A Day In The Life: All Hail King Vinegar (a breakdown of its majesty)

Grocery store shelf with vinegar bottles

Hear ye! Hear ye! Stop using every other cleaning product. Vinegar is your saviour!

Yes, you’ve heard it and it’s true: vinegar cleans better than you think and it does disinfect. But before I go there, let’s just go back to basics.

What is vinegar?

According to Wikipedia, vinegar is an aqueous solution of acetic acid and trace chemicals that may include flavorings. Vinegar typically contains 5–20% acetic acid by volume. Usually the acetic acid is produced by the fermentation of ethanol or sugars by acetic acid bacteria. There are many types of vinegar, depending upon the source materials. Vinegar is now mainly used in the culinary arts: as a flavorful, acidic cooking ingredient, or in pickling.

Basically what that is saying is that vinegar is simply an acid. And the acid is key!

How does vinegar work?

The acid in vinegar crosses the bacteria’s cell membrane, prompting a release of protons, which causes the cell to die. White vinegar, found on most store shelves, is a five per cent concentration of acetic acid. Full breakdown of vinegar from David Suzuki’s Queen of Green is super cool. So yes, vinegar does in fact kill bacteria.

You can tackle salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria with vinegar. Gram-negative bacteria can cause pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream, wound or surgical site infections.

Queen of Green

How to use it:

  • Disinfect: vinegar can kill bacteria and viruses. When cleaning your home, the basic dirtiness will be killed by vinegar. Ya, it’s an all-powerful king ruling over germs. If you really want to feel safe, then it’s best to apply the vinegar on the surface and leave it on for 30-minutes. I want to be clear, it’s not going to destroy really life-threatening organisms, but you’re not living in a hospital. You don’t need that type of sanitary environment. You’re at home! And going overboard with antibacterial tactics isn’t safe. According to NOW Toronto, a new research from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital proves that mice that lived in germ-free environments have more lung and colon inflammation than mice raised in a normal (let’s call it dirty) microbe-rich environment. How clean do you really need your home to be? I am certain my kids have eaten chicken poop from my backyard birds when they were babes, and I swear letting them play in the mud keeps them healthy *knock on wood*.
  • Cut grease: vinegar’s acidity is what makes it such a good grease-fighter. Because vinegar is so acidic, it can tackle grease from bathrooms and kitchens and anywhere in your home. It can dissolve away soap scum, caked on mess left by hard water, and even lift nastiness from your stove.
  • Deodorize: remember the miracle of acid? It’s back and it’s sentencing odours to their deaths! The acetic acid works to neutralize alkaline odors. There are a few ways to do this, but one simple way is to boil some vinegar on the stove top after a stinky dinner. Feel satisfying spraying stuff? Mix a 50/50 ratio of vinegar to water in a bottle and go spray-happy neutralizing yucky smells. To make the room smell nice, add essential oils.

Canada does not require warnings about chronic health and environmental hazards from chemicals in cleaning products.

David Suzuki Foundation

At the end of the day, it’s about the health of the planet and the health of my family, and commercial cleaners don’t check those boxes off for me. Personally, for me, I have not bought a single commercial cleaning product for ten years. In my house you will only find: vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, borax, essential oils and vegetable-based and biodegradable soaps. But, this isn’t a post about cleaners. It’s a post about the awesome powers of vinegar and how they work as an incredible substitute for cleaning products. Want to double check the dangers of what you might have at home? Visit the Environmental Working Group for a full detailed analysis.

How I use vinegar in my home*:

  • rinse aid in my dishwasher
  • rinse aid in my washing machine
  • to descale my kettle
  • to rinse and wash away calcium (hard water) buildup
  • disinfect door knobs and surfaces after a virus has hit our house
  • room spray / room deodorizer
  • kill mould on windows
  • clean windows and mirrors
  • to clean the bathrooms and kitchens

I learned something cool by the way, because science is mind-blowing. Do not let those satisfying bubbles created by mixing vinegar and baking soda together fool you; apply the products separately to get the full effect. First use baking soda to “clean” the surface. This works because baking soda acts as a cleaning agent due to its mild alkali property, and can cause dirt and grease to dissolve easily in water. It’s all about pH levels and acids and stuff that will rock your world. Befriend a chemist, man… too cool! Then, once that is rinsed, apply the vinegar to disinfect the area.

For an easy introduction to homemade cleaners and to better understand how other household products can help you rid of the demons, er, I mean, devils… shoot, I mean, chemical cleaners in your home, then check out this easy recipe breakdown courtesy of the Queen of Green.

So I know I took this whole “vinegar is king” to another level in this little post, but c’mon… are you not blown away? All those YouTube videos you saw are real! Vinegar is ruling the home and helping you in more ways than you know. This is the easiest project to take on in your home. Substituting with vinegar is easy on the planet due to its biodegradable nature – you’re literally not using one ounce of anything synthetic or dangerous and it can all safely go down the drain. It’s way easy on your pocket book since it’s the cheapest thing at the grocery store. At $2, for a jug of white vinegar, you get dozens of opportunities to clean. Compare that to anything found in the death aisle, er, cleaning aisle. And it’s so easy to do. If you know how to clean, than just swap in vinegar.

*I only recommend products I use and love. Please note that vinegar can hurt certain surfaces such as marble and soft stones. While I use it on everything, please test vinegar on an inconspicuous section.

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