Using Vinegar To Clean at Home

Understanding Acetic Acid and Vinegar Use in the Home

I'll show you how to replace at least 8 expensive and toxic products currently used in your home. 

Acetic acid - there is no better example of consumer product companies taking over a base ingredient, renaming it and repackaging it, and then completely overcharging consumers for it. The name may not sound like something you want in your home, but you already know all about acetic acid, and it’s in your home, and you've used it for years –  acetic acid is commonly known as vinegar. You can and should use acetic acid in your home to replace a slew of overpriced and toxic cleaning products.

The first important question, what is the difference between acetic acid and vinegar?

The answer is simple, white vinegar is nothing more than diluted acetic acid. That’s it, nothing more, there’s no special magic to creating white vinegar, all you need to do to make white vinegar to clean with is start with acetic acid and add water and you’ll have white vinegar. Strengths can vary but most white vinegar you see on the shelf at your local store is approximately 5% acetic acid and 95% water.  

Second important question: What ‘s the difference between cooking vinegar and cleaning vinegar?

And this is important! The acetic acid used in cooking vinegar is considered “food grade” and undergoes strict controls during manufacturing to ensure that no impurities are entered into the product and that it is safe for human consumption  Cleaning vinegar (or industrial vinegar) on the other hand while it still safe and non-toxic for human handling should not be ingested.


Here’s how I manage the acetic acid and vinegar in my house.

  • I buy a small amount of food grade pure acetic acid to dilute and create my cooking vinegar. This way I know exactly what I am getting.
  • Then I also purchase a much larger amount of industrial grade acetic acid to use for my cleaning vinegar and for all of the other wonderful cleaning and outdoor projects that I have around my house.  

If you only use a small amount of cooking vinegar it may be worth it to spend the extra money and simply buy a couple of bottles a year of regular cooking vinegar and keep it in your pantry. Then, you can also start saving the big money by purchasing industrial grade acetic acid in bulk and creating your own cleaning vinegar solution. Do what works best for you in your home!

Now that we’ve answered the important questions, let's get on to using safe and natural acetic acid and saving tons of money around your house.

What is Acetic Acid?

Acetic acid is a colorless organic liquid compound that has a sour taste and a  smell. Acetic acid is a byproduct of fermentation, and gives vinegar its characteristic odor. Beyond vinegar and other food applications acetic acid is commonly used as a cleaning solvent, in vitamins and pharmaceuticals, and in many manufacturing processes.  Most importantly, acetic acid is safe and non-toxic. According to the Ecological Risk Classification of Organic Substances Approach, acetic acid is identified as having a low ecological hazard potential.

Fun facts, the word vinegar derives from the French “vin aigre,” or sour wine. It has been traced back to 5000 B.C.E. in Babylon, not just for cooking but as a medicine, a preservative, and a drink to boost strength and promote wellness. Legend describes vinegar’s discovery when a forgotten wine was left in storage for several months, causing it to ferment and turn sour.

Why you should use acetic acid vinegar as one of your most important household cleaning tools?

The answer is simple, cleaning with vinegar is natural, safe, and eco-friendly.  Vinegar is not only inexpensive, it’s tough on bacteria, mildew, and dirt. Cleaning with vinegar and water (and other substances) has an application in every room of your home. 


Here’s a great room by room list of where to use use cleaning vinegar throughout the house 

Start all of your vinegar cleaning recipes by creating your “basic vinegar”. Your basic vinegar mix is created by combining 45% acetic acid with water at a 1:8 ratio, meaning 1 cup of acetic acid for every 8 cups of water. See the chart below if you are starting with a different strength acetic acid.


The Kitchen

There’s no better place to use cleaning vinegar than in the kitchen. In the kitchen I like to create my vinegar kitchen cleaner by diluting the basic vinegar with a 50/50 water split to tone it down a bit. Add together equal parts base vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle - shake well and you have your vinegar kitchen cleaner.
  • For your refrigerator skip the toxic chemicals where you store your food use your vinegar kitchen cleaner.  Wipe up spills using a cloth dampened with a vinegar cleaning solution. I wipe down all the surfaces in your refrigerator once a week. 
  • For the sink drain pour vinegar onto a scrub brush small enough to get inside the disposal. Sprinkle the brush with baking soda, then scrub to remove odors and built-up grime. I also prevent clogs by pouring a cup of baking soda and then a cup of vinegar kitchen cleaner down the drain once a week. Let sit for 10 minutes then flush with hot water. 
  • To clean and disinfect cutting boards, spray the surface with vinegar kitchen cleaner, then rinse to clean.
  • In the microwave Remove hard-to-clean microwave splatters and stains by placing 1/2 cup vinegar kitchen cleaner in  a glass bowl. Microwave for two to three minutes, or until it boils, then easily wipe away the buildup.
  • Don’t throw away stained plastic containers,  instead coat the plastic containers in vinegar kitchen cleaner and let sit for a few minutes, then wash as usual.
  • For non-marble countertops simply  spray vinegar onto the surface and wipe it away with a warm, wet rag. Always avoid cleaning countertops with vinegar if you have a granite or marble surface.


The Bathroom 

In the bathroom I use 100%  base vinegar with no additional water dilution as  my vinegar bathroom cleaner. The stronger cleaner is needed to get rid of bacteria, stains, and odors.

  • Cleaning the toilet: To clean a toilet with vinegar bathroom cleaner, pour a cup of vinegar in the bowl and let sit overnight. (For tough jobs, empty the toilet water first.) The following day, sprinkle with baking soda and scrub with toilet brush, and then flush.
  • Cleaning the tub or sink drain: To clean the area around your bathroom drain, pour 1/2 cup vinegar bathroom cleaner around the closed drain and let sit for several hours. Scrub to remove buildup. Drain, then rinse.
  • Cleaning the shower is always a dreaded chore. To clean your shower with vinegar bathroom cleaner bring vinegar to a boil, then carefully use the warm vinegar to wipe down the shower door and walls. Keep them damp by wiping them down every five to eight minutes for 30 minutes. Then, dampen a non-scratch sponge with vinegar bathroom cleaner, sprinkle with baking soda, and scrub. Rinse to wash away germs, mold, water spots, and soap scum.
  • Cleaning the showerhead is an often overlooked but relatively easy task. Pour some vinegar bathroom cleaner into a plastic bag, and secure it to your showerhead with a twist-tie or rubber band. Make sure there's enough vinegar to submerge the bottom part of the showerhead. Leave the bag on overnight. Remove the following day just before showering.
  • To clean tile bathroom surfaces with vinegar, mix 1/2 cup  vinegar bathroom cleaner with a gallon of warm water. Mop bathroom floors or scrub countertops with the solution and allow them to dry.


The Bedroom 

Create your own mattress disinfectant with vinegar.  Mix your basic vinegar, a little rubbing alcohol, and some tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Lightly spray on your mattress to help combat dust mites, mildew, and general odors. For a deeper clean, follow with a dusting of baking soda. Let dry, then vacuum the mattress.


The Laundry Room

  • I use my basic vinegar during laundry to cut down on the amount of laundry detergent I buy and to help protect colors and remove excess detergent residue. To set colors and reduce fading wash colored towels and clothing with about half the recommended amount of detergent plus 1/2 to one cup of basic vinegar.
  • You can also use your basic vinegar as a homemade fabric softener instead of buying expensive and toxic packaged fabric softener. The recipe is simple: just add a cup to the final wash or rinse water.

The Living Room

  • To create  your own vinegar glass cleaner use a 50-50 mix of your basic vinegar and water. 
  • Wood furniture: Use 1/4 cup basic  vinegar mixed with one cup olive oil (plus an optional few drops of lemon or orange oil for a fresh scent if you want) to clean and condition wood furniture, 
  • Use a vinegar cleaning solution to remove carpet stains and clean area rugs. Mix one teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid and 1/4 teaspoon of basic vinegar with one quart warm water. Apply it to the carpet stain and let sit for 10 minutes before blotting away.


As you can see, the list of uses for acetic acid vinegar are endless. Once again, just follow these basic rules and you'll free yourself from a whole slew of expensive and toxic packaged cleaners and disinfectants and be on your way to a clean, safe, and eco-friendly home.
Rule 1: Keep your cooking vinegar separated from your cleaning vinegar - they are not the same. To simplify matters you can purchase your traditional cooking vinegar at the store and store it in your pantry for cooking purposes only. 

Rule 2: Purchase your acetic acid in bulk and dilute it with water to create your basic cleaning vinegar. Follow this chart for the dilution guidelines

Acetic Acid Dilution Chart to Create Basic White Cleaning Vinegar

If you have 30% acetic acid use 1 cup of water to 5 cups of water.
If you have 45% acetic acid use 1 cup of water to 8 cups of water.
If you have 30% acetic acid use 1 cup of water to 13 cups of water.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This article is only about white vinegar and it’s many uses in your home, but if you’re like me you have fallen in love with vinegar and are exploring other types. Here’s a really fun video and project that I have used in the past to create my own apple cider vinegar. Enjoy!

How I Make GALLONS of Vinegar for PENNIES!

The Savings List

Now that you’ve learned how to use acetic acid to make basic white cleaning vinegar, and now that you know just a few of the uses of the vinegar to clean and disinfect your home, here’s the list of products that I no longer buy for my home. 

  • Windex Window Cleaner
  • 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner
  • Drano Max Gel
  • Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Scrubbing Bubble Bathroom Cleaner
  • Pledge Furniture Cleaner
  • Resolve Carpet Cleaner
  • Snuggle Fabric Softener

These are just 8 of the products I no longer have to buy every month and I estimate that I save several hundred dollars a year while keeping my home and the environment safer and cleaner. 

I hope you have the same good results and good fortune that I have had by purchasing acetic acid in bulk and making your own vinegar solutions. 


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