What can you use vinegar for?

The farmer’s almanac gives us the following uses for vinegar. I’ll copy and paste from their website and comment accordingly:

  • Bring a solution of one-cup vinegar and four tablespoons baking soda to a boil in teapots and coffeepots to rid them of mineral deposits.

Yes this will work, as long as you don’t add the baking soda. Vinegar is acidic and therefore is the right pH for removing alkaline mineral deposits. But adding the baking soda will partially or fully neutralise the vinegar and reduce its effectiveness. The chemistry of vinegar/baking soda is explained here

  • A solution of vinegar and baking soda will easily remove cooking oil from your stovetop.

It will work a little bit as long as you don’t add the vinegar, as the vinegar will neutralise the baking soda. But baking soda is only mildly alkaline, and you will get better results with the more alkaline Washing Soda

  • Clean the filter on your humidifier by removing it and soaking it in a pan of white vinegar until all the sediment is off.

This will not work very well at all. Presumably this is cleaning dust, and dust is essentially dead skin that contains fat, so it is oily when you wipe it with a wet sponge. It therefore requires an alkaline cleaner, such as an oven cleaner. Spray it on, wait about 30 seconds, then just wipe it off.

  • Saturate a cloth with vinegar and sprinkle with baking soda, and then use it to clean fiberglass tubs and showers. Rinse well and rub dry for a spotless shine.

Baking soda and vinegar neutralise each other. Far better results will be achieved with washing soda

  • For a clean oven, combine vinegar and baking soda, then scrub.

If you use just use washing soda for this, you won’t need to scrub

  • Clean and deodorize your toilet bowl by pouring undiluted white vinegar into it. Let stand for five minutes, then flush. Spray stubborn stains with white vinegar, then scrub vigorously.

This could work. Harpic used to make a range of cleaners that used hydrochloric acid as the active ingredient. The beauty of toilet bowls is that the porcelain is impervious to almost any chemical.

  • Clean windows with a cloth dipped in a solution of one part white vinegar and 10 parts warm water. This works for dirty TV screens, too!

Ammonia will work better, as it has grease-cutting properties that vinegar doesn’t. Also it will leave a positively charged surface that will repel further dust (which is also positively chatged

  • To clean drip coffeemakers, fill the reservoir with white vinegar and run it through a brewing cycle. Rinse thoroughly by brewing two cycles with water before using.

Yes, this ll work by removing mineral deposits

  • To remove bumper stickers from car chrome, paint on vinegar and let it soak in. Next, scrape off the stickers. Decals can be removed similarly.

No this will not work. Use acetone – it will work instantly, as it dissolves the adhesives

  • Rid your refrigerator and freezer of bad odors by cleaning the insides with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then wiping dry.

Yes this could work. Vinegar is acidic, and many fridge smells are amines, which are both volatile and alkaline – so the vinegar neutralises them.

  • To remove smoke odors on clothes, hang them above a steaming bathtub filled with hot water and a cup of white vinegar.

Not sure about this one. But it’s possible.

  • To prevent mildew, wipe down surfaces with vinegar.

Yes – it could work – the biomass probably wouldn’t like to adhere to an acidic surface

  • Use a sponge dampened with vinegar to clean shower curtains.

Yes, this could work, as most of the deposits would be alkaline minerals

  • To loosen a stuck jar lid, hold the jar upside down and pour warm vinegar around the neck at the joint between the glass and the top.

Hot water (without the vinegar) will work here

You’ll notice that baking soda is often used as a sidekick to vinegar. Find out more helpful household uses for baking soda here, and see a list of more natural household cleaners.

It is used as a “sidekick” simply because they foam when added together, and for reasons dating back about 70 years, people associate foaming with cleaning. This is the only reason. Explanation here 

REMOVE CLOTHING STAINS WITH VINEGAR

  • Vinegar naturally breaks down uric acid and soapy residue, leaving baby clothes and diapers soft and fresh. Add a cup of vinegar to each load during the rinse cycle.

It is true that the vinegar will react with the urea (from the urine) but it also breaks down mineral deposits (scale on clothes)

  • To remove chewing gum, rub it with full-strength vinegar.

????  Can’t imagine why this would work, but I haven’t tried it. If you put the garment in the freezer, you will be able to pull away the frozen gum easily

  • Soak paint stains in hot vinegar to remove them.

If this works, it’s the heat that’s doing it. Try a steam cleaner

  • To remove salt and water stains from leather boots and shoes, rub with a solution of 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 cup water. Wipe over the stained area only, and then polish.

I can’t see why this would work, but I haven’t tried it

See our page on how to remove stains for more tips.

NATURAL REMEDIES WITH VINEGAR

  • For brunettes, rinsing hair with vinegar after a shampoo makes hair shinier. Use one-tablespoon vinegar to one-cup warm water.

Correct, because you are neutralising the pH of the alkaline shampoo. A conditioner would achieve the same result

Haven’t tried this. It’s possible.

  • Place a vinegar-soaked brown bag on sprains to ease pain and aid recovery.

There is some history to this (Jack and Jill fixed a “broken crown” with vinegar and brown paper). I’m not sure of how much science there is behind it, however.

  • Rub cider vinegar on your skin to repel insects.

Very possible, if you had no Aerogard (or equivalent) available

 

Shannon Lush gets it wrong #5

Yesterday on 6PR Shannon Lush once again gave us her cleaning advice as part of her regular show. As before, however, a substantial amount of that advice was wrong.

  1. The presenter, Simon Beaumont said that he had overspray from bore water on his car and it had left white marks.  Shannon told him that these marks had damaged his paint and he was to use “sweet almond oil” to attempt to cover it up. This advice is completely incorrect.  The white marks are simply dried mineral deposits from the water and are easily removed with any acidic kitchen or bathroom cleaner.  Ajax Spray and Wipe (lactic acid), Shower Power (citric acid) and a host of other cleaners will easily remove these marks.  Alternatively, they can simply be polished off with Brasso. Paints on modern cars our extremely advanced two pack formulations and are very chemically resistant.  The days of overflowing petrol leaving marks on your paint (acrylic) are long gone, and there is no commonly available chemical or product that you have lying around the house that you cannot use on your car with complete safety.
  2. A listener asked how to get residue off his bathroom floor that had been left by a rubber mat.  Shannon’s advice was to put salt on it and then brush it away.  I suppose an abrasive like this may work eventually, but a far quicker approach is to use acetone
  3. A couple of callers had questions about glass.  The first question was how to get paint overspray off glass.  Shannon’s advice was to essentially use a paint scraper as you shouldn’t use any chemicals that may damage glass.  This was followed up by a question about glass that had been damaged by soap scum. For a start, glass is extremely chemically resiliant, and there is no chemical you might want to try to get paint off with that will damage it. I have explained the chemistry of glass (shower screens) elsewhere but with the paint on the glass I’d try acetone first. Failing that, use a heat gun – the paint will blister up and peel away. But don’t blast the window with the heat gun on it’s highest setting immediately or you might crack it. Warm it up slowly.
  4. The last one falls into the “has anyone ever actually done this?” category – a used tea bag in a panty hose to get retic overspray off an anodised window frame?? Please tell me if you have actually done this. For a start, contrary to the advice that was given, anodised window frames will not be damaged by irrigation water. That’s the whole point of the anodising – it’s an extremely stable proprietary coating that is resistant to anything it encounters in and around the home. The irrigation (mineral) marks will be easily removed by any acidic kitchen or bathroom cleaner (Easy Off BAM is perhaps the product of choice with its sulphamic acid)

Once again, please bear in mind that Shannon Lush is not a chemist. She has no formal training in chemistry whatsoever.

Shannon Lush gets it wrong #4

Yesterday on 6PR Shannon Lush gave to a listener what is probably the most ridiculous advice I have ever heard given on-air about anything.

A listener called in with an ink stain from a biro on a beige leather sofa.

Shannon’s advice to remove it was to use rotten milk. She told the listener to put milk out in the sun for three days, and then after it has gone rotten, rub the “chunky bits” over the ink stain.

Two questions immediately spring to mind:

1. For all the people who politely say “thanks very much” when such advice is given, has anyone actually done this? Has anyone ever actually followed this advice? Or after ringing off do they jump onto Google to try to find something more practical?

2. What do you do about the smell of rotten milk all over your sofa (which brings me        back to Q1)?

Apparently she has never heard of isopropanol, otherwise known as isopropyl alcohol.

Image result for isopropyl alcohol

This stuff, available from Jaycar Electronics, will get it off easily with a bit of rubbing. It’s probably the most versatile and useful cleaning chemical in existence, so keep it around for 1001 other applications.

An alternative is acetone

Image result for acetone bunnings

Be a bit careful with acetone though – it’s a more aggressive solvent than isopropanol. It won’t damage the leather, but will probably leave the surface dull as it will strip the natural oils from the surface. This is easily restored, however, with neatsfoot oil

Shannon Lush Gets it Wrong #3

Shannon Lush is not a chemist, and in fact has no formal qualifications whatever.

We should therefore not be surprised when she gets things wrong when the topic is anything involving chemistry or, in this case, microbiology.

Yesterday on 6PR the topic of sterilisation was raised on the breakfast show. Instead of speaking to a medical or biological specialist of some sort, however, they chose to ask Shannon Lush.
Her advice was that to sterilise something it had to be in vigorously boiling water for three minutes.

This is in fact incorrect. Although boiling water will kill most pathogens, it will not kill all pathogens. And the problem is that some of the toughest bacteria to kill are also the most deadly. An example of this is Clostridium Botulinum, one of the causes of botulism, a potentially fatal disease. In fact these spores are so tough that they are often used to test a sterilisation procedure. That is, if the Clostridium Botulinum are dead, then you can be assured that everything else is.

But Shannon Lush is apparently unaware of this. The consequence of this is that if you are unlucky enough to have Clostridium Botulinum around somewhere, and you are foolish enough to follow Shannon Lush’s advice, you may finish up with botulism, a potentially fatal disease.

As anyone who has studied biology at even high school will tell you, autoclaving is required to ensure something is sterile. An autoclave is a device that will heat water to 121°C for 15 to 20 minutes. It achieves this temperature by pressurising the water, and is a standard device in any medical or biological laboratory.
I spoke with John Solvander, the program director at 6PR a few weeks ago and told him that Shannon Lush was an amateur, and that her advice was mostly wrong.

He chose to ignore this advice, however, and now 6PR has a problem. If incorrect advice is given on how to clean a carpet or shirt it doesn’t really matter that much. But when advice is given on a medical issue that is wrong, the consequence is a potential health risk, in this case a serious health risk.

I have advised 6PR of this, and that a public correction needs to be issued. They have yet to comply with this.
There are of course several simple chemical procedures that can sterilise things, the simplest being a 70% solution of metho. This is in fact what hospitals store medical instruments in. It is simple to make at home, and is cheaper than buying an autoclave.

Anyone with even the most basic knowledge of chemistry or biology would know that, but unfortunately Shannon Lush doesn’t even meet this standard.

Shannon Lush Gets it Wrong #2

Last week on 6PR Shannon Lush gave us her tips on cleaning in response to listener questions.
Are her tips right? Will they work?

Let’s look at it.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that Shannon is not a chemist. She doesn’t know much chemistry, and has little understanding of the chemistry and principles behind off-the-shelf products. The result of this is that whether her home-spun ideas work or not, there is usually an off-the-shelf product that will do the job just as well, or better, saving you a lot of time, and often money. She is not able to recommend these products, as she does not know what is in them, nor how they work.
Let’s look at the questions one by one.

The first caller wanted to know how to get sunscreen stains out of a white t-shirt.
Shannon’s answer was to use a dishwashing detergent as a spot cleaner. Put some detergent on the stain, close your eyes, and rub it in. When you feel the detergent thicken, this is caused by the detergent emulsifying the stain. She was not able to name a particular brand to use.

Is that why it thickens? Possibly, but the thickening will also be caused by the water in the detergent evaporating, and the thickening agent therefore being present at a higher concentration. She is clearly not aware that most dishwashing detergents are about 80% water, and the thick consistency is caused by a thickening agent to disguise this fact.
So will it work? Probably – but use Morning Fresh, as it has the highest concentration of surfactant (40% last time I looked).
Alternatively you could use acetone, which would probably work instantly.

If neither of these work, try Easy Off oven cleaner. Spray on, rub in and rinse. If that doesn’t work, try a powder laundry detergent, preferably one with enzymes. Make the powder into a paste and rub it on and rinse.

The next question involved gravy stains in microwave cookware. Shannon was not able to answer this, but merely advised the listener how to protect the cookware from being stained in the first place. Fortunately, I can answer it. Put some washing soda in there, make it into a paste by adding a minimum amount of water to it, and rub it into the gravy stains and it will come out.

The next question was about cleaning and maintaining leather car seats. In particular, the listener said that the product he was using left the car seats a little sticky. Shannon’s answer involved a concoction of lavender oil and a couple of other things. I haven’t tried this myself, because I don’t need to, as there is an off-the-shelf product that is a terrific leather cleaner and conditioner – Mr Sheen.

Originally marketed as a furniture polish, the people at Reckitts finally realized what I have known for years – that it is s terrific general purpose cleaner, and particularly for leather. It has just enough white spirit to clean grime off seats, and leaves a silky smooth silicone coating that leaves your seats smooth and shiny. It’s also terrific for sprucing up your dashboard, paintwork and engine. Spray it on the outside of your windscreen and it’ll help the raindrops run off and your wipers glide smoothly. But don’t spray it on the inside of the windscreen as it’ll promote fogging.

The final question involved a brown stain on a carpet. Shannon told us that it was caused by tannins that leached out of the carpet lining. Unfortunately, it doesn’t require a whole lot of analysis to see that this is completely wrong. She would have us believe that carpets contain a water soluble, brown substance in the lining, and all that has to happen for the stain to appear is for the carpets to get wet. Somehow I think that the people that make carpets are not quite that dumb.

I don’t know what the stain is, but I’d hit it with an enzyme cleaner (WhiteKing Stainlift) and if needs be, an oxidiser (Preen OxyAction). There are other more aggressive approaches if required – check the Q&A section on my website.