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 


  • 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.


  • 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


Turps vs Easy Cleanup

On Today Tonight I discuss the use of two Diggers solvents that you can get from the hardware store – Mineral Turps and Easy Cleanup.
The difference is that turps has a broader range of components, including aromatics. The presence of aromatics means that it evaporates easier, but that it is also more aggressive. That is, it will damage some paints. The Easy Cleanup, on the other hand, won’t damage anything. Also, the turps is a flammable liquid (it has the little red diamond on it) and Easy Cleanup isn’t. That’s not to say that the EC won’t burn – it will – but it’s rather like diesel; it’s combustible but not flammable. So if you tossed a match in it, the match would go out.

But turps is cheaper – $3 per litre vs $6 for the Easy Cleanup.

So use turps if you can get away with it, and Easy Cleanup if you have to.

The EC would be a better option in a parts cleaning bucket, as since it is less volatile it has a longer shelf life.

How to Clean Windows

There are several myths floating around about cleaning windows, largely borne out of the fact mat because windows are transparent, any cleaning job that leaves even tiny amounts of residues will be noticed.  This is not the case with hard surfaces or clothes, for example, where small amounts of residues remaining behind will not be noticed.

The greatest challenge with glass comes from its very molecular composition.  As it is composed mostly of oxides, there are a lot of oxygen atoms in the structure.  Oxygen atoms are very electron rich which gives them a natural negative charge.  The problem with this is that dust is positively charged and windows can therefore become magnets for it.

An interesting exercise to try is to rub your finger down a glass pane, and then rub another finger along a desktop nearby, and compare the dust on each finger.  You will probably find that the glass had more dust than the desktop, which may surprise you as it is a vertical surface.

So how do we clean it?

The simple answer is to use QACs, as they are positively charged. They therefore stick to the glass and present a positive charge to the incoming dust, repelling it. The market leader for years has been Windex, as it combines a QAC based formula with a streak-free finish, and simply has no serious competitors.  It will clean your windows and help prevent them becoming dusty again for a while.

A home based formula for cleaning windows would simply be an ammonia solution, at a 1 in 10 dilution.  It may not produce a perfectly streak-free finish, however, due to the addition of a clouding agent in many ammonia solutions that are bought over-the-counter.

One of the more popular home remedies that is going about is the use of vinegar.  Whilst vinegar is a useful home cleaning chemical in various applications it is the wrong choice of chemical for cleaning windows, as it is negatively charged, and while it will do a very good job of removing any dust that is on the windows, it will leave behind a negatively charged coating that will attract dust.

Regardless of what you are using to clean windows, however, you will maximise your chances of getting a streak-free finish if paper towels are used.

IGA BBQ Cleaner

A few weeks ago I was talking about cleaning BBQs, for which I recommend either an oven cleaner, or caustic soda (for a large area) or soda ash (to act as a scourer for the hotplate).

I then had a bloke call in and recommend an IGA product which, he said, worked very well. So I had a look at it, and got a surprise.

Most BBQ cleaners (like noncaustic oven cleaners) use ethanolamines – alkaline amines that are strong enough to cut the grease molecule. And although they try to mask the smell with fragrances, the characteristic smell is still there.

But when I smelled the IGA product, it had the unmistakeable smell of eucalyptus oil, a superb natural cleaning chemical. The actual chemical is  eucalyptol, a saturated cycloalkane with a characteristic ether linkage spanning the ring. Like other small, oxygenated organic molecules, this gives it the dual properties of being able to dissolve oils, while being miscible with water.

And it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t wash away properly, because your BBQ smells like eucalyptus oil afterwards. Hats off to IGA for producing such an innovative product!