It may be somewhat counter-intuitive that a liquid that arguably smells pretty foul on its own actually stands with the best household cleaners and odour-eliminators. Yet many years of homeownership have taught me that plain old white vinegar’s acidity — often when mixed with equal parts water — is an absolute beast on the dirt, grime, and grease that builds up in all the nooks and crannies of our dwellings over time.
Pull out a bottle of vinegar and come with me on a journey; we’re going to make your home look sparklier and smell fresher in ways you never thought possible.
Might as well start with the toilet
Most people start cleaning with vinegar by pouring it into a spray bottle, mixing it with water, and spritzing it all over their kitchen. This is great; highly recommend. But you don’t need me to tell you that vinegar can help spruce up your countertops, backsplashes, and stovetops. You (probably) already knew that.
But vinegar can even the grossest spaces in your home — including your toilet. If cleaning a toilet with vinegar is good enough for Martha Stewart, it’s good enough for me. She offers these easy instructions:
Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the toilet bowl, let stand a few minutes, brush, and flush.
If you have hard water, let the vinegar sit for an hour, and you may have to do some light scrubbing.
Decalcify your coffee maker
It’s great to wash the removable parts of your coffee maker with warm, soapy water after each use, but what about the parts you can’t get to? Over time, hard minerals can build up in the deep, dark inner workings of your early-morning best friend, so once a month, it can do with a deep cleaning — with vinegar. Good Housekeeping explains:
Fill the reservoir with equal parts vinegar and water, and place a paper filter into the machine’s empty basket. Position the pot in place, and “brew” the solution halfway. Turn off the machine, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, turn the coffee maker back on, finish the brewing, and dump the full pot of vinegar and water. Rinse everything out by putting in a new paper filter and brewing a full pot of clean water. Repeat once.
House Beautiful says you can also do this with your washing machine to remove any build-up. Just add two or four cups of white vinegar to the machine and run a hot water cycle. Vinegar is great for cleaning and deodorising your dishwasher too: Place a cup of white distilled vinegar upright on the top shelf, then run a hot cycle with the rest of the dishwasher empty. Finish up by sprinkling baking soda along the bottom of the dishwasher and running a hot, empty cycle again.
Spruce up the inside your kitchen cabinets
You probably wipe down the outside of your kitchen cabinets and drawers from time to time, but take a moment to stop and consider: When is the last time you wiped them down on the inside? Maybe you are very good at cleaning, and this is a thing you regularly do; but more likely, your answer is something like, “maybe the day I moved in?”
If that’s the case, here’s what I want you to do: Grab a bottle of white vinegar and pour some of it into a spray bottle along with equal parts water. Pull those dishes out, take note of all those crumbs, dust, grease, and gunk that have been building up over time in the cabinet, and then start spraying. Wipe the mixture away with a clean cloth, and bask in your renewed sense of respect for yourself.
Give your microwave a vinegar steam clean
Another thing we probably don’t clean as often as we should? The microwave. Not only does the inside of the microwave play host to any number of reheated food splatters, but odours tend to linger within, too. I don’t particularly enjoy sliding a bowl full of soup into a contraption that still smells of my reheated morning coffee, but maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, to deal with this problem, grab a microwave-safe bowl, fill it halfway with water, and then add a few tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar. (You can also add in some slices of lemon or lime, if you’re feeling extra fancy.) Better Homes & Gardens tells us what to do next:
Using high power, heat the vinegar and water for up to four minutes until boiling. The amount of time to heat the water depends on the power of your microwave. Look at the stickers inside the microwave door — often times, your microwave’s wattage will be listed here. Here’s a handy list of microwave temperature cleaning times:
- 1,200 watts = 1 1/2 minutes
- 1,000 watts = 2 minutes
- 800 watts = 2 1/2 minutes
- 700 watts = 3 minutes
- 600 watts = 4 minutes
Although the risk of bubbling super-heated water is minimal, some experts recommend placing a wooden skewer or wooden spoon in the water for bubbles to form around, providing a release for built-up air.
Let the bowl of hot vinegar water continue to steam for a few minutes after the microwave goes off. Then remove the bowl (be careful; it’s hot!), take out the turntable and other removable parts (also hot!), wipe down the inside with a damp cloth, and wash the removable pieces separately.
Attack those dusty window blinds
Let’s get out of the kitchen for a bit, shall we? Because those window blinds are not going to clean themselves. Window blinds are great at providing privacy, and they are equally great at attracting and collecting copious amounts of dust and grime. Luckily, you have vinegar, so it’s not going to be a problem for much longer.
Here’s what you do, according to SelectBlinds.com:
- Fill a small bowl with white vinegar and find a pair of clean cotton gloves or socks.
- Put your hand inside one of the gloves or socks and dip the tip of the sock, or your fingers into the bowl.
- Run your hand or fingers along each slat to remove the dust and grime. You may need to rinse the sock or glove a few times.
- Switch back and forth between the two socks or gloves, soaking one sock or glove while you use the other.
You shouldn’t go overboard with the saturation here — especially if you have wooden blinds — but a damp swipe should dry pretty quickly without causing any damage. (Also, I’d probably add some water to that bowl of vinegar.)
Scrub your grout
Tile grout loves itself some dirt, but nobody enjoys the sight of dirty grout. However, Bob Vila says dirty grout is nothing a little vinegar can’t handle. Grab your half-vinegar, half-water spray bottle, douse the grout, let it stand for five minutes, and then scrub the dirt away with a stiff brush. If your grout is more than moderately dirty, you could add some baking soda to the equation:
To bring even more cleaning power to the party, cover grout lines with a paste of baking soda and water, then spray on the vinegar solution listed above. Once the mixture stops foaming, scrub with a brush and rinse with plain water.
Clean your feet
Sure, we said we were keeping these vinegar hacks to household uses. But if your feet stink, and you take your feet into your home, it seems fair to treat them as any other object to be cleansed — with vinegar. If those toes are smelly, it’s time to bust out a deodorising soak, as Healthline advises:
Vinegar will not hurt your feet, but you should still dilute it for a foot soak. Generally, using 1-part vinegar to 2-parts water is a good ratio. If you’re tolerating the diluted vinegar soaks, and not noticing any difference, you can use a stronger soak.
A vinegar foot soak can also be good if you have warts, callouses, or dry, cracked skin. Just make sure to wash your feet with soap and water before you soak.
Make your whole damn house smell nice
We’ve told you in the past that you can neutralise a smell that is permeating your entire home, but in case you missed it: You simply need to simmer a pot of vinegar to freshen up the air. Like so:
Pour about a cup of white vinegar in a sauce pan on your stove top and bring it to a simmer. The simmering vinegar will release its odour-fighting power into the air, and if you let it go for a while, it will deodorise your whole house. Of course, if you want, you can take your steaming pot of vinegar and move it from room to room as well. It will smell a lot like vinegar at first, but after a little while it won’t smell like anything at all.
Sure, the vinegar might stink during the boiling process, but it will chomp up whatever other odour is ailing you. Pretty quickly, things will smell fresh again.