24 Household Uses for Vinegar From Cleaning to Beauty to Pets and Outside

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You can use vinegar for a zillion things besides salad dressing. Well, maybe not a zillion but at least two dozen.

Vinegar is one of the most versatile items in your home. A gallon of distilled white vinegar can be had for under $3 at Walmart, maybe even less at dollar stores. That’s 128 ounces and many uses call for less than a cup. A little goes a long way.

Word of caution. Use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for all of the below. Save your fancy, more expensive balsamic vinegar for the dressing. That goes for red wine vinegar and other flavored vinegars, like champagne.

There are so many uses for vinegar. Plan on using it to clean and freshen, indoors and outdoors. Most of the time you will be just mixing equal parts vinegar with water. If you rinse out and reuse spray bottles, you will be saving big bucks throughout the year.

There are a lot of health claims about drinking vinegar. So far, only a few small studies give partial support to these claims, so proceed with caution and do your research before drinking vinegar.

First, Know the Difference Between Diluted and Distilled Vinegars

Diluted vinegar is exactly that — vinegar that has been thinned with water. It can be any type of vinegar. Almost every tip we have here will be using vinegar that has been diluted.

Distilled white vinegar is a purer form of vinegar. It is preferred for cooking, but also qualifies for every item on our list of uses for vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples, and is slightly less acidic and healthier. White vinegar is fermented from either sugar cane, corn, grains or alcohol. The word vinegar comes from an old French term for sour wine.

24 Ways Vinegar Can Help Around the House

From household cleanup to beauty aids to pet care, we’re rounded up two dozen ways for you to use that cheap gallon of vinegar.

Vinegar for Cleaning

If the cabinet under your sink looks anything like ours, it’s jammed with expensive cleaning products. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of a bunch of those containers so you can free up some space and save money? Vinegar can help. Because of its antifungal and antibacterial nature, you can safely use it to wipe down counters and appliances.

1. Use as Fabric Softener

Vinegar softens clothing, eliminating the need for fabric softeners. Just add a cup of distilled white vinegar (not diluted) to the washing machine during the rinse cycle. This also helps eliminate odors. Bonus: It’s better for the environment than many commercial products.

2. Get Out Stubborn Stains

Keep a spray bottle of white vinegar next to the clothes hamper. Use it to spray splashes of tomato sauce, wine stains and last night’s chili to reduce the strength of stubborn stains. You can soak stained items in vinegar for an hour or overnight, and then wash. Remember to not put the garment in the dryer if the stain hasn’t completely gone.

3. Brighten White Clothes

If you have white cotton linens or clothes that are looking dull and gray, pour vinegar (at least one cup) into a large pot of boiling water, put the items in and let them soak overnight. Then wash them as normal. The hot vinegar mix will loosen the dirt on them.

4. Add to Dishwasher

Hard water often leaves glasses less than sparkling. Stop buying rinse aids and use vinegar to clean instead. Put a (dishwasher safe) bowl of white vinegar on the top rack when the dishwasher rinse cycle starts — it is better there than pouring it in the rinse aid area — and get rid of that soap scum. White vinegar can also help keep the dishwasher free of odors. Win win!

5. Clogs Begone

Is your kitchen sink clogged up? The easiest, cheapest and safest is to pack the drain with at least half a cup of baking soda and then pour a cup of white vinegar slowly in. It will bubble up and then soak through the clog. A minute or two after all of the bubbling has stopped, pour hot water down the drain to get rid of the dregs. Then rinse the drain with cold water. Who needs commercial drain cleaners?

Surprising uses for baking soda that go beyond baking. 

6. Clean Coffeemakers

Our coffee makers are hard workers, bless their little metal hearts. Instead of overpaying for coffee maker cleaner, use vinegar to clean your morning angel. Fill the water chamber with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.

Start the machine to let the mixture heat up. Turn it off and let the system soak for a half hour. Then turn it back on and let it brew. Once done, pour a plain pot of water through the coffee maker to rinse it out. Doing this a few times a year keeps the machine working longer because you will eliminate mineral deposits.

Don’t do this to espresso machines though, since they function differently than regular coffee makers.

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7. Make Glass Sparkle

Use vinegar to clean everything glass — as a window cleaner and for mirrors, picture frames, shower doors, television and computer screens. You don’t want to put soapy water on these. Using diluted white vinegar in a spray bottle and a clean cloth or paper towels gets all the crud off. This is probably one of the top uses for vinegar. It might require a little more elbow grease, so think of vinegar helping out with your triceps workout too!

8. Remove Rust

Remove rust from tools and other items with vinegar. Get a container big enough for the tools and cover them with full strength vinegar. Let them soak for a few days. Keep checking so the surfaces don’t get ruined. Once the rust is gone, rinse the items and wipe them off with a damp cloth.

9. Spruce Up Hardwood Floors

Bring your hardwood floors back to beauty with diluted vinegar. Mix a half cup of vinegar with a gallon of water and mop. Don’t use on waxed floors though! Always use a dry cloth to get any water up.

10. Clean Carpet Stains

This carpet company recommends that you clean up carpet stains using a mixture of undiluted vinegar, Dawn dish soap and water. Spray the vinegar solution on the stain. Let it soak in for 10 minutes and then blot it up with a paper towel or cloth.

11. Polish Furniture

Vinegar can clean wood surfaces and remove polish buildup, so you can stop buying furniture polish too. Wipe clean whatever piece of furniture you want to refresh. Use a cloth dipped in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water, and gently rub the cloth over the furniture.

12. Keep Flowers Fresh

Add equal parts white vinegar and sugar to a vase for fresh cut flowers. Not too much, maybe a couple of tablespoons each. Then put in the water and stems. They will last longer with the neutralized water (vinegar) and plant food (sugar). It works!

13. Substitute for Eggs

There is a food tip for vinegar that you may not know. During World War II, eggs were scarce, so bakers would add 1 tsp baking soda into the dry ingredients and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to cake batter. The cake will be light and fluffy. It is a great way to make a vegan cake. With egg prices soaring, this retro money-saver is still helpful today.

Vinegar as Beauty and Health Aid

Some of the surprising uses for vinegar are all the ways it can help your skin and scalp. Maybe you’ve been wiping the bathroom mirrors or shower curtains off with vinegar. Now try your face.

Always use distilled vinegar for your skin and scalp. Never put full strength vinegar directly on your skin! You might want to first test it out on your skin to see if it causes irritation before using it widely. Some skin is very sensitive.

14. Tone Skin

The astringent aspect of apple cider vinegar is perfect as a toner, because it cleans and freshens the skin, opening up the pores to absorb moisturizer. You can make an apple cider vinegar solution by mixing one part vinegar to four parts water. But why not make it really great for your skin and lessen the vinegar smell? Use the same basic recipe, then add a few drops of an essential oil and a teaspoon of rosewater. Use a cotton ball or soft cloth to wipe your face clean.

15. Tackle Skin Problems

You’ll find out that there are multiple uses for vinegar when fixing skin problems. The acid in vinegar helps to restore the pH balance to your skin. There are three reasons why vinegar works: it’s anti-bacterial, antifungal and antiviral. Remember to always dilute the vinegar when you are using it on your skin. If you make it a regular part of your skin routine, mix with diluted water to achieve the best results.

Several blogs recommend using vinegar for sunburns or ringworm, but many medical sites advise against doing that. The acetic acid in the vinegar can cause longer term damage despite short term relief in those situations.

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16. Stop Itching

One part vinegar to two parts olive oil, mix well and rub into dry or itchy skin. Let it soak in and then rinse off with warm water after 10 to 15 minutes.

17. Get Rid of Blemishes

Mix one part vinegar to two parts water and soak a cotton ball in it, then dab it on the blemish several times a week. If it is too strong (makes your face feel too dry) then dilute it with a little more water.

18. Handle Warts

You will need to do this a few nights in a row. Use the same mixture as for acne, but take the soaked cotton ball and attach it to your skin overnight each night with a bandage.

19. Banish Dandruff

Some studies have shown that apple cider vinegar can help with dandruff. Dilute a few tablespoons of vinegar with warm water and when you’re done washing hair pour the vinegar mixture on your head and massage it into your scalp. Wait a few minutes and rinse out.

20. Smooth Razor Bumps

Use the same recipe as for acne and pimples, and wipe the affected area with soaked cotton or tissue. Don’t rinse off. You might have to repeat it a few times over the day.

Vinegar for Pet Care

If you are spending lots of money on specialty pet products, vinegar might help you save a few bucks.

21. Get Rid of Litter Box Smell

Does the litter box smell stinky even with fresh litter? Use vinegar to eliminate the odors. Empty it out, pour in a half inch of vinegar to cover the bottom and use a rag dipped in vinegar to wipe down the sides. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then dump, rinse and dry it. Then refill it with fresh litter.

22. Clean the Dog’s Ears

Vinegar is a natural way to clean and soothe a dog’s ears. The folks at Modern Dog magazine recommend mixing apple cider vinegar and water and using a clean sponge soaked with the solution to wipe the inside of Bandit’s ears. You can also use it to wipe the pup’s paws if they have yeast infections.

Vinegar for Outdoor Use

The garden is another place where vinegar comes in hand and can save you from buying expensive products and using chemicals.

23. Test Your Soil

You can test your soil’s alkalinity/acidity with vinegar and baking soda. The result won’t be absolutely exact, but this old-fashioned way of testing will let you know if you need to amend your soil for your plants.

You will need two small jars. Mix a little bit of soil with distilled water in each until it is muddy. Put in a splash of vinegar in one. The soil is alkaline if it starts to bubble up a little.

Put a little bit of baking soda in the other jar. Your soil is acidic if the jar with baking soda fizzes up. Minimal fizzing in both jars means your soil is pretty neutral.

24. Bye, Bye Bugs

Vinegar can be used as pest control indoors and outdoors. Spray vinegar on the kitchen or other surfaces if you see ants. It destroys the pheromones (scents) they use to navigate. Put a little vinegar and dish soap in an uncovered bowl to attract — and drown — fruit flies. Sumo Gardener even recommends making a mosquito repellent with vinegar.

Products You Won’t Have to Buy Anymore

There are so many more vinegar uses, from cleaning detergent residue off things, de-stinking the toilet bowl, getting rid of deposits in the shower head and steam iron, to spraying warm vinegar on black mold and wiping it away.

Here’s a list of stuff you don’t have to replenish when you have a gallon of vinegar at home.

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Antibacterial cleaner
  • Fabric softener
  • Laundry stain remover
  • Dishwasher rinse aid
  • Clog remover
  • Coffee machine cleaner
  • Emergency eggs for baking
  • Glass cleaner
  • Rust remover
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Carpet stain remover
  • Furniture polish
  • Toner
  • Skin repair gel
  • Acne gel
  • Wart remover
  • Dandruff shampoo
  • Litter box scents
  • pH test kit
  • Ant spray

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St.Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.