Friday, January 8, 2010

Spit and vinegar

At Costco a few weeks ago I bought a 5-liter (1.32-gallon) bottle of white vinegar. It cost a little over $3. The thing is huge. It was on my kitchen counter for a while as I considered how I would use it.

Apparently, using vinegar is a green way to clean. According to both new (Internet) and old (my mom) wives' tales, when diluted in varying strengths, its acidity breaks up soap scum and stains in the kitchen and bathroom and it spitshines windows and mirrors.

My question: If something works this well and is so cheap, why do we have Tilex, Comet, Windex and other foul-smelling, chemical-filled, expensive cleaners?

Test No. 1: Mirrors. I filled half a large measuring cup with vinegar and then topped off the rest with water. It didn't smell too badly. In my toddler's room I dipped a clean old diaper cloth into the mixture and wiped down his mirrored closet doors. They were filthy, covered with fingerprints. Using a clean newspaper, I made circular motions to dry off the vinegar solution on the mirrors. It worked very well, just as good as--if not better than--Windex. The mirrors dried super-clean, no streaks. Grade: A-

Test No. 2: Windows. Feeling good after the mirrors, I moved on to the kitchen window that always gets hard water stains on the outside and on the inside still had some specks of a shade material I had scratched off last year. Using the same measuring cup solution, I cleaned the outside and dried with the newspaper. All the hard water stains came off with a little elbow grease. Inside, the vinegar was able to dissolve whatever stickiness the specks had left. They all came off. I got anal and saw I could do better outside, so I cleaned it again. Now the sunniest window in my house was sparkling. Grade: A

Test No. 3: Toilet. I was on a roll, cleaning, so I headed to the bathroom. The measuring cup solution was all gone. I poured straight vinegar into the toilet bowl, let it sit a bit, then whisked around with the brush. Some hard water stains came off and the vinegar must have been dissolving something in there because the water looked very dirty. After I flushed, I thought it looked good, but I'll have to get used to no scrubbing bubbles or flower-fresh smell. Grade: B+

Test No. 4: Bathtub. There was a strange red line of something on the edge of the tub where it met the tile. But I eschewed the toxic Tilex Atomic Mold Destroyer spray I own and just poured straight vinegar on the stain. Using a brush, I scrubbed the red right off. Then I used more vinegar and the brush to scrub the rest of the tub very shiny, including soap scum stains off the chrome fixtures. And I did not faint from the fumes, nor need to have an open window, as I would have with Tilex. Grade: A

Approximately 3 cups of vinegar was used, probably about 25 cents worth. I can do this vinegar thing. (But, help! Now what should I do with all those chemical cleaners filling my under-sink cabinets?)


  1. Grade A blog! I love vinegar for cleaning. We have started using it as a fabric softener/rinse aid in the washing machine. Along with Charlie's soap, it keeps our clothes and washer very clean!

  2. Rachael, Nice tip! I tried using vinegar on wash day on all my loads of laundry, and there definitely was a difference.
    Also, continued testing vinegar on different tasks: cleaning kitchen floor, wiping down wood tabletops to remove fingerprints, etc. All to great effect.
    So now, where can I take my old cleaning supplies? I'm done with them.

  3. Thanks for the tip Renee. This is going to save me a lot of money! How did we lose our common sense anyway?

  4. Vinegar also is a great way to rid things of cat pee smells. Works a lot better than expensive brands at pet stores.