How cheap white vinegar can be used to keep your house sparkling and smelling fresh

cleaning with vinegar

The Versatility of Vinegar – Queen of the Cleaners. Soon after he discovered how to make wine, ancient man must have come across an interesting by-product of the fermentation process. If you close your eyes you can almost see him as he takes a long draught from an uncorked goatskin, and then sprays a mouthful of vinegar all over the floor.

Perhaps it took a bit longer to find some use for the acidic liquor, but there is no doubt that vinegar has been a useful product to man for many thousands of years.

References to vinegar have appeared in the ancient records of many cultures, including the Bible and the Talmud. The Babylonians used their vinegar in the kitchen, the Romans drank theirs diluted with water, while Hippocrates, (he of the doctor’s oath) swore by it for its medicinal properties. Even proud Samurai warriors drank vinegar as a strengthening tonic.

Vinegar has been credited with helping Hannibal cross the Alps and the discovery of the New World. It has been used as a food preservative, as a contraceptive, as an antiseptic, in cooking, in cosmetics and as a medicine.

There are so many ways that vinegar can be used, that to try and cover them all in one article would be impossible. For now then, let’s look only at how that humble bottle of cheap liquid, that sits unnoticed and underutilized on your kitchen counter, can be used in the home as a powerful cleaner.

Vinegar as a Cleaner

Vinegar is an excellent multi-purpose cleaning agent. In many ways it is better than detergents that you can buy in stores. For example, it is both biodegradable and anti-bacterial, it is non-toxic to humans or pets, it can do a mighty fine job of pest control in the garden and it is cheap.

For cleaning purposes you would not splash out on fine Champagne vinegar nor an expensive and full-bodied Balsamic; cheap chemically produced distilled vinegar will do the job. Unlike the gourmet vinegars, this one is made from ethyl –alcohol, a by-product of wood pulping for paper production.

Air Freshener

Vinegar will successful neutralize many bad household odors. Common offenders like cabbage, onions or fish, which tend to leave an olfactory reminder long after the meal has been consumed and forgotten, are quickly dealt with, but vinegar is also effective at combating smells associated with dogs, cats, cigarettes, paint, smoke and even, vomit.

After having a party, a bowl of vinegar left overnight in the centre of the room will freshen up the air and leave it odorless by morning. A small glass of vinegar at the back of the fridge will combat food smells or undiluted vinegar sprayed directly into the air is an air freshener just as effective as any you buy at the store. Add orange essence, tea tree oil or lemon juice if want to be left with an aromatic scent in the air.

China Crockery

Stained china cups can be given a new lease of life with a white vinegar and salt dip.

Dish Rinse

Banish water marks after washing the dishes by dipping them in a rinse of water and vinegar. Just a quick splash is all you will need to keep the glasses sparkling and remove all traces of detergent.


Pure white vinegar will deter build-up in your sinks and drains. Once a week, splash a generous amount of vinegar down each drain to keep them clear of blockages and smelling fresh.


A cup of vinegar to a gallon of water will bring a shine up on tile or vinyl floors.

Pots and Pans

In the soiled pan, add water, two tablespoons of vinegar and a dash of baking soda then bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for a short while and then let it cool until you can touch the pan without burning your hand. Transfer the pan to the sink and wash as usual. Boiling the vinegar solution loosens up any residue burnt onto the pan and makes it easier to remove.


A stained toilet bowl will benefit from a cup of vinegar poured in and left for ten minutes followed by a clean with the toilet brush. The rest of the bathroom can be cleaned and sanitized by wiping down all surfaces with a cloth that has been soaked in vinegar.


Freshen up walls with a wash down using a vinegar- water solution. Surfaces will be left clean and odor-free.


Add a dot of ordinary dish washing liquid to a bowl of warm water and then two tablespoons of vinegar. Wash the windows top to bottom and dry with newspaper.

These are just a few examples of the myriad cleaning jobs that vinegar tackles. Older generations knew of many more ways to use this versatile liquid. Don’t use undiluted vinegar on fabric without testing but other than that with a bottle of vinegar and a handful of cloths, cleaning the house has never been so cheap and easy. Just ask your grandmother.


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Donald Pennington
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