Is Vinegar a Cleaning Agent?

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Vinegar is a staple ingredient that’s usually around the kitchen. We use it for almost anything, whether as a marinade for fish, meat, and vegetables. But nowadays, most homes utilize this ingredient as a powerful cleaner and disinfectant. So is vinegar a cleaning agent?

According to the US National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), the acidity in vinegar is potent, making it an excellent cleaning agent. It is effective for stains and surfaces and is a cleanser. 

So, if you’re wondering if vinegar would make a helpful cleaning agent, here’s the science behind it!

What Makes Vinegar a Cleaning Agent?

First things first, vinegar consists of an organic compound called acetic acid. Due to this primary ingredient, vinegar makes a powerful cleaning agent. The acid in vinegar is effective at removing dirt, grime, soap scum, grease, and mineral deposits. Vinegar can also kill some bacteria and counterattack icky build-ups.

What is the Difference Between Distilled and Undistilled Vinegar?

The main difference between distilled and undistilled vinegar is the acid content level. Distilled vinegar has around 5% to 8% acetic acid. On the other hand, regular or undistilled vinegar has an acetic acid of about 5% to 20%. On top of everything, the main ingredients of undistilled vinegar are apples, cider, grapes, and sugar cane.

However, distilled vinegar uses malt and maize. For everyday use, people use undistilled vinegar for cleaning, cooking, and gardening. But distilled vinegar is best for preparing industrial food and producing herbal medicine.

Why is Vinegar Great for Cleaning?

The power of vinegar as a cleaning agent is all thanks to its natural acetic acid. The Global Editor of Chief for Homes and Gardens, Lucy Searle, says “that vinegar’s acidity makes it an effective cleaning solution that disinfects germs like E Coli and salmonella”. Versatile and multi-purpose, you can reach for vinegar to help clean appliances, kitchen surfaces, and the bathroom.

Unlike grocery-bought abrasive cleaners, vinegar is perfect for cleaning cupboards. So, the next time you might ask why vinegar is such a fantastic cleaner. It all boils down to one thing. Vinegar’s acidity can easily break down grime, grease, and dirt. The bonus is it’s relatively cheap too!

What Can You Clean with Vinegar?


Every area of your humble home can benefit from vinegar as a cleaning agent. However, while vinegar proves to be very effective, it can damage other surfaces too. Here are the common areas in your home where you can clean safely using vinegar.


The faucet is a great spot where you can use vinegar. When cleaning, mixing two teaspoons of vinegar with one teaspoon of salt is best. Trust me. This solution can wipe away calcium deposits on fixtures and faucets. And if you spot a stubborn stain, try spraying the faucet with vinegar, tie a bag full of vinegar around the faucet, and let it stay overnight.


Vinegar can make an effective floor cleaner. Add around ½ cup of vinegar with ½ gallon of water for practical use. However, if you’re cleaning a ceramic tile, pour ½ cup of vinegar into a gallon of water. Before you use vinegar on the floor, spot test it. Avoid using vinegar on waxed and certain wood floors.


If you’re looking for a cleaning solution for toilets with disinfectant and deodorizing features, vinegar must be on your list! Add around 2 to 3 cups of vinegar inside the toilet bowl. Then, let it stay for at least 3 hours. And voila, you’ll find the bowl sparkling and germ-free!


You can utilize vinegar to clean the ins and outs of your home appliances, plus stainless steel. For a start, make an equal mix of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Afterward, spray the appliance with the solution and wipe it using a microfiber cloth. Avoid using abrasive pads so you don’t scratch the surface of your favorite home appliances.


You may find the window with build-up dirt. But with vinegar and water, you can make windows sparkle effortlessly. Add vinegar, hot water, and liquid soap in equal portions. Once mixed, this solution can wipe out any visible streaks in no time. For a pro tip, use a wet sponge to rub the grease and grime away.

What Should You Not Clean with Vinegar?

Without a doubt, vinegar is a top-notch cleaning ingredient. But to set things straight, this natural cleaner can cause serious damage to other household items and appliances. While the vinegar hype is understandable, this cleaning agent is not a clean-all ingredient. To help you, here’s a list of stuff you should not clean with vinegar.


Keep your knives away from other stainless-steel grades like kitchen knives. Tools with exposed edges are pretty vulnerable. Vinegar can ruin the knife’s finish and leave its edge pitted. In addition, don’t use vinegar in washing other kitchen metals, including copper and aluminum. It’s better to opt for warm water and dishwashing liquid.

Small Kitchen Appliances

Vinegar is a safe cleaner for small kitchen appliances like toasters, blenders, and coffee makers. But it’s best to prevent getting any vinegar on the metal or rubber. Often, small appliances are more prone to rust, and acid can ruin them. So, for small appliances, go for diluted dishwashing soap.

Washing Machines

Indeed, we often used vinegar as an odor and stain remover. Plus, it’s a fantastic fabric softener too. However, vinegar can potentially destroy washing machine hoses and rubber seals. Eventually, it might cause leakage. Laundry stain remover would make a good alternative. You won’t have to worry about melting the washing machine’s rubber.

Electronic Screens

While vinegar can be perfect in making windows spot-free, never use it to clean the electronic screens of smartphones, laptops, desktop computers, tablets, and TVs. Because of its potent formula, vinegar can make the touchscreen feature less responsive and ruin the screen’s properties.


Avoid vinegar if you like to maintain the beautiful look of your stone countertops. The acetic acid might etch and dull your marble or limestone countertop. Vinegar can dissolve the sealers of granite plus lose its shininess. Wiping the countertops with a dish towel or sponge soaked in mild detergent is a great option.

How to Make a Vinegar Cleaning Solution

Now, let’s head to the practical tips on making an effective vinegar-cleaning solution. Cheers to making your home shining and sparkling! So, here are they.

Step 1: Add water and vinegar to a spray bottle.

Step 2: Add lemon juice to level up the vinegar-cleaning solution with disinfecting properties.

Step 3: If there’s a persisting stain and you feel like water and vinegar are not working, add one teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid inside the spray bottle.

Step 4: Mix rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and glass cleaner for an excellent cleaning solution for glass surfaces.

Can You Use Cleaning Vinegar for Cooking?

No, don’t use cleaning vinegar for cooking and consumption. At the packaging level, you can already spot a warning reminder. Unlike cooking vinegar, cleaning vinegar does not go through the purifying process and can harm the human body. 

So, while you may use cooking vinegar for washing and cleaning, you can’t do it the other way around.

What are the Types of Cleaning Vinegar?


There are three main types of vinegar households often used for cleaning. Not all vinegar is suited or even practical for cleaning purposes. So, the next time you want to use vinegar, here are the details you must know.

Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled white vinegar has vodka and fermented cane sugar. This type of vinegar is hailed as the most effective household cleaner because it’s multi-purpose, cheap, and safe. When mixed with baking soda, it’s a perfect grease remover.

Apple Cider Vinegar

No list of cleaning vinegar would be complete without including apple cider vinegar. This second type is made with fermented apple and distilled white vinegar excellent for eliminating water stains. Expect it to be a fantastic deodorizer too!

Industrial Vinegar

Known as the most robust vinegar available in the store, industrial vinegar is best used for outdoor cleaning. This third type is often used in cleaning commercial premises. But one must handle this solution with extreme care to avoid irritation and skin burn exposure.


After all that has been said, we hope we have answered your question: “Is vinegar a cleaning agent?” Indeed, vinegar is versatile, powerful, and cost-effective for cleaning. No, wonder most households never forget this ingredient on their shopping list.

Almost all of the surfaces in your humble home would surely benefit from the formula. When used correctly, you can make everything sparkling with vinegar!

If you’re interested in learning more about vinegar, check out our article: Five Quick Facts about Cleaning with Vinegar.