Vinegar ... most of us have a bottle of it in our pantry to sprinkle on salads or use in marinades, but this distilled corn-based product is also very useful as a cleaning agent. Used for generations as the main household cleaning product, vinegar was replaced with commercial pre-mixed sprays sold in fancy bottles and touted as "miracle cleaners." The manufacturers of these more toxic solutions failed to mention the harm they potentially do to our lungs as well as to the environment. Mixing vinegar with water in a variety of ratios is the safer, more environmentally responsible cleaning agent to maintain a bacteria-free home.
How Vinegar Is Made
The alcohol produced by corn is fermented until it reaches full-strength, and then it's diluted with water to a 5 percent acidity level. It's this acetic acid level that gives vinegar its antimicrobial properties, enabling it to inhibit some bacterial growth, protect against mold and mildew, and retard salmonella production. It's an environmentally safe product and non-toxic; however, vinegar does leave behind a calling card -- an intense aroma. Not to worry though -- the vinegar smell disappears in a short time, leaving your home clean and protected by this natural disinfectant.
Cleanse the walls of your shower with full-strength vinegar to removing mold and mildew. Just pour vinegar down drains to clean them and the pipes they connect to. Let the vinegar sit for 30 minutes; then flush with cold water. To combat mold and mildew, fill a spray bottle with vinegar and squirt the moldy spots. Let the solution sit for at least 15 minutes before washing it away with water. Be sure the area has good ventilation, so the moldy spots dry thoroughly. To clean your dishwasher, pour 1/2 cup of undiluted vinegar into the soap dispenser and run a cycle. Vinegar is also recommended for cleaning wooden chopping blocks; it tames the bacteria left from cutting raw meat.
Equal Parts Vinegar and Water
Your coffeemaker needs a good cleaning every few months, and using vinegar in an equal ratio of vinegar to water makes an effective cleanser. Pour a specified amount of vinegar into the water holder and add an equal amount of water. Turn on the coffeemaker and let it run halfway through the cycle before turning it off. Let the solution sit for about an hour; then complete the cycle. Rinse the machine several times with clean water. This equal-ratio method also works to clean steam irons and steam cleaners of the minerals left behind after using non-distilled water.
A Little Vinegar
One tablespoon of vinegar mixed with 16 ounces of water cleans the interior of your refrigerator, and, if sprayed on a microfiber cloth and wiped on, makes your stainless steel appliances sparkle again. To cut the grease and clean solid floors without leaving behind a sticky residue, use 1/4-cup vinegar in a bucket of warm water. Mop the floors and let them dry. If possible, open the windows until the vinegar smell dissipates. Another 1/4 cup of vinegar poured down a disposal and left to sit for about 15 minutes makes it smell fresh and clean. A cup of vinegar added to rinse water leaves glassware shiny, spotless and squeaky clean. To clean windows, mix 1/4-cup vinegar with 2 cups of water and spray. Wipe with newspapers or a squeegee.
Expanding the Vinegar Universe
Exterior aquarium glass can exhibit calcium build-up. It is easily removed by mixing 1/2 cup of vinegar with 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Spray a bit of the dedicated aquarium cleaner on a cloth and wipe the rim and top of the aquarium as well, removing the deposits as you wipe. If a bit of the vinegar solutions enters the water it won't affect the fish as the acid is neutralized in the aquarium water.