White vinegar is a versatile all-purpose cleaning ingredient that’s called for in many homemade, DIY cleaning recipes. A by-product of plant fermentation, vinegar contains 5 to 10% acetic acid which makes it an effective solution for breaking down grease and mold while hindering the growth of some bacteria.
We love that it’s a food-grade cleaning agent; it's safer to clean with (easier on the lungs) and won’t coat your home’s surface in chemicals. It’s also really affordable. (Unfortunately, most vinegar is sold in plastic bottles, so purchase in bulk when possible.)
Before you get started cleaning with vinegar, it’s important to follow a few best practices.
1. Never mix vinegar with bleach
Mixing the two will yield a toxic chlorine gas.
2. Do not mix vinegar with Castile soap or baking soda
Take a quick surf across the Internet and you’ll find many DIY cleaning recipes instructing users to mix vinegar with baking soda or with Castile soap. (Castile soap is a plant-based natural soap.) While not dangerous, adding vinegar will render the active ingredients in the soap or baking soda less effective than when used alone.
3. Know when—and when not to—add essential oils
If you’re using vinegar to blend a glass or mirror cleaner, skip the essential oils which can leave streaks.
If you’re making a vinegar surface disinfectant, mix equal parts vinegar and water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 10-12 drops of your preferred essential oil. Orange, lavender and tea tree are good options.
4. Never vinegar use on natural stone, cast iron or wood
Vinegar is not recommended for cleaning porous natural stone, like marble or granite countertops, nor for wood surfaces. Instead, use an all-purpose Castile soap cleaner.
5. Use vinegar sparingly on tile
Prolonged exposure to vinegar can degrade the grout between tiles. This includes backsplashes, floors and shower stalls. It’s better to use a baking powder scouring paste for tough grime or a Castile soap all-purpose cleaner for routine cleaning.
6. Special instructions for stainless steel
Mixing equal parts water and white vinegar creates a tried-and-true glass and mirror cleaning solution, but you might be disappointed if you try the solution on stainless-steel appliances. For a streak-free finish, simply use undiluted white vinegar to wipe stainless-steel surfaces.
PS: Want more zero-waste cleaning solutions?
Did you know that annually more than 750 million plastic laundry jugs end up in our landfills? Tru Earth has the solution.