Vinegar. Is It Safe For Cleaning?

Have you ever wondered what's the difference between cleaning products labeled for the bathroom or kitchen? I'm sure there isn't any difference. It's nothing more than clever labeling tricks to sway us toward buying more of their products, and more of what we don't really need.

Our modern world has graced us with choices. So many choices. For instance, 700 new anti-bacterial products were introduced (700!) between 1992 and 1998. Of course, these products ranged from cleaners to personal hygiene, including those fun oral breath strips that melt in your mouth. 

Are all these choices and different products really that necessary? Brands certainly do their best to convince us they are. And during these times, fear has become the perfect marketing tool. Although, honestly, in these times it is good to have those lysol wipes on hand - if you can find them. 

I think back to the days of yore. Long before the sugar-pastelled innocence of the 50’s and the big band jive of the 40’s. What did people use to clean their homes with? Okay, sure the farther back in history we go the more questionable hygiene practices were. Big box stores didn't exist a hundred years ago to offer up 20 different cleaning brands and products filled with magical toxic ingredients.  About a hundred years ago there was washing soda, lemon, baking soda, and…vinegar.

Think how arrogant of mankind to believe we know more than nature. I’m not talking about the advances of science, medicine, and technology to improve and save lives. I’m talking about Corporations coming up with cheap ways to sell products that we probably don’t really need, products that pollute our bodies and our environment.

That's why I’m going back to good ol' vinegar.  But, what is vinegar, exactly? And why do countless articles tell you to clean everything with it? And is all vinegar the same?

I was curious myself so I did some research.

Firstly, look for higher concentrations of vinegar. You may need to purchase this online via Amazon or elsewhere.  The jug I purchased at the market has only a 5% acidity. 

 

WHAT IS VINEGAR?

Vinegar, simply put, is fermented alcohol; alcohol from wine, beer, cider. The fermentation creates the acidity and also, the fermentation process creates ethanol - an ingredient commonly found in many chemical based cleaners. The acidity is what makes vinegar an effective cleaner, in addition it is anti-microbial (antimicrobidestructive to or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.) Note - vinegar is not effective against destroying a virus like Covid-19.

Distilled vinegar has a PH level of 2.5. Meaning, it's pretty acidic. What is PH? The measure of how acidic or basic something is, ranging from 0 to 14.
Therefore, the higher the PH, the lower the acidity. Context: water has a PH level of 7 which is considered neutral. And, here's a tip - for something to have PH, it must contain water. So alcohol or oil does not have a PH. 

See provided scale from the USGS for more.
(Credit: OpenStax College | commons.wikimedia.org)









MAKE YOUR OWN VINEGAR CLEANING SOLUTION

Per the suggestion of the World Wide Web, I put lemon and orange rinds in a glass jar filled it up with vinegar and let it sit for a couple weeks. Okay, it was probably more like three weeks. In theory, this should infuse the vinegar with wonderful citrusy scent - for me not so much. Maybe I let it infuse too long. Nonetheless, I poured one cup of my citrus-infused vinegar and one cup of water* into my glass spray bottle. I added a few drops of lemon essential oils.  
*after doing my research I probably didn't need to dilute the vinegar. 

Voila! Handmade/homemade non-toxic cleaner that’s great for glass and mirrors too. The scent isn’t super great, but that’s okay. I'll figure that out, after all I'm all about my home smelling nice. Who doesn't love a home that smells delicious and delightful? Though, I think we’ve become so conditioned to the idea of something being clean only if it "smells clean." Don't forget, more often than not, that fresh “clean” scent from store-bought cleaning products comes from toxic, unnatural ingredients. And most "fragrance" ingredients in products are exempt from being listed as its considered a 'trade secret.'

 NOTE - DO NOT mix vinegar with Castille soap, or any soap. Soap is alkaline. Vinegar is acid. They basically cancel each other out and create a neutral solution. I have come across many articles suggesting to mix with vinegar as an added grease-cutting boost. To clean greasy surfaces such as a stovetop or hood simply use the soap by itself. Grease needs something alkaline like soap to cut through (hence the grease-cutting power of liquid dish soap!).


CLEAN WITH VINEGAR - A FEW SUGGESTIONS

Toilet bowl cleaner and deodorizer - spray generously around the bowl (or simply pour about half a cup in and around the bowl) and let sit for at least 15 min. For extra dingy toilet bowls allow to sit overnight.  Flush. You can scrub with a toilet brush also before flushing. 

Windows and Glass - Spray on your mirrors and glass surfaces and wipe. Done. No need for toxic blue window cleaners!

Countertops* - Spray, let sit for a few minutes (to let the solution disinfect) then wipe clean with a clean warm towel or rag. *Some surfaces are not vinegar friendly - see 'What Not To Use Vinegar On.'

• Wipe down faucets, door knobs and handles. 

Microwave - While its generally not recommended to heat up vinegar or a mixture of vinegar and water in the microwave (it can cause an explosion), you can lightly spritz the outside and wipe. If the inside is gunky and needs a good cleaning, place a small bowl inside with water and lemon juice. Heat the bowl for several minutes to create a nice steaming inside. Open the door, wipe down.  

 
WHAT NOT TO USE VINEGAR ON
While vinegar seems to be the miracle cleaning solution of the moment, due to the high acidity there are some surfaces and materials not recommended for a vinegar cleaning solution.

• Stone countertops; granite, marble, soapstone
Warm water and dish soap work best. Using vinegar on natural stone can cause the surface to fade and wear over time.  Personally, my kitchen countertops are made of CesarStone Quartz. Per their website, a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water is fine for that surface.

• Wood Flooring Similar to stone countertops, the acidity in vinegar can cause wear over time. And of course, always make sure water or moisture isn’t left on the flooring. 

 • Rubber Vinegar can deteriorate rubber. It's advised not to use on appliances with rubber components such as washing machines or dishwashers because the deteriorating rubber can cause leaks. For these appliances, stick to baking soda or soap and water.

• Knives Apparently the acidity in vinegar can erode metal and dull knife edges. Best to stick with soap and water for these. 

• Irons While most searches indicate it is safe to use vinegar to descale, it can sometimes can erode metal. It’s advised to check the instruction manual first. 

So, next time you're ready to put that eco-friendly kitchen or bathroom cleaner in your shopping cart, save yourself the $4 or $5 and just throw some vinegar in a spray bottle. 

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REFERENCES
https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/things-should-not-clean-with-vinegar
https://www.healthline.com/health/ph-of-vinegar#household-use
https://www.canadianliving.com/health/prevention-and-recovery/article/a-history-of-being-clean-how-clean-were-our-ancestors
https://www.caesarstoneus.com/about-us/information-inspiration/discover-caesarstone-quartz-countertops/4-tips-to-maintain-your-caesarstone-countertops/
https://www.bobvila.com/slideshow/12-things-you-should-never-ever-clean-with-vinegar-73031
https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/ph-and-water?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/does-vinegar-kill-germs/

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