Empty the reservoir — and the dissolved minerals.
24. Clean a scorched iron bottom
Heat equal parts of white distilled vinegar and salt in a small pan. Rub mixture onto the bottom of a cooled iron to remove scorch marks.
25. Scorch marks on clothes
Dip the corner of a cloth in white vinegar for cleaning. Rub lightly on scorched area of fabric. Wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat as needed.
26. Deodorize the kitchen drain
Additional vinegar uses: keeping drains fresh. Just pour a cup of white distilled vinegar down the drain once a week. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes then flush with cold water.
27. Fruit-stained hands
Wash berry-colored hands with vinegar to remove fruit stains.
28. Decalcify sleep apnea (CPAP) machines
To remove calcium deposits in the reservoir, heat 1¾ cups of vinegar in the microwave for two minutes. Pour vinegar into the reservoir and replace the cap. Allow this to sit for one hour before pouring out the vinegar. (As always, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the sleep apnea machine.)
This article was originally published Feb. 9, 2016.