When (and when not) to use vinegar for cleaning

If you’re looking for a natural cleaning solution, vinegar tends to show up as the ultimate answer. A quick search online and it seems to be the ideal ingredient for all your cleaning problems. From the window to the wall, is there anything vinegar can’t do?

Well, yes.

Don’t get us wrong – we’re all about planet-friendly products, and we love cleaning with vinegar. But there are boundaries that vinegar shouldn’t cross.

Here, we’re going to take a deeper dive into best practice when cleaning with vinegar. Read on to learn about how to use vinegar properly on your carpet, couch, and tiles and find out when to skip the vinegar and reach for something else instead.

Why is vinegar such a magic ingredient?

cleaning with vinegar

Vinegar is acidic, which means it’s good at reacting to organic matter, dissolving it, and breaking it down. In terms of cleaning, this makes it effective against grease, scum, water stains, and sticky messes.

The eco-friendly community loves it because it’s natural, biodegradable, nontoxic, and it kills a lot of bacteria. Plus, it’s cheap and you can find it at pretty much any supermarket.

What type of vinegar should I use for cleaning?

There are many types of vinegar on the shelf (including tasty varieties like balsamic, apple cider, malt, and rice wine vinegar) but the ones that you should use for cleaning are:

  • Distilled white vinegar: A balance of 5%-10% acetic acid and 90%-95% water, available at your local grocery store
  • Cleaning vinegar: A balance of about 20% acetic acid and 80% water, find it in the cleaning aisle or at the hardware store (and not suitable for consumption)

What should you NOT clean with vinegar

Before we get into the magical things vinegar can do, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not the answer for all your cleaning needs. These are some of the places you should avoid using vinegar as a cleaning solution:

  • Natural stone tiles or countertops: It can stain and cause the material to disintegrate
  • Hardwood flooring: It can eat away at the finish of your floors
  • Unsealed grout or damaged grout: It can damage vulnerable grout or the area beneath
  • Natural carpets and rugs: Some carpet and rug fibres aren’t compatible with vinegar – if in doubt, spot-check a discreet area before using a vinegar solution on your carpet or rug
  • Unfinished leather and certain types of upholstery: Vinegar’s acidity can be bad news for natural materials, so always check the manufacturer instructions before applying a vinegar cleaning solution to you soft furnishings

How to clean hard surfaces with vinegar

cleaning counter with vinegar

Vinegar can be a great cleaning solution for floors, counters, and tiles – but remember, you shouldn’t use it on natural stone (like granite or marble) or natural wood (like hardwood flooring or wooden furniture).

When you’re sure that your surfaces are vinegar compatible, follow these steps to make them sparkle.

How to clean floors with vinegar

  1. Vacuum your floors
  2. Add ½ cup of vinegar and a gallon of warm water to a mop bucket
  3. Cover the floor evenly with your vinegar solution (side to side, up and down)
  4. Use a sponge to tackle any stubborn areas with stuck-on dirt or marks
  5. Open the windows to air out and dry

How to clean countertops with vinegar

  1. Use a brush or dry cloth to clear away any crumbs or dirt
  2. Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup of water to ½ cup of vinegar (add a bit of lemon juice if you’re feeling fancy)
  3. Spray the area evenly
  4. Use a clean white cloth or sponge to wipe the surface
  5. Allow to air dry

How to clean a carpet with vinegar

Vinegar can be useful in lifting certain types of stains when you’re in a pinch. Remember – it’s always best to treat a stain immediately and call in the pros if you can.

Vinegar-based cleaning solutions aren’t compatible with all types of carpets and rugs (specifically those made from natural fibres like wool), so always check the manufacturer instructions and spot test a discreet area before going all-in.

How to treat stains with vinegar

  1. Blot the stain with a clean, white cloth – soak up as much liquid as possible
  2. Add 1 cup of water and ½ cup of vinegar to a spray bottle
  3. Mist the area until the stain is completely covered
  4. Allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes
  5. Use another clean, white cloth to soak up the vinegar solution
  6. Repeat until the stain has lifted

Cleaning couches and upholstery with vinegar

upholstery cleaning san francisco

If your couches or upholstery are in need of some TLC, we always recommend professional upholstery cleaning at least once a year – that way, we can really get deep into the fibres and eliminate odours and allergens. But if you’re looking for a quick refresh, vinegar can tackle that mild, stale sofa smell.

As always, check the label on your couch first – some upholstery is not compatible with water-based cleaning solutions (steer clear if the label has a S or X on it).

Natural materials might also be sensitive to vinegar – we sound like a broken record but, if in doubt, spot test a discreet area first.

How to clean your couch with vinegar

  1. Vacuum thoroughly to get rid of as much dirt, dust, and pet hair as possible
  2. Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup warm water to ½ cup white vinegar and ½ tablespoon of liquid soap (like Dawn or Sunlight)
  3. Spray the vinegar solution over your sofa in an even mist
  4. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes
  5. Dab with a clean, dry, white cloth
  6. Allow the rest to air dry

Will cleaning with vinegar make my home smell?

cleaning with vinegar

Only temporarily! If you’re worried that cleaning with vinegar will make your home smell like pickles, don’t worry – the smell disappears pretty quickly, especially if you air out your space properly.

Open windows and doors to encourage air flow. Once dry, you’ll find that vinegar leaves a fresh scent.

Our natural cleaning service

Vinegar is a great ingredient to incorporate in your regular cleaning routine. When it’s time to get the big jobs done, reach out to us for planet-friendly deep cleaning.

From carpets and rugs to tiles and upholstery, we’ll bring our eco-conscious products and practices to you – and leave you with a fresh space that you can feel good about. Reach out to our team today to get a free quote.

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