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


How to get your carpets REALLY clean

There are several good products for spot cleaning carpets, but what if the day comes when you need it done professionally –  perhaps you are vacating a rental property, or perhaps you just want to spruce up your carpets at home.

There are several technologies available – essentially chemical treatments with the products of the chemical process being sucked out by a handheld machine, and high pressure steam cleaning with high vacuum extraction by a truck-mounted machine.

Well, the bottom line is that the second technology works far better than the first, and the reason for this is gravity.

When it comes to cleaning clothes, of course, it’s a different story. We can toss the garments into the washing machine and the mechanical action will dislodge the particles, often assisted by surfactants, enzymes or oxidisers.

But we can’t toss carpets into the washing machine. That means that the cleaning process must reverse the effect of gravity, and for this there is simply no substitute for a high vacuum extractive process from an industrial-size truck mounted machine.

I recently had a house cleaned with this process and the results were nothing short of spectacular. It isn’t the cheapest service around, but given the results it was easily the best value of all the technologies that I’ve tried.

The name of the business is Clean Underfoot (very aptly named) and you can get him on 0418 916 245 (his name is Duncan Beatty)

Laundry Prewashes #4

Another approach to laundry prewashes is oxidation.

This is an approach where fragile, intensely coloured dye molecules such as those in beetroot, red wine and grass are oxidised by an oxidising chemical. In years gone by, this was achieved by bleach. My mother used to get grass stains out of my cricket whites years ago by soaking them in bleach. It worked, but eventually destroyed the fabric.

A more modern approach these days is to use a gentler bleach that will still destroy the colours but not the fabric. This is generally achieved with perborates, compound salts that release hydrogen peroxide, a chemical that is just strong enough to do the job at low concentrations.

There are two laundry prewashes that use this approach – Preen Oxy Action and SARD Oxy Plus. The Preen works the better of the two. In a recent trial I did for Today Tonight of twelve different laundry prewashes, it was the only one that completely removed the red wine stain.

Laundry Prewashes #3

The second type of laundry prewashes are the enzyme based products.

Enzymes are specialist molecules with names like lipase, protease, cellulase and so on. these are large, complex, biological catalyst molecules with very specific chemical reactive properties. In particular, they catalyse the breakdown of fats, proteins, and starches, which are of course mostly found in foods.

For this reason, they are excellent laundry pre-washes for any food stain. there are two products on the market – Coles Ultra Enzyme and White King. The White King product is the better of the two, and will make short work of most food stains.



Laundry Prewashes #2

As it happens, there are four different types of prewashes on the market. Well, three actually if you read what’s on the side of the packaging.

I’m not making any sense, am I? Well, read on and all will be explained.

The first type of laundry prewash are those that are simply water with a bit of soap and fragrance and snazzy packaging. The idea behind these is that you buy the product because the packaging looks so snazzy, and when you spray it on your clothes, you see a bit of foam, smell a pleasant fragrance, and conclude that the product will probably work.

Often, these products to appear to work, but usually only because you have used a premium detergent that has done all the work. If this is not the case, generally you will shrug your shoulders and say “oh well, this type of stain is difficult to remove anyway.”

And, of course, this is pure marketing. Much more work goes into designing the packaging, and selecting the wording to go on to it then goes into the chemical formulation. And this is only possible because we no longer have the “great unstainer” – Preen (the original solvent-based formula).

So will which brands fall into this category? Well, let’s do it this way – rather than embarrass anyone by naming names, in future posts I will name the ones that do work because they have formulas that contain specialised cleaning reagents, and then you can just subtract these from the list that I gave in the previous post, and the ones that are left over are the culprits.

More tomorrow.