Tuesday, February 07, 2012

10 Ways to Use White Vinegar

As you may know, our house has a) a terrible iron bacteria problem in the water and b) a septic system.  When the iron started making our white clothes brown and making our coffee maker into a nothing maker, I knew we had to do something, and I knew it couldn't involve bleach.

See, bleach is no bueno for septic systems.  Most people, though, can use a normal amount of bleach and never run into problems.  But knowing how our house was built and the behavior of the family the built it, I'm not taking any chances.  

Yes, we use single-ply toilet paper (not because it's cheaper, but because it breaks down faster in the septic tank) and no, we do not wash or flush ANYTHING that was not intended to be washed or flushed.  I'm going to win the lame-o award this year for SURE!

So what's a girl to do when stuff needs cleaning but cleaning one thing might break another?  Enter a cheapo gallon of white vinegar (which I had never bought in my life until we moved here.  True story).

Oh yes, regular white vinegar is the liquid of the gods, sent to rescue budget-minded folk from the dangers of chemical cleaners and the perils of overpriced spray bottles full of insert-carcinogen-here.

Without further ado, let's get to it: Top 10 Ways to Use Vinegar in Your House (in no particular order)

10. Toilet bowl cleaner
Pour a few cups of vinegar into your toilet bowl.  Swish it around and then let it sit while you clean the rest of the bathroom.  Then, sprinkle your toilet brush with baking soda right before you scrub, give it a good scrubbing and then flush.  If your toilet bowl is particularly stained, you might let it sit overnight before giving it the scrub down.  Easy peasy.

9. Wallpaper removal
Score your wallpaper with one of them handy scoring tools.  Then spray a 50/50 solution of HOT water and vinegar onto a small section your wall.  Let it soak for 15-20 minutes.  Peel off.  Some paper will be easier to remove than others.  Be patient.  Or make your kids do it.  Because after all...your solution is non-toxic! 

8. Glass cleaner

Everyone has their own recipe for this, some people using straight vinegar, some diluting it with water, some doing other things.  This is what I do and it works on mirrors and windows.  Even the outside of windows (can you say grime-tastic?):

1/8 cup ammonia
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp dishwashing liquid
1 quart water

Mix and then clean as normal, using crumpled newspaper instead of paper towels to wipe the glass.  It works!

7. Coffee Maker cleaning
This house loves its coffee.  L.O.V.E.S.  When our super hard water broke our machine, we didn't know how we were going to survive.  We didn't even know our super hard water was the one to blame!  But now we know that hard water deposits build up in the little water tubes and eventually the water can't get through anymore.  Bad.  And wrong.  Badong.

To keep your coffee tasting good and brewing properly clean your machine once every 2 weeks - month (depending on your water quality) using white vinegar.  

1) Fill the water reservoir with vinegar instead of water.
2) Start the brew cycle and the stop it after 20 seconds, so that the vinegar is in all of the tubes.
3) Let sit for 20 minutes (adjust as needed for your water quality)
4) Restart the brew cycle so that all the vinegar runs out of the reservoir into the coffee pot.
5) Run a full brewing cycle with plain water to clean out any leftover vinegar
6) Brew as usual!

6. Dishwasher cleaning
Here I'm talking about your actual machine.  Our iron infested water was turning the inside of ours orange and the inside of the little holes that the water was supposed to come out of...well, there was so much scale that water was barely coming out.  White vinegar to the rescue!  You can literally pour the vinegar onto the spinny arms that the water comes out of and into the bottom of the main basin of your machine and run it.  Voila!  Problem solved.  We have to use it in every load, but you might not need to.

5. Rinse aid for dishes
This is super handy, isn't it?  It's good for your machine AND it's good for the dishes?  You betcha!  Instead of using electrasol rinse aids or other similar high priced whatever, get rid of film and spots on your dishes by using white vinegar instead.  If there is a rinse aid receptacle in your machine, you can use that, or just pour it into the bottom of your dishwasher before you start your load.  Works like a charm.

4. Washing machine cleaning
Just like the coffee maker and the dishwasher, that evil hard water can do a number on your washing machine.  Plus, a build up in your machine of film left by detergents can start making your clothes come out not as sparkly.  Cleaning your machine using white vinegar is good for the washer AND good for your clothes.  You can put white vinegar into all the slots for laundry soap, fabric softener, and bleach  if you have a machine that dispenses everything automatically, or you can pour it right into the tub and run a cycle.  Or you can use it as....

3. Fabric softener and whitener
Yes!  Kill two birds with one stone again!  Use white vinegar in every load of laundry instead of liquid fabric softener and bleach and you'll keep your machine and your clothes in great shape.  Nothing comes out smelling like vinegar (it's a magical mystery, I tell ya what!) but clothes are cleaner and brighter and SOFTER, especially for those of us who don't use a dryer.

2. Insect repellent
Got an ant problem?  Clean your counters and then wipe them down with undiluted white vinegar.  Ants apparently don't like it because they have no taste and/or are not pregnant.  A 50/50 water/vinegar solution sprayed on outdoor surfaces in the summer also helps to repel mosquitos, but having lots of frogs and birds around to eat them tends to be a better solution.

1. Making Yummy Stuff, like this...
Remember when I mentioned the salt 'n' vinegar potatoes and carrots promised to share the recipe?  And then never did?  Well never is today, because it's time for something you can actually eat!  I got the basic idea from this blog (you might like her recipe better), and then made some modifications.

What you'll need:
Approx 4 cups (or more) white vinegar
4-5 medium potatoes, sliced very thin
1.5 tsp salt (or more, if you're like me and likes 'em salty)
pepper to taste
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 carrots (or however many you want), peeled and chopped

What you'll do:
1) Put potatoes and carrots into a pot and cover them with white vinegar.  Yes, enough white vinegar to cover your veggies.
2) Bring your pot of vinegar and goodies to a boil.
3) Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, put on the lid, and let it sit for 30 minutes.
4) Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
5) Drain your veggies, saving the vinegar for washing your dishes or dipping some fried fish or whatever
6) Douse your potatoes and carrots in the olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix 'em up real good
7) Lay them flat on a greased baking sheet (or 3.  Or 4.  I think it took me 4)
8) Bake until your potatoes start to look a little brown.  No more than 30 minutes, but probably way less.  Mine baked for 14 minutes
9) Pull out your sheet, flip potatoes and carrots over and bake an additional 10 minutes or so on the other side.
10) If anything starts looking too brown or burnt, take them out sooner!
11) We ate these with fried fish (perfect for Fridays in Lent!) for a fun fish 'n' chips dinner, but if you're pregnant like me, I bet you could find a way to have these for breakfast.  Or a midnight snack.

I dipped mine in even more vinegar when I ate them.  So yum!  Like homemade potato chips, but better.

So there you go.  10 things to do with a cheap gallon of white vinegar.

If you have any questions or ideas, please share them in the comments.  I love finding new ways to use my favorite condiment!

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  1. Don't forget the trick of filling a plastic baggie with vinegar then rubber-banding it around your shower-head. Leave overnight, and no more hard water deposits or scale!

  2. Vinegar ROCKS.

    I used it to unclog our veeeeery slow bathroom drain today.

    What you need:
    1/2 box baking soda (the other wonder substance)
    1/2 cup vinegar
    kettle of boiling water

    What you do:
    Pour baking soda down the drain.
    Have the rag handy, then pour the vinegar down the drain and QUICKLY stop the drain with the rag so all the foamy goodness stays working down in the pipe.
    Leave for half an hour, remove rag, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain.

    (You MIGHT have to do it twice if the clog is particularly stubborn, but usually once does the trick.)

    1. Awesome! This is going to be the most helpful comment thread on earth!

  3. I have never heard of anything like that potato-carrot recipe... I am intrigued.

  4. My sister (whose hubby runs marathons) swears that only vinegar can get the B.O. smell out of workout clothes....

  5. Great post! We use white vinegar with our cloth diapers - first cycle on cold with Charlie's Soap, second cycle on hot with vinegar. Keeps them white, fresh-smelling, and (hopefully) sanitized.

    The BlogHer Network, however, doesn't agree with your topic - when I opened the page up, they were running an ad for Clorox Clean-up - with Bleach!!!! Ack!!!!!!

    I happen to be sensitive to chemicals (side effect of a medical condition), so I'm always looking for friendlier ways to clean. Thanks for your tips!

    - Rhonda

    1. Were they really, Rhonda? That is too funny! I bet they saw the "cleaning" keyword and thought for sure it would be appropriate advertising. Hah!

      Thanks for the tips on the diapers. We're toying with the idea of doing cloth (well, I'm planning on doing cloth and I have yet to break the news to my husband. So I'm just calling that "toying"), so cleaning advice is always welcome.

    2. Once my husband saw how easy cloth could be, and how expensive diapers could be, he was totally on board with cloth. We use prefolds and Thirsties covers, dunk in toilet, throw in pail, throw in wash. The pail stinks permanently, though. But I'm sure vinegar could solve that, too!!!!

  6. I second the recommendation to use it with cloth diapers, although you probably saw that in my cloth diapers posts :)

    I love to cook all kinds of stuff with vinegar-- my family is Penn-Dutch, so heavy on the sours! Vinegar is great on fried cabbage, steamed broccoli, bacon-fried green beans, beets, boiled potatoes, and rice (add to pot while cooking, along with butter and salt). You can also make a home-made italian-esque salad dressing: equal parts vinegar, olive oil and water, add sugar, salt and dried basil to taste, throw in a clove of garlic and shake it up real well!

  7. This was fabulous Dweej. So fab I have to share it on my fb page. Anyway...as I mentioned before I use vinegar for loads of things. I keep a spray bottle with about a third of vinegar and the rest water on every floor in my house. I use it to quickly clean up spills to ensure no streaks or sticky mess on my wood floors, clean my stainless steel appliances, wipe down counters, wipe down windows, mirrors, BATHROOMS. It's a miracle cleaner. And my house DOES NOT smell of vinegar. Thanks for sharing these amazing tips! I must now start using it in my laundry! Wooot. Oh the things we get excited about when we become all grown up.

    1. Yes! When I found out we could 'fix' our appliances with a gallon of vinegar instead of a call to the repair-main, I may have started hopping around my house in glee...

  8. Where I grew up in Michigan, we ALSO had the nasty rust water/septic tank combo. Isn't it awesome? And my mom's ban on bleach MAY have something to do with my unwavering loyalty to it now.

    Is your hair turning orange? Mine did. I honestly thought I had orange hair until two years into college, when all the rust deposits had grown out.

    I wonder if vinegar could have fixed that, too?

    1. YES! People use vinegar as a hair rinse. Yes, they really do. My sister in law and Melanie B. were both talking about it on facebook just the other day.

  9. This is great! I'm totally bookmarking. :)

  10. Yep, Blogher's not completely on board with this post: right now they have Greenworks advertising up! Haha! Great topic. My mom always cleans her coffee maker and tea kettle with vinegar; worked likes a charm! Vinegar is wonderful stuff!

  11. OMG I have the funnest " vinegar" story that I remember from when I was a teenager. I came home one time from the beach and hear my mother and the lady next door hysterical laughing at the neighbors house. I popped my head out the back door and there was Alice and Mom having a cold one both in tears laughing like I'd never seen them before.

    I jumped over the fence and went into Alice's and she in between laughing her rear off choked out the story. She wanted to do a bit of " personal cleaning" so she grabbed the vinegar and hit the shower. Later that day she kept on smelling something horrible. It was then she read the label of the white vinegar she used, it had garlic and spices in it!

  12. Oh boy am I nerd- I was THRILLED when I saw you'd done a post on vinegar. I can't wait to try it out in the laundry!

  13. 1)150 uses for vinegar. http://www.rd.com/home/150-household-uses-for-vinegar/

    2) I just used it to clean my silverware which was all dingy (is that the right word for silverware?) Put your silverware in the sink and cover them with water, then like a cup of vinegar and just shake some baking soda in it and let it sit for like 2 hours. I wish I could give you better measurements but I'm lazy and I just estimated and have done it a couple times and it's always worked. :)

  14. It really is a wonder, that vinegar! I didn't know it would repel bugs. But it makes sense because bugs are stupid so of course they would shy away from something so amazing!

    1. Hah! Exactly. Stupid bugs. Don't know a good snack when they're walking right in it!

  15. Great tips! Vinegar is amazing foe sure. I love how it cleans mirrors and grimy stuff. It cuts right through it.

  16. Pour some white vinegar into a screw top jar to about 3/4 full then every time you use a lemon, pare the rind off thinly and put it in the jar - you don't want any of the white pith. Keep doing this till the jar is full then strain the vinegar - it should be a lovely golden colour. It increases the cleaning power, smells better than neat vinegar and is even more anti-bacterial than plain vinegar. Makes a really good bathroom spray for keeping shower doors clear of water spots

    1. Okay, now this is one I've NEVER heard. Awesome! Maybe I could do the same except with grapefruit instead of lemon? 'Cause I eat grapefruit like crazy these days...

  17. You are just so helpful! My plumber told me to pour it down our sink drain, he said it's more effective than Drain-O. We have a reoccuring problem with clogging. Now I pour a gallon of it down the sink every month to keep the pipes clear. Voila!


    1. Doesn't it make you kinda wanna drink the vinegar straight out of the pot? No? Just me?

    2. I drink pickle juice and olive juice straight from the jar when I am pregnant. I am there with you, Dweej.

  19. You put vinegar in your colored loads of laundry too? How amazing.

  20. Grapefruit would work too - any citrus would do but if you mix them the colour goes a bit sludgy. The oils in citrus fruit are great for cleaning - there's a very expensive cleaning solution sold her in the UK that is specifically for getting sticky marks off walls and removing labels and basically it's just citrus oil in a spirit base

  21. now why did I have to be anonymous yesterday when it accepted my post straightaway today?

  22. Hard yucky salt stains on your suede Ugg boots? Or your Ugg knockoffs? Or any leather shoe? Spray vinegar on those too. Shoe repair man told me about that.
    This post kind of reminds me how the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding sprayed windex on everything.

  23. So I knew about using it for window cleaner... but not any of the others! Especially loving the coffee maker cleaner!!! Thanks for these!

  24. Love vinegar. Just the plain stuff for cleaning and then flavored vinegars for cooking (I have FIVE different ones in the cupboard right now, LOL). And here is my vinegar cleaning story. A few years ago I was cleaning my beloved BUNN coffee maker with vinegar and I thought I had run enough clean water through after. Then I made coffee and poured in a little creamer. it CURDLED! I didn't rinse enough. hehehe

  25. Awesome ideas. We don't really have room for cleaning supplies and such in our budget, so this will help us out tremendously. Thanks, Dwija!

  26. Interesting...had never heard of an iron bacteria problem. I use vinegar on the puppy "accidents" on the tile in our family room (OK our dogs aren't puppies anymore and they didn't do it accidentally.)

    Can't wait to try this recipe! Sounds wonderful!

  27. I use it to clean my floors (with bleach and a bit of alcohol) and they say it's good to use as an itch relief for poison ivy. I didn't have much luck with that. (I've used it for cleaning my coffee pot always--tip from Mom and probably way back before her!) Fun post!

  28. just recently we've added some special requests and Move out Cleaning Edmonton team went above and beyond to fulfill them. They offer very good services with the features of reasonable prices !

  29. @Cari, that is crazy that vinegar is able to do that must for a person's home. Could you provide more detail on how the vinegar might help a septic system? I am having septic tank problems and I am looking for the path of least expense. In home maintenance, I am seeing vinegar pop up everywhere.

  30. Hey nice post man! Thanks for incredible info, read more

  31. It just makes me smile that I can use common household items like vinegar for multiple cleaning and repair strategies. As a starting strategy, vinegar seems like it could be a great resource for cleaning my septic tank. The trick is trying to decide how much to use.


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