Pop quiz, hotshot: what’s the best multipurpose item you can have in your home—you know, one that works equally well for cleaning, disinfecting, softening laundry, removing wallpaper, and even flavoring dozens of tasty recipes? While it might sound like a fake Saturday Night Live infomercial (“It’s a floor wax AND a dessert topping!”), there is a common household item that can do all this and more—for just pennies per use. Say hello to your new BFF: white vinegar.
How much does Annie love white vinegar? Let us count the ways. In addition to her cooking stash, she keeps several bottles on hand for use as:
A disinfectant cleaner
- To eliminate germs from cutting boards, wipe the boards with a clean sponge saturated with white vinegar. Rinse, then allow to air dry.
- To wash countertops and the inside of refrigerators, fill a plastic spray bottle with 2 parts water, 1 part white vinegar, and a few drops of liquid dish detergent. Important: don’t use white vinegar on marble; the acid can damage the surface layer.
- To gently clean walls and other painted surfaces, fill a spray bottle with 2 parts water, 1 part white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Mix, then spot treat, and wipe with a clean towel.
- To eradicate the nasties from floors, add ¼ cup white vinegar to your steam cleaner’s reservoir, then fill the rest with water. Steam as usual, and allow to air dry.
- Make your own spray disinfectant by squirting a bit of undiluted vinegar on doorknobs. Wait a couple of minutes, then wipe dry.
- For a scouring cleanser that’s perfect for tubs and sinks, mix ¼ cup baking soda with 1 tablespoon liquid dish detergent, and add enough white vinegar to create a thin paste.
- . . . Or make your own everyday shower cleaner by almost filling a spray bottle with white vinegar; then add about ¼ cup dishwasher rinse aid, plus 10 drops lemon or tea tree essential oil. Terrific for preventing soap scum and lime buildup!
- Give your microwave a safe, nontoxic scrub-down by combining ½ cup white vinegar and ½ cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for about a minute, or until it reaches a rolling boil. Carefully remove the bowl with hot pads, then wipe down walls and turntables with a clean, damp sponge.
- For clean, streak-free glass, mix 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts water and spray or wipe on, then wipe with a dry cloth.
- Make the toilet bowl sparkle by pouring in 2 cups white vinegar and allowing it to sit several hours or overnight before scrubbing and flushing.
- Clean and deodorize pet stains by first blotting until almost dry. Then gently rub either a small amount of undiluted white vinegar, or a paste of 2 tablespoons vinegar and ¼ baking soda on the stain. Let dry, and vacuum up the residue. (Note: try this on an inconspicuous part of the rug first, to ensure color-fastness.)
A laundry additive
- Adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle will not only kill bacteria on clothes, sheets, towels, and more, but will also keep your favorites soft, fresh-smelling, and static-free. Kiss those expensive, eco-unfriendly dryer sheets good-bye!
- If you’ve recently dyed a garment or piece of fabric, use a cup of vinegar in the final rinse to help set the color. This also works wonders with red cottons—who hasn’t had an innocent-looking red sock or pair of undies make an entire load of whites look like a little girl’s princess costume box? Soak those reds in a few cups of undiluted white vinegar, wait 10-15 minutes, then wash as usual.
- Give sweat rings around collars and cuffs the brush-off by mixing a paste of 2 parts white vinegar and 1 part baking soda. Rub it well in to the stains, and let sit for 30-60 minutes before laundering. To remove underarm and deodorant stains, apply undiluted white vinegar, let them sit for a few minutes, then wash as usual.
- Did you forget your favorite top in the dryer? Fill a spray bottle with 1 part white vinegar and 3 parts water. Spritz all over, then hang to dry.
- To disinfect and remove soap buildup from your washing machine, run a full hot-water wash cycle with nothing but 2 cups white vinegar.
A miscellaneous marvel
- To remove candle wax from furniture and carpets, look no further than white vinegar and a blow-dryer. Heat the spot with the dryer and use paper towels to blot up as much wax as you can, then saturate a cloth in equal parts white vinegar and water. Rub the cloth over the spot; wipe clean with a soft towel.
- Got a stubborn old border or a room full of wallpaper? Mix equal parts white vinegar and water and spray onto to the paper to saturate. Wait a few minutes, then peel off the paper and glue with a scraper.
- Make your glassware sparkle by soaking cloths in undiluted white vinegar and placing them inside and wrapping them around the outside of the glasses. Let sit for several minutes, then rinse.
- Clean mineral deposits from a tea kettle by nearly filling with water, then adding ½ cup white vinegar; allow to sit overnight. For tough stains, boil undiluted vinegar in the kettle for several minutes before allowing to cool and rinsing with water. To clean your coffee cups and teacups, scrub them with equal parts white vinegar and salt or baking soda.
- To clean lime and mineral despite from a showerhead or faucet, mix 1 cup white vinegar and ½ cup baking soda in a plastic sandwich bag and tie it around the head. Allow to sit for an hour after the bubbling has stopped; then remove the bag and run the water to rinse.
- Wipe the grime from blinds by mixing a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm tap water. Don a pair of white cotton gloves, dip your fingers into the solution, and slide them over both sides of each blind.
- To dissolve a label or price tag, cover the spot with a cloth soaked in white vinegar. Allow to sit for several hours or overnight, then gently brush away the label and glue. This also works well for scissors that have gotten gunked up with glue or tape residue.
- Polish brass and copper with a mixture of 2 tablespoons ketchup and 1 tablespoon white vinegar; rub with a clean cloth until shiny and dry.
- Degrease your oven or stovetop exhaust fan by soaking a sponge in undiluted vinegar and wiping clean. (It might go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: remember to turn off the power first.)
- Don’t stress over those unsightly white rings left behind on furniture by water glasses. Apply a solution of equal parts white vinegar and vegetable oil, and rub with the grain of the wood.