Vinegar is such a staple product for those of us looking to use safe ingredients to clean their homes and I have used it for decades, but I started to wonder if it is really as effective at killing germs as the toxic cleaners are. Am I compromising my health by refusing to use bleach? I did some research and I should have known, but the answer is a resounding no! Here is what I learned:
What is Vinegar?
Natural vinegar is made by combining grains or fruits with warm water and allowing them to ferment for several days until they produce alcohol. The plant material is removed, and the liquid is allowed to ferment further until it becomes very acidic. This high acid level is what makes vinegar a disinfectant. Acid breaks down the cell walls of the germs and kills them.
Tests have shown that vinegar specifically kills the flu virus. This acid level is what also makes vinegar such an effective grease cutter and mineral stain remover.
Does Vinegar Kill All Germs?
No, it doesn’t, but there are safe and natural ways to get around that.
For ordinary household cleaning, vinegar alone will do just fine, but if a surface is badly contaminated some additional ingredients may be necessary to do the job.
The amount of vinegar used is important, and the time that the vinegar is in contact with the germs is a factor as well. For instance, to clean a cutting board used for meat, dousing it with straight vinegar and leaving it for a minute or two will do a better job of killing germs than using diluted vinegar and rinsing it off right away. Adding borax to the mix will increase the disinfectant properties of the vinegar, and kill the types of germs that vinegar is less effective with.
My favorite “recipe” for an all-purpose cleaner is to combine two tablespoons (30 ml) of vinegar with 2 teaspoons (10ml) of borax in a spray bottle and add 2 cups (500ml) of HOT water (to dissolve the borax so it doesn’t clog the sprayer) and shake well. This cleaner works on sinks, showers, counters, appliances, cabinets, all of your general cleaning.
You can also increase effectiveness by adding a few drops of your favorite anti-bacterial essential oil, like lemon, lavender or pine. We do this at The Green Boutique Cleaning Company.
Big Time Disinfecting
For those tougher jobs like toilet cleaning, pour about ½ cup (125ml) of straight vinegar in the bowl, let it sit for an hour or two, and brush. Vinegar’s acidity will remove hard water stains if allowed time to do the job.
Even mold or mildew is no match for vinegar. I had a forgotten lemon turn moldy in the back of the refrigerator, and straight vinegar took care of the mold spot on the shelf.
When you wash your shower curtain, a cup of vinegar in the washing machine with the detergent will remove mildew.
When you take seasonal clothing out of storage and it smells musty, the same vinegar treatment in the washing machine will make them smell sweet.
If a room or a closet has a bad odor, place a few small cups of vinegar in the area for a day or two. This even removes tough odors like cigarette smoke.
I had an antique dresser with a very old, musty smell in it, and I cured it by putting a dish of vinegar in each (closed) drawer for a week. The vinegar smell will dissipate from the room quickly upon opening a few windows.
A Few More Tips
Windows and mirrors will clean up streak-free with a mixture of ¼ cup (63ml) vinegar in 2 cups (500ml) water in a spray bottle.
If your dishwasher load is particularly greasy, pouring ½ cup (125ml) of vinegar in the bottom of the machine along with whatever you use in the dispenser cups will help cut the grease.
All of this for only a few dollars a gallon! There is never any worry about children or pets getting into it and if your child accidentally drinks vinegar it will not hurt them, but you can bet they will never want to do that again!
You just cannot go wrong with vinegar, and I know there are dozens more ways to use it that I don’t know about yet. I look forward to trying them all.