These days, there’s really no reason to buy any of those harsh, chemical-laden household cleaners on the market, especially when you can find some great cleaners in your own pantry.
Vinegar, in particular, is like a magical, do-it-all potion, just without the sneaky snake oil salesman. You can use it to clean just about anything, and it’s cheap, green, and healthy for your home.
While you can opt to buy the fancy green products that are for sale in stores (Target has an entire aisle dedicated to them), you will definitely pay a lot more for them.
I personally choose to do a little of both — buy a few of the fancy green products, and clean everything else with plain old vinegar and elbow grease. As I found out, you can clean just about anything with this magical potion, and it costs a tenth of the price of name brands.
Here are my tried and true top 10 ways to clean with vinegar.
In the Kitchen
Kitchen counter cleaner- You can use diluted vinegar to clean your kitchen counters (provided they aren’t marble, granite, or stone). I spray it on mine, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe it clean with a rag.
Oven cleaner- When I first tried vinegar on my oven, I was sorely disappointed, because it didn’t have enough power for the grease. However, I wanted to try again. I sprayed it on and scrubbed away the grime with some kosher salt sprinkled into the mixture. It takes a little more elbow grease, but I think it’s worth it to not have to spray those industrial strength cleaners into a tiny space where you cook your food. (Yuck!)
In the Bathroom
Toilet bowl cleaner- Spray the vinegar all over the toilet and around it, then squirt a generous amount into the bowl itself. Let it sit, swish it around, and then drip-dry the brush by trapping it in between the bowl and the lid. Sometimes I’ll do this right before bed so the vinegar will sit in there all night. It’s not necessary, but it makes me feel better!
Shower- About once every week or so, I spray vinegar all over my shower and tub, and scrub it with a brush. This weekly maintenance keeps me from having to do a major scrub every month. It takes 5 minutes as opposed to 20, and I’m all about saving time, especially when it comes to cleaning.
Around the House
Windows- Spray vinegar directly onto your windows and wipe it clean with a rag or newspaper. It looks greasy when you first begin wiping, but it dries to a perfectly clear shine. I have cleaned away many sticky toddler fingerprints with vinegar.
All purpose cleaner- Diluted vinegar can be used in so many places around your house. You can clean the inside and outside of your refrigerator (which is great, since you probably don’t want chemicals near your fresh food), in addition to the walls and baseboards in your home. I’ve cleaned toddler hand prints and lots of dust from my walls and baseboards with my trusty vinegar bottle. (It pretty much goes everywhere with me. I should probably sew a vinegar bottle holster onto my pants.)
Carpet cleaner- Since we have carpets throughout our house, we invested in a carpet cleaner when we bought our house. The chemicals you have to buy for those cleaners are at least $20 per bottle, and I just couldn’t swallow that. When I clean my carpets, I use a diluted vinegar mixture with a few drops of essential oil, and it cleans well when we’re doing a general cleaning. If you have a major spill or stain, you may want to opt for the chemical stuff, but for general maintenance, vinegar works great!
(Note: Check your cleaner’s instructions prior to using vinegar in the system, because it may void your warranty if you use anything other than the brand name carpet cleaner of the cleaner you purchased.)
Bug catcher- We live in a marshy, wet area, and the gnats can be pretty bad come springtime. A friend told me to puncture the lid of a small mason jar with a screwdriver, and fill the jar with apple cider vinegar. The trick is to make the holes in the jar just big enough that a gnat can crawl in. The gnats are attracted to the vinegar, which then kills them. I made sure to use the smallest jar I could find (about the size of a half cup), which sits next to my kitchen sink, and no one can tell what it is unless they ask me. It works like a charm!
As a Beauty Product
Clean your hair and face (really!)- You can use apple cider vinegar as hair conditioner, which makes your hair clean and shiny, and you don’t even need to rinse it out. It’s a great way to remove product buildup and the smell disappears completely, I promise. You can also use it as a natural astringent to clean your face. I do both of these on a regular basis.
How to Make the Switch to Vinegar
If you want to switch to cleaning with only vinegar, don’t throw out your old cleaners just yet. Because I want my home to be greener and cleaner, I use vinegar to do my general upkeep, so I’ll use it 9 times out of 10 in my bathroom.
For that tenth time, if I have some mildew building up that I’m worried about, I’ll go ahead and use some of my old harsh bathroom cleaner (because you really shouldn’t throw it away until it’s gone — that’s not very green either). This method works for me because if I have a stain that’s too tough for vinegar, I can use the old stuff, while working on getting rid of it at the same time. I figure it’s a win-win situation.
I also learned you need to purchase a commercial grade spray bottle ($5-$6) to store your vinegar, because the others will eventually clog. Depending on what I’m cleaning, I sometimes add a few drops of essential oil, or simply dilute it with water, and the smell of the vinegar dissipates in about 15 minutes. Sometimes, I also use baking soda or salt to help add scrubbing power.
Stay green and thrifty, my friends!
Do you use vinegar to clean around the house? How do you save on cleaning supplies?