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Eight Things You Should NEVER Clean With Vinegar

Eight Things You Should NEVER Clean With Vinegar

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When it comes to eco-friendly cleaning options, vinegar reigns supreme. With its natural disinfectant properties, vinegar is a versatile solution for various household cleaning needs.

But quite often when we use all-purpose cleaners like vinegar around the home, we find ourselves using it on surfaces where it may not be the best choice. And it could be costing you.

Let's discuss the eight surfaces you should never use vinegar on, and what to use instead.

A Brief History Of Vinegar

Vinegar was originally used thousands of years ago for culinary and medicinal purposes, like preserving foods, making wine, and wound cleaning. It later became useful in agriculture, horticulture, and cleaning.

In more recent decades, we’ve used cleaning vinegar for everything from kitchens to showers. And it’s a popular choice in low-tox and eco-friendly lifestyles.

But vinegar's prevalence has led to some unintended consequences as it's often used incorrectly on surfaces, causing damage or not delivering the desired results.

marble countertop and stainless sink

Never Clean These With Vinegar

Now, vinegar contains 5% acetic acid, making it very acidic. This makes it a great disinfectant and cleaning agent, but it doesn’t play nice with certain surfaces. So if you’re using it to clean everything in your home, keep reading.

Some surfaces that vinegar is great for include high-touch plastic surfaces and glass. But eight places you should never use vinegar include:

1. Stone Countertops

Surfaces that often get ruined by vinegar are stone countertops, like marble and travertine. The acidic nature of vinegar can cause etching and dullness on natural stone surfaces, and it may eventually dissolve the stone. Vinegar can also degrade sealants applied to more durable surfaces like granite.

Do This Instead

Instead, wipe down stone countertops with a good-quality microfiber towel and mild all-purpose cleaner. You can also follow with a disinfectant solution made from water, isopropyl alcohol, and detergent.

2. Dishwashers/Washing Machines

You might have come across the tip of running a dishwasher or washing machine with vinegar to tackle hard-water film and odors. Some even use vinegar as a rinse aid.

But some studies claim that vinegar alone doesn't yield significant results, and can also break down rubber components.

Do This Instead

For optimal results and prolonged washer lifespan, use cleaner and deodorizer products designed specifically for washing machines and dishwashers, or you can use washing soda and Borax.

3. Clothes Iron

Avoid adding vinegar to your clothes iron's tank, as it could cause irreversible damage to the appliance's internal mechanism. Many steam irons feature a protective coating inside the chamber, susceptible to corrosion from acidic substances like vinegar.

Do This Instead

Refer to your iron's manual for the best cleaning method. If your iron has a self-clean function, simply fill the tank with water, heat the iron, unplug it, and hold it over a sink with the plate facing down. Press the self-clean button to release hot water and steam, effectively removing any impurities.

scrubbing tiles with a brush

4. Tile Grout

Mold and hard water stains tend to build up on tile grout, particularly in wet areas. And although vinegar can effectively kill some mold and remove hard water stains, it’s not recommended for use on tile grout.

Over time, vinegar will erode grout which allows mold and mildew to get deeper into grout lines, causing long-term damage.

Do This Instead

Use a grout brush and a specific grout cleaning solution to clean deeply and prevent damaging surfaces. When grout is clean, you can then use a sealant to protect the surface from invading soils.

5. Knives

It might be tempting to clean your expensive kitchen knives with an all-natural cleaner like vinegar. It not only cleans, but can effectively remove rust stains from metal.

But, as mentioned, vinegar is an acidic solution, so it not only erodes rust, it can also corrode the metal the rust inhabits. So your sharp kitchen knives eventually become jagged and useless.

Do This Instead

To clean your knives, just use detergent and warm water with a scrubbing sponge. And if they have any rust, you can buff it off gently with very fine steel wool.

6. Small Appliances

When cleaning small kitchen appliances like blenders, coffee makers, and toasters, it's generally safe to use vinegar on plastic and glass surfaces. But it's important to avoid applying vinegar to rubber parts or metal components, including stainless steel, which can corrode.

Do This Instead

Most appliances can be cleaned with a high-quality waffle weave microfiber towel and water. If you need a little extra oomph, add a little mild all-purpose cleaning solution.

7. Hardwood Floors

Numerous flooring manufacturers will advise against using vinegar for hardwood floor cleaning, going as far as voiding warranties for any vinegar-related damage. Diluted vinegar can harm the protective finish of wood floors and furniture, resulting in a cloudy, dull, or scratched appearance.

Do This Instead

Always follow the manufacturer's cleaning guidelines. If this isn’t available, opt for cleaners formulated explicitly for hardwood floors with a high-quality microfiber flat mop.

8. Electronic Screens

Cleaning electronic screens, such as phones, TVs, and computers can be tricky. They’re prone to fingerprints and oily smudges, so it’s tempting to reach for a cleaning solution like vinegar to remove these soils.

But using undiluted vinegar can damage a screen's anti-glare properties and reduce touchscreen responsiveness.

Do This Instead

A dry suede cloth will buff away most things, like fingerprints and smudge marks. But for stubborn stains, use a very damp microfiber cloth to remove soils, and polish the surface with a lint-free microfiber glass cloth.

cleaning a surface with a microfiber towel and spray

Think Before You Clean With Vinegar

Vinegar is an inexpensive and effective cleaning and disinfecting agent. But it can also cause irreparable damage when used incorrectly. Always think about the surfaces you’re cleaning before you grab a bottle of vinegar.

It’s also worth investing in high-quality tools when you clean, because they do a lot of the heavy lifting. Opting for professional-grade microfiber towels and mop systems will ensure a deeper level of cleaning that other non-professional tools simply cannot achieve.

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