I’m not sure if it’s just part of getting older, or if it’s just me, but with each year I seem to be increasingly sensitive to harsh chemicals. Now, I’ve never been one to get the bleach out willy-nilly; I’ve always been leery of using anything I can accidentally poison myself with, haha, but now it goes beyond that. I developed asthma as an adult, and the last time I went swimming I ended up with a full-body chemical burn that left me in painful prickling distress. I also have a small child, two cats with almost no sense of self-preservation, and my husband has skin sensitivities of his own.
As a result, I’m always open to trying cleaning methods that are safe for me and my household, as well as the environment, and that are cost effective. I’m at a point, now, where the product I use most in my household cleaning is actually simple old white vinegar! I use the double-strength stuff, and here in Australia 2 liters of it will set you back a mere $2.50! The other product I very often use is bi-carb soda, and the two together are a powerful duo! Below is a collection of the ways in which I use vinegar for cleaning.
Surfaces – Have you walked through a cleaning supply aisle at a supermarket any time recently and wondered at the vast array of products in there? Like, there’s just so many of them! The thing is, how many are actually necessary? Unsurprisingly, it’s really not many. I was talking to some professional cleaners recently, these ladies go into people’s homes to clean, and I was so surprised when they told me that mostly they use dishwashing liquid and vinegar! A few other things here or there, but those are the main two. The more I looked at all the products in the cleaning aisle after that conversation the more I realized it’s all so much marketing and scamming you into thinking you need a case of different products so you’ll buy more. For surfaces, wipe them down with a damp cloth with dishwashing liquid to clean them, a rinsed damp cloth to remove reside, and follow that with a light spritz or vinegar from a spray bottle. Leave for ten minutes to disinfect, then wipe with a damp cloth.
Stove and Oven – To get that oven beautifully clean, make up a thin paste of bi-carb soda and water and coat the entire inside of your oven with it. Leave for ten minutes, then get a good scrubber, soaked in vinegar, and scrub down the inside of your oven.
The bi-carb soda was doing a good job by itself of dealing the any greasy or crusty residue in your oven, but the bubbling chemical reaction (which only produces carbon dioxide, so no stress about breathing those fumes in) will go the extra mile for a like-new finish to your oven! Pop some vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the inside of the oven to remove the bi-carb residue, then wipe the whole thing down with a cloth with just water on it. If, after it’s dried, there’s white residue, that’s just the bi-carb, so give it another spray of vinegar and wipe with a damp cloth.
The same process works perfectly on your stove-top, too, so I do them at the same time.
Floors – In a mop bucket, mix 8 liters of water with a cup of vinegar, 2 Tbs of dishwashing liquid, (I do not measure this, I just give it a protracted squeeze of the bottle into the bucket), and a good dollop of eucalyptus oil because I like the smell and it always seems to make my floors extra nice. Mop as normal. I’ve found this to be the best mix on my floor, which is linoleum, and I don’t have any residue afterwards, which is fantastic.
Bath/Sinks/Shower – Once again, make up a paste of bi-carb soda and water and use a scrubber loaded with the paste all over the bath, walls of the shower, and sink, including the taps, faucets and shower head. If you have any bathroom rails (the owner of our house before us was an elderly lady so we have many convenient rails in the bathroom, highly recommend!), this method works super well on those, too. After you’ve given it all a lovely scrub, spritz it down with your vinegar in a spray bottle and leave it for ten minutes and then give it a final rinse it down with water.
Mirrors – Spritz your mirrors (also works for windows) down with vinegar, and then use dry paper towel (news paper also works) and give it a wipe down. This is the best method because it’s my three favourite things when it comes to cleaning, easy, cheap, and effective! Also, the vinegar dries faster than water so no streaks!
Limescale/Mineral build-up – If you ever have that annoyingly tough to remove limescale or mineral build-up on your taps or faucets, then do I have a trick for you! It’s kind of astonishingly effective and so easy. Take some paper towel and really saturate it with vinegar, then place it over the affected area, and wrap it with plastic wrap or a freezer bag and hold in place with an elastic band. Leave it for a few hours, then remove it all and give it a scrub with a stiff brush and rinse off with water. If there’s any of the build-up left after scrubbing, simply start over! If you move into older houses there can often be limescale on the taps, and for years I thought there was nothing I could do about it, so this was great to learn. You can also soak your showerhead in vinegar to clean out any limescale or mineral build-up. If your shower is on a gooseneck then simply soak it in a bucket of vinegar, or any vessel where the whole head is submerged. If your showerhead isn’t on a gooseneck or isn’t easily detachable, you can do the same method you use on the taps.
Washing – Did you know that washerwomen historically boiled laundry as part of their process? You might think that that was for cleaning soiled cloth, but in actuality the removal of dirt comes earlier in the cleaning process. No, the boiling, and the hanging in the sun, were for sanitation purposes, and actually resulted in a far less germy wash than we have today.
Think about it, when you throw in a load of washing, most of the time the water is cold, and even on machines that allow you to wash with hot water, most of them don’t go up to temperatures that kill bacteria. That means that any bacteria that’s in a piece of washing, let’s say underpants, is now swimming around with ALL the other pieces of washing in a delightful bacteria soup, and no, your laundry detergent does not kill bacteria or viruses.
So, what can we do about this disgusting new discovery? You guessed it, vinegar! As an added benefit, vinegar can also help to disperse the detergent residue that’s left in your clothes after washing, which is partly what makes your clothes so stiff if you hang them to dry (the dryer breaks up that stiffness but the residue is still in the fibres), and can be a problem for those with sensitive skin, as well as the scents of your detergent which can be an issue for allergy sufferers and asthmatics. During the rinse cycle (or in the rinse cycle reservoir if your machine has one) pop about a cup of vinegar into your machine.
After washing your dog or cat, give them a light spritz with a mixture of one-part white vinegar to four parts water. It’ll help them to dry quicker!
Also, it’s safe to use diluted vinegar in a spray bottle to disinfect your pets bedding and toys, which will help to alleviate any doggy smells.