Eat. Home. Live.

In depth ramblings about cooking, homekeeping, and whatever else I decide to write about.

Natural Cleaning- The Science Behind Vinegar

Welcome to part II of my natural cleaning series. The first in the series was “The Science Behind Borax.” Now, we are going to learn why vinegar is a good household cleaner, and what you can do with it.

First of all, if you read my Borax post, you will see a link to information from Purdue University that shows that vinegar kills bathroom germs really, really well. Why does it kill germs? Because it is highly acidic. Most germs do not have an acidic pH. When you expose germs to extreme acidity, it jacks up their pH and kills them. This is why it is used to preserve food in pickling– because germs can’t grow in it. But, you may also wonder why vinegar manufacturers don’t advertise it as a powerful disinfectant. It is simple. If they advertised it as a disinfectant, they would have to register it as a pesticide. Who wants to put a pesticide in food? No one. Case closed.

Not only does its acidity make it a great germ killer, but it also makes it excellent at cutting grease and soap scum because it dissolves both. One bad habit I see in a lot of  internet recipes is adding it into homemade all-purpose cleaners with soaps and detergents. This is a bad idea. Why? It will keep the soap or detergent from working because it will decrease the alkalinity of soap. Vinegar is an acid, soap is a base, mix them together and neither works very well. They essentially cancel each other out. I now it is contrary to what we think we know about natural cleaning, but it’s chemistry– not a matter of opinion. So,  matter what those internet recipes made up by well meaning cleaning mavens may say, just skip mixing these two things together (I still can’t figure out why people started doing this. I have tried a couple of the recipes myself to see what happens and they just don’t clean the same as using them on their own.) If you want to use both, use the soap recipe without the vinegar (I like Dr. Bronner’s or Dawn), and use the vinegar in a spray bottle as a final rinse and shine.

Despite the fact that you do not want to put them in a recipe together, vinegar cuts soap scum like a dream. It is great in a Downy Ball in the rinse cycle for getting out soap residue (get’s out those greasy soap stains on black clothes) and leaving laundry soft. It works wonders on soap spots on the shower door. It is a magical rinse for your carpet after you shampoo carpets.  

Here are some simple and non-toxic ways you can clean with it:

Disinfectant: Apply undiluted straight from a spray bottle and allow to sit for 10 minutes, or allow to evaporate naturally. It is especially good to use near where you prepare food, or in the kitchen sink.

All Purpose Cleaner for Floors: 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon hot water.

Window Cleaner: Mix vinegar and water 50/50 in a spray bottle

Removing Soap Scum: Apply undiluted straight from a spray bottle. Allow to sit for several minutes. Scrub and rinse.

Animal Urine: Pour directly on animal urine spots (even old ones) and leave for 20 minutes. I pour quite a bit and step on the spot with my shoe to push the vinegar through to the pad.This works because animal urine is a base, so the acidic vinegar helps neutralize the smell.You can blot the excess up with a towel after 20 minutes. Let it dry naturally. The vinegar and urine smell both go away.

And yes, vinegar stinks. But, the smell goes away as soon as it evaporates. And, since it is harmless to people and the environment, a weird smell is a small trade off.

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This entry was posted on January 18, 2011 by in Home.