Skip to Content

Can I use white vinegar to clean everything?

White vinegar is often touted as a natural, environmentally-friendly cleaning product that can be used throughout the home. With its acidic properties, white vinegar is effective at cutting through grease, removing stains, disinfecting, and deodorizing. But can you really use white vinegar to clean everything in your home? Here’s a closer look at how to use white vinegar for cleaning.

What is White Vinegar?

White vinegar, sometimes also called distilled vinegar, is made through the fermentation of ethanol. This process converts the ethanol into acetic acid, which gives vinegars their sour taste and acidic properties.

The acetic acid content in white vinegar is usually around 5-8%. This mild acidity is what allows white vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits, grease, and grime. However, white vinegar is non-toxic when diluted properly for cleaning purposes.

Benefits of Cleaning with White Vinegar

There are several benefits that make white vinegar a popular cleaning solution:

  • Natural and non-toxic – White vinegar is made from plant-based materials and does not contain harsh chemicals found in many commercial cleaners. This makes it a great option for an eco-friendly cleaning routine.
  • Removes stains and grease – The acetic acid in white vinegar helps dissolve stains, grease, and grime that can build up in your home.
  • Disinfects surfaces – White vinegar is effective at killing bacteria, mold, and germs on hard, non-porous surfaces when used properly.
  • Deodorizes – White vinegar helps neutralize odors rather than simply masking them. It’s great for freshening up carpets, furniture, and appliances.
  • Versatile – White vinegar can be used to clean a wide variety of surfaces throughout the home including countertops, floors, appliances, windows, mirrors, and more.
  • Budget-friendly – White vinegar is very inexpensive compared to many commercial cleaners and multipurpose products.

How to Clean with White Vinegar

When cleaning with white vinegar, you’ll want to follow some basic guidelines:

  • Always dilute vinegar before cleaning. Full strength vinegar is too acidic for most surfaces. A dilution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water is ideal for most household cleaning needs.
  • Only use white vinegar on sealed, hard surfaces. Avoid using vinegar on natural stone, grout, wood, marble, granite, and other porous materials as the acid can damage these surfaces over time. Test an inconspicuous area first.
  • Spray, wipe, or soak the surface thoroughly with the diluted vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the acids to work before scrubbing and rinsing.
  • Rinse cleaned surfaces thoroughly after using vinegar, especially before disinfection. Vinegar can leave a strong odor if left on a surface.
  • Use vinegar in well-ventilated areas and open windows if possible. The smell of vinegar is pungent.

You can use vinegar straight from the bottle for things like descaling kettles, removing mineral deposits, and disinfecting. However, you’ll nearly always want to dilute it for household cleaning tasks.

Room-by-Room Guide to Cleaning with White Vinegar

Here is a detailed room-by-room guide to using white vinegar for cleaning around your home:

Kitchen Cleaning

  • Countertops – Mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 cup water. Spray onto counters and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.
  • Backsplash – Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Spray onto the backsplash, let sit 5 minutes, then scrub and rinse.
  • Kitchen sink – Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup heated vinegar. Let fizz for 15 minutes then rinse.
  • Garbage disposal – Freeze vinegar in ice cube trays and run cubes down the disposal to freshen.
  • Appliances – Wipe down exterior surfaces with a mix of 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar.
  • Windows and mirrors – Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 1 quart water. Spray and wipe clean with newspaper or microfiber cloth.
  • Pans and pots – Boil a solution of 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup water to remove stuck-on food. Let pans soak if needed.
  • Dishwasher – Run empty machine with 2 cups vinegar on hottest cycle to remove grime and odors.

Bathroom Cleaning

  • Toilet – Pour 1/2 cup vinegar into the bowl and let sit overnight before scrubbing in the morning.
  • Showerhead – Remove showerhead and soak in 1 cup vinegar for an hour. Then scrub off mineral deposits.
  • Bathroom sink – Fill sink with equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Let bubble for 10 minutes then rinse.
  • Shower tiles – Spray tiles with diluted vinegar and scrub with a brush. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Mirrors – Wipe with 1 part vinegar diluted in 4 parts water for streak-free shine.
  • Mold and mildew – Spray full-strength vinegar and let sit for 1 hour before wiping away buildup.

Living Spaces

  • Wooden furniture – Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar with 1 quart warm water. Wipe wooden surfaces to clean, restore shine, and condition.
  • Carpets – Freshen carpets by sprinkling with baking soda. Spray lightly with vinegar and let sit for an hour before vacuuming.
  • Upholstered couches and chairs – Spot clean stains with a cloth dipped in diluted vinegar. Then rinse the area with clean water.
  • Hardwood floors – Add 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water. Damp mop floors with solution weekly.
  • Fireplace bricks – Wet bricks surrounding the fireplace then scrub with a vinegar/water solution. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Walls – Remove grease and dirt by wiping down walls with 2 tablespoons vinegar mixed with 1 quart warm water.


  • Mattresses – Freshen and help remove odors by spraying mattresses with a mix of 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 cup water. Allow to air dry before placing sheets on the bed.
  • Pillows – Follow the same method as for mattresses to freshen pillows.
  • Window treatments – Remove stains like rust or grease from curtain rods by rubbing with a cloth dipped in vinegar.


  • Whites – Boost cleaning by adding 1/2 cup vinegar to the washing machine rinse cycle.
  • Mildew – Wash towels, sheets, and shower curtains in hot water with 1 cup vinegar to remove mildew and odors.
  • Stain removal – Pretreat tough stains on clothing and linens with undiluted vinegar before washing.

What Not to Clean With Vinegar

While white vinegar can be used to clean many household surfaces, there are some items you should avoid cleaning with vinegar:

  • Marble and granite – Vinegar’s acidity can etch natural stone over time.
  • Unsealed tile and grout – Vinegar can prematurely wear away grout and etched unglazed tile.
  • Wood furniture – Vinegar may damage the finish, dull the surface, or cause lightening.
  • Laminate countertops and floors – Vinegar can warp or peel the laminate coating.
  • Aluminum – Vinegar can oxidize aluminum over time.
  • Cast iron or wrought iron – Vinegar can react with the seasoning of cast iron pans and oxidize wrought iron.

It’s always best to spot test vinegar in an inconspicuous area if you are unsure whether it will damage a material or surface.

DIY Vinegar-Based Cleaning Solutions

You can make economical, natural cleaning products using white vinegar as the base. Here are a few easy vinegar cleaning solutions you can make at home:

Solution Ingredients Uses
All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 15-20 drops essential oil like lemon or tea tree (optional)
Use on non-porous surfaces like countertops, windows, mirrors, appliances
Tub and Tile Cleaner
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup warm vinegar
Spray on bathroom surfaces, let fizz, then scrub and rinse
Glass Cleaner
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1-2 tbsp clear dish soap or castile soap
Spray and wipe clean on windows, mirrors, glass surfaces

Safety Tips When Using Vinegar

Vinegar is generally safe for cleaning when used properly, but keep these precautions in mind:

  • Use in well-ventilated areas and open windows – vinegar fumes can irritate lungs
  • Wear gloves – prolonged exposure to acidic vinegar can dry and irritate skin
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets
  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly after cleaning
  • Never mix vinegar with bleach or ammonia – this creates toxic chlorine and chloramine vapors


White vinegar is a versatile, economical, and environmentally-friendly cleaning agent that can be used throughout the home. While vinegar has many cleaning applications, its acidity can damage certain surfaces like natural stone and hardwood. Always spot test first before cleaning with vinegar.

Follow the proper dilutions and cleaning methods outlined here for using vinegar safely and effectively. With some smarts, white vinegar can effectively replace many harsh chemicals for all-purpose cleaning needs.