12 Ways To Use Vinegar In Your Home

By Marilee Nelson |

featured image: 12 Genius Uses For Vinegar

Vinegar is best-known for its culinary uses in dressings and marinades, and for cleaning out coffeemakers. However, its uses don’t stop there! This simple and natural product can be used for dozens of household cleaning purposes, for beauty, as a natural remedy for minor ailments, and even as a non-toxic pesticide.

However, your success in using vinegar relies on understanding how to use it safely, knowing which type to use for which purpose, and at what dilution. Today, we’ll break down 12 uses for vinegar including which types to use, how to select a quality vinegar and how to get the job done right.

Vinegar Is One Of The Most Ancient Foods, Medicines & Cleaners

Vinegar has been used for centuries to preserve and flavor foods, and thus is a traditional food. The first recorded uses of vinegar come from 5000 BC. The Babylonians prepared vinegar from the sap and juice of date palms, date wine, raisin wine, and beer. They used it to add flavor to their food and a natural preservative. 1

In biblical times, it was also used as a healing tonic to settle the stomach and promote energy. Early settlers to the United States would make apple cider vinegar from the cores and skins of seasonal apples, and use in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, as an energizing tonic, in making hard cider and for pickling. 2

Vinegar was also used during the plague (along with garlic) to help ward off sickness by convicts who were released to help with mass burials. The tonic became known as “Thieves Vinegar”, which is still sold today.

As one of the only natural disinfectant options, vinegar was used extensively to clean homes and public spaces throughout the ages.

Vinegar hit the mainstream in the 1600s when the French discovered a way to make vinegar continuously (the process was actually discovered in the 1300s but not widely used until the 1600s). Known as the “Orleans Method" or “Orleans Process” (named after the town in which it was discovered), this discovery allowed merchants to make enough vinegar to sell at a larger-scale. The vinegar industry was born. Vinegar production became so popular that in 1673 the British Parliament established a tax on vinegar-beer. 

How To Choose The Right Vinegar For The Job

Vinegars are derived from fermented liquids when naturally occurring bacteria called acetobacters combine with oxygen to create acetic acid. The acetic acid gives vinegar when used in cooking, its characteristic odor and sour taste.

It's best to note, when cleaning with vinegar, caution should be used when using a spray bottle as acetic acid is also an eye and lung irritant. Make sure you avoid breathing the fumes and provide good ventilation to clear the air quickly of the acetic acid.   

Vinegar can be made from a variety of ingredients:

  • Apples, plums, or grapes (cider, ume, wine or balsamic vinegar)
  • Oats or malted barley (malt vinegar)
  • Rice (rice vinegar) 
  • Alcohol (distilled white vinegar)

There are hundreds of types of vinegar available today, but the ones we’re most familiar with in North America are:

  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Red & White Wine Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Malt Vinegar

Of these six, we’ll focus on two: distilled white vinegar which is ideal for cleaning, and apple cider vinegar for beauty uses and as a natural remedy.

How To Choose High-Quality Vinegars

Distilled white vinegar can be purchased nearly anywhere for very little cost - we like buying ours in bulk at Costco or other price clubs. Since we only use it and recommend it for cleaning, there’s no need to look for organic or all-natural. Plain old distilled white vinegar will do.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), one of the most healthful vinegars for eating and skin care, should be organic, naturally-fermented, stored in glass (to avoid plastic chemicals or heavy metal from stainless steel leaching in), and contain “the mother” which is the cloudy stuff you’ll see floating around the bottle. “The mother” is technically a mix of cellulose and the bacteria from acetic acid that contains all the magical nutrients such as prebiotics, vitamins, and minerals that make ACV healthy. 

As other vinegars go, look for organic, naturally-fermented with no artificial flavors, added sulfites or other ingredients. Malt vinegar tends to be the lowest in sulfites with apple cider vinegar a close-second. Wine vinegars are naturally higher in sulfites.

12 Genius Uses For Vinegar

12 Effective Uses For Vinegar

1. Remove odors

Place a small bowl of distilled white vinegar in any room with an odor problem to help neutralize the odor. You can also combine equal parts vinegar and water to clean and remove odors. Always do a patch-test first. 

Note: Some people recommend simmering vinegar on the stove to eliminate whole-house odors. I recommend against this as the acetic acid in vinegar can be irritating to the lungs (especially in the elderly, small children or pets) and this effect is greatly magnified when heated.

2: Dissolve Soap Scum

Apply distilled white vinegar at full-strength to your shower door, bathtub, etc., let dwell for 5-15 minutes, then rinse to remove stubborn soap scum. Be sure to turn on your bathroom exhaust fan and/or open the windows for quick evacuation of fumes.

3: Clean Your Shoes

Spray diluted vinegar (50:50 with water) on the soles of your shoes to remove dirt, grime, and germs. The same solution can be sprayed on the inside of your shoes to neutralize odors. Do this outside if weather permits.

Vinegar in a spray bottle

4: Use With Hydrogen Peroxide (Stored In Separate Bottles) As A Non-Toxic Disinfectant

Vinegar alone has been proven to possess disinfectant properties towards bacteria, fungus and some viruses.3 4 When you use with hydrogen peroxide, you get an incredibly effective non-toxic disinfectant.

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING BEFORE USING VINEGAR AND PEROXIDE:

Even though they’re non-toxic, vinegar and peroxide can create harmful and irritating fumes when mixed and stored together. Thus, it is essential they be stored and used in separate bottles. We like to attach a trigger sprayer directly to our hydrogen peroxide bottles (3% in the brown bottle), then designate a spray bottle for vinegar. 

  1. To use, wipe down the surface with Branch Basics All-Purpose
  2. Next, spray the surface liberally with either the vinegar or peroxide (the order doesn’t matter). Let it sit for 5-30 minutes. Wipe with a microfiber cloth.
  3. Repeat the same step with the other bottle.

Disinfecting note: since any disinfectant that kills germs versus removing them has the potential to proliferate the spread of superbugs, we disinfect very sparingly (like after cutting raw chicken on a board, to clean up a bathroom, or after someone in our home has been sick. It's imperative to  not over-disinfect. See Why Over-Sanitizing Is Harmful To Our Health to learn more.

 

5: Clean Your Garbage Disposal With Baking Soda And Vinegar

When lemon rinds aren’t enough, you can clean and deodorize your garbage disposal safely using half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar. Pour them both down the disposal and insert the plug or stopper. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then run hot water down the drain as you run the disposal. Finish with a flush of cold water. Repeat monthly or any time your disposal needs cleaning or freshening.

6: Clean & Descale Your Dishwasher

Distilled white vinegar is incredible for removing scale and build-up from your dishwasher, which can cause spots or incomplete cleaning. 

To use, pour 1 cup of distilled vinegar into a mug or other dishwasher-safe container and place on the top rack. Run a hot water cycle and you’re done. Repeat monthly for best results.

7: Clean Your Washing Machine (Front & Top Loaders)

Most washing machines have a self-clean function that’s to be used with chlorine bleach. Since bleach is a pesticide 5 linked to all kinds of health issues,6 we advise against this, and recommend using distilled white vinegar instead.

We’ve even verified this practice by calling the manufacturers of several appliance brands of front- and top-loading washers. They all agreed that white vinegar is an acceptable and beneficial alternative to bleach. Plus, if you have hard water it will help descale and reduce mineral deposits which can wear down your washer over time. If you’re still in doubt, call up or email the manufacturer to ask.

How To Clean A Top Loading Washing Machine With Vinegar

  • Fill with hot water, add one gallon of distilled white vinegar, and run for 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the washer and let the solution stand overnight.
  • In the morning, run your washer through a complete cycle.

How To Clean A Front Loading (He) Washing Machine With Vinegar

  • Run one gallon of distilled white vinegar through a full hot water wash cycle with no detergent OR use the self-clean cycle.
  • This will not only clean your washer but will also reduce scale and mineral build-up.

Repeat periodically or monthly if you have very hard water.

8: Try Apple Cider Vinegar As A Hair Treatment

Many people (including several members of our team) swear by an apple cider vinegar rinse to keep their hair soft, sleek and detangled. 

To use, add 1-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar to a cup of water and pour on your hair as a final rinse. Since hair types vary you’ll have to experiment with the ratios, but some people can even use this in place of conditioner.

9: Try Vinegar As A Non-Toxic Weed Killer

In our Toss The Toxins online course, we discuss the enormous benefits of eliminating synthetic weed killers (herbicides) from your home, garage, garden and shed. However, that doesn’t mean you have to break your back pulling out weeds by hand.

Instead, try this simple vinegar-based weed killer in your gardens, sidewalks and anywhere weeds become a problem:

Vinegar-Based Natural Weed-Killer recipe:

  • 1 gallon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 8 drops Branch Basics concentrate

Stir ingredients together in a bucket until well combined. Transfer to a container with a spray top. Spray directly on weeds in your garden, on sidewalks and more. Spray area a couple of times within a 7-day period.

Note: Do not spray on grass, as it will kill it!

10: Flea Spray For Pets

Even in our best efforts to avoid toxins, it can be hard to know where to draw the line between conventional versus natural care when it comes to our pets. However, things like flea collars and topical bug repellants do contain harmful pesticides that leave residue on your furry friends.

Fortunately, dogs and some cats respond very well to vinegar-based flea spray. Since fleas and other insects hate the taste and smell of vinegar, it naturally repels them. 

The basic recipe and ratio ranges from equal parts water and vinegar (white or apple cider) is 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. We recommend starting with the more diluted ratio, then increasing the strength based on your pet’s size.

Spray outside and upwind to avoid exposure to fumes from the acetic acid. The easiest way to apply is with a spray bottle for dogs and a wipe for cats (though we admit, not all cats will go for this!). The stronger the solution, the more effective it will be. 

Apple cider vinegar on table

11: Use Apple Cider Vinegar Topically To Calm Skin & Blemishes

Apple cider vinegar’s natural antimicrobial properties make it effective for minor rashes (like poison ivy), skin irritations and even blemishes. 

To use, combine 1 part apple cider vinegar and 2-3 parts water. Wipe or spray on the affected area. Some people even use this combination as a skin toner for acne? All skin is different and some more sensitive than others, so patch-test first and experiment with the right ratio for your skin type.

12: Drink Diluted Apple Cider Vinegar For Stomach Trouble/Reflux

This may sound counter-intuitive, but for some people apple cider vinegar (ACV) can help with heartburn, acid reflux and sour stomach. This has been used during pregnancy with great success, and is a better choice than antacids which contain potentially harmful ingredients that can compromise kidney function and cause more digestive issues down the road.7

Although the science on how and why this works isn’t clear, it’s believed it works by helping increase digestive secretions and infusing your digestive tract with its natural probiotics. Some people take a shot glass undiluted, but we prefer mixing 1-2 tablespoons ACV with 1 cup of water and adding a bit of raw honey to taste.

*Final Notes On Vinegar Safety 

Although vinegar is safe and non-toxic, it is highly acidic and should be kept out of the reach of children and pets. If anyone in your home is sensitive to smells or has a respiratory issue, it’s best to not make vinegar or vinegar solutions airborne by spraying. Instead, try wiping it on versus spraying, and keep the windows open when you do.

In addition, due to its acidic nature, it’s best not to overdo consumption of vinegars (even apple cider), if you have issues with your teeth or bones. Children should somewhat limit their consumption as their teeth and bones are developing.

A sprinkle of organic vinegar on salads, in a marinade, or used medicinally for occasional heartburn are all healthful ways of enjoying the benefits of vinegar without getting too much. If you’re sensitive or have an allergy to sulfites, check with your doctor before using vinegar around the home.

*Articles on Dr. Susan Sumner’s original research work appeared in the scientific news journal, “Science News,” in issues that were published on August 29, 1996, and on August 8, 1998.

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.