Living the Acetic Life | Seventh Generation
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Living the Acetic Life

Author: the Inkslinger

Nature is the great provider, but when we think of its many gifts, we tend to think of the big ones: food, air, water, and the like. Yet much of what nature offers, while not necessarily crucial, is no less extraordinary. And lately I've been considering what may be its single most impressive minor wonder of all: the magical essence called vinegar.

It started with strawberries. The season is in full swing here in the northern borderlands, but you gotta eat quick because even the best-tended berries start rotting within hours…unless you know the trick I tried last week: bathe them in a 10:1 water-to-vinegar solution. Washing delicate berries before storage is, I know, a death knell. But not with vinegar in the mix. Our berries are still holding their own days later. Vinegar zapped what could have ailed them, and it got me thinking… Just how amazing is this stuff?

The short answer is pretty-darn-oh-my-goodness-yes-amazing.

Vinegar, a.k.a. acetic acid, is what happens when alcohol itself ferments. The bacteria that feast on things like wine and cider produce it as their waste product. But this highly acidic effluent is hardly "waste."

In our house we have all kinds of vinegars (wine, rice, balsamic, malt, cider) for cooking, and a big jug of plain old distilled vinegar for everything else. It's a great substitute for all kinds of products. Here are a few of my favorite uses for this incredible natural resource:

  • When our drains are clogged, I toss down a half cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar to gets things flowing.
  • Run a cup or two through the coffeemaker to remove clogging mineral deposits. (Run a few cycles of water afterward so your coffee doesn't taste like salad!) It's great for coffee-stained dishware, too, and I use it in our washing machine and dishwasher to similar water-deposit-dissolving effect. I've even soaked clogged showerheads in it.
  • Zap mildew in bathrooms and other places.
  • Combine equal parts vinegar and olive oil to remove water stains from wood. (Always rub with the grain!)
  • Deodorize anything anywhere. (I've yet to meet the odor that won't wilt under a vinegar assault.)
  • Remove haze from glassware. (Just soak, rinse, and air dry.) It's also great for removing the haze that accumulates on the inside of my car's windshield, which I've heard actually comes from (ick) the fumes emitted by dashboard vinyl.
  • I pour it on driveway weeds to keep little used parking areas and other places where wheels rarely go from looking overgrown and abandoned.
  • Biggest pet peeves: a nasty can opener blade.
  • Cleaning our toothbrush holders and electric toothbrush stands. These can get pretty nasty, but vinegar keeps the guck away.
  • Cutting goop of all kinds. The decorative antique pie pans we keep behind our stovetop get grimed to high heaven by cooking splatters but vinegar washes it right off. And it removes errant stickers, glues, adhesives, and other forms of goo, too.
  • Before we had a garage, I would spray a 3:1 water/vinegar solution on the car windows for simple, frost-free winter mornings.

Those are a few of my favorite vinegary things. What are yours? Let us count the ways we love vinegar in the comments box below!

photo: katerha


Earline M. Reid picture
Earline M. Reid
White vinegar, baking soda, clean rags of worn out tee shirts, old tooth brushes: that's it! Forget the spray cleaners and paper towels.
Granny Barbara picture
Granny Barbara
Vinegar is a natural disinfectant...I used it under my house for mold Put a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water into my lawn sprayer and sprayed away under the house...killed the mold and the odor as well..And, the deal with the baking soda relieving clogged pipes does work...put the baking soda in your sink drain...then wash it down the drain with the vinegar..let it work about 20 minutes and flush with hot water...if drain is still stopped or running slowly...just repeat the steps ..baking soda in sink drain-pour vinegar over the baking soda let work 20 minutes and flush with hot running water...If you have trouble getting all the soda down just keep adding a bit of vinegar....IT WILL WORK! Best all.. no chemicals to smell or worry about fix too!
Bravola picture
Thank you for all the great tips on using vinegar. What about drinking vinegar? Are there benefits to our health?
GrammaJeannie picture
I worked at Energizer for 8 years. One of my jobs was to clean the inside of some of the machines - as in plexiglass windows. I was supposed to use alcohol, which I just couldn't tolerate with my head stuck inside breathing it - very very dangerous also. I used pure white vinegar in a spray bottle and those windows always sparkled.
ivanova picture
There's a book called Green It! It's a guide for detoxifying your life and a scary quote from one of it's pages is that the average baby born in America today has over 300 man-made chemicals circulating in it's bloodstream!! But some good news if you want to reduce your babies chemical exposure, according to them you can disinfect every surface in a baby nursury with vinegar! :) However, baking soda, lemon juice, and hot water are all completely safe and natural if you want to add those in there too. I use baking soda as a shampoo supplment, vinegar instead of soap - no I don't smell like vinegar- and lemon for deodorant. You can make almost all your own cleaners and personal care items from ingredients you could ingest, with just a few exceptions (I havn't figured out toothpaste yet.) picture
A small dish of vinegar left on the kitchen counter attracts & kills fruit flies. No more of those annoying little bugs!
elizabethberenz picture
I use a "downy ball" filled halfway with vinegar for laundry, along with detergent and 1/2 c. baking soda - it is released automatically and works really well.
jimenezhouse picture
I am really interested in these 2 applications, but I have questions: 1. To clean the coffee pot, should I use only vinegar? How many "cups"? Or would I make a pot of mostly water and then add a smaller amount of vinegar? (I especially like the suggestion of using the hot vinegar and then water to help with the drains) 2. To help with laundry: would I put the same amount of vinegar as of fabric softener? My tenant also uses my washing machine, and she uses fabric softener: would that make it impossible to use the vinegar trick without running several empty loads in between? thanks
DeannaC picture
My addition to vinegar use is for dogs. My dog has to have her anal glands expelled quite often (yuck). When they do this, it leaves an awful odor. My vet suggested 1 part white vinegar to 5 parts warm water & wipe across her rear with a soft cloth. This solution also works if your pet does that lovely, not, drag their rear across the carpet or as my dog does sits & spins in circles. It's a short term solution, but my dog definately gets relief.
LindaCornwall picture
When washing towels do I use vinegar as the rinse to remove the "smell" or add it to the soap??
amethystrose picture
I have been using vinegar for so much for years, now. I am still amazed at what it can do. I tell everyone I can. "get rid of the toxic items, quit poisoning yourself!!" Love this article, keep spreading the news. Theresa
arroyowash picture
When I worked with people who had multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), they told me they always had to use the Heinz brand because the cheaper store brands bothered them. Heinz apparently caught on to this because they now advertise that their white distilled vinegar is made from corn, whereas other white vinegars are made from petroleum by-products. Yes, the corn may be GMO, but you are not eating it.
ebm126 picture
My husband is paralyzed and has to use a leg bag or night bag. I have to clean these twice a day, and tend to use rubbing alcohol as an anti-bacterial agent but the bags get really stained (yellow) after a couple of uses. I've tried bleach, hot water soaks, and hydrogen peroxide... and then I realized that good old vinegar did the trick and took all of the stain out instantly. Not sure how it works, but it does. We also use regular vinegar (per recommended by his urologist) and sterile water solution to do a bladder flush for him since it helps break up the crystals that sometimes disturb his bladder.
ssn004 picture
We use vinegar for EVERYTHING! I did want to add, since I didn't see it posted here, that we steam clean our carpets about every 2 - 3 weeks with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. It does a great job getting the dirt out, neutralizes any carpet odors (think pet issues, etc.), and disinfects nicely while getting the dust out (we have a lot of allergy issues in our house). It's sometimes a good idea to go over the carpet again with plain water afterwards to rinse again, but it does a great job and is chemical-free for all of my young kiddos who like to play on the floor. :)
jennfraker picture
Hi, I have been using this for years and make a bottle with the recipe for part of their housewarming gift. 1 T Borax 3 T Vinegar 2 cups hot water blend squirt of dish soap 1 tsp Baking Soda drop of essential oil, I use lavender or you can use Tea Tree oil Works very good and smells wonderful too! picture
I love, love, LOVE vinegar as a cleaner. I use it in the windshield cleaner reservoir instead of the store-bought blue stuff. I also use it at my yoga studio to clean mats -- the students spray it on and then wipe the mats down. Just remembered -- I also use it in my steam mop, mixing it with water in the machine. The floors come out sparkling!
jesusgirl picture
Spraying vinegar on a sunburn turns it to a tan and stops you from peeling. It's amazing. My mom did it to us as kids and I do it to mine. I take them outside spray them, they squeal because it stings, but in a matter of minutes the pain from the sunburn is relieved and the next day they are able to go back outside in the sun. It can save your summer vacation.
coachrick picture
Fun reading all the vinegar comments. I've used vinegar for a number of cleaning tasks, even combining a couple for added benefit. I'll run a coffee maker cycle using vinegar to clean the maker, then use the heated vinegar with baking soda in the drains I'm working on. Start the coffee maker, pour the baking soda down the drains/disposer(usually 3-4 drains per project).. After the coffee maker cycles, pour the hot vinegar down the drains behind the baking soda. I usually run two more coffee maker cycles with clear water, using the freshly heated water to follow the soda/vinegar mixture in each drain. Of course, be careful with the hot water you'll be carrying about :) .
acayouette picture
My two favorite uses for plain white vinegar are: 1) a 3:1 vinegar/water solution for cleaning guinea pig cages (and full strength vinegar to soak out the crusty bits) 2) for making buttermilk substitute while baking (1 cup minus 1 tbsp of milk + 1 tbsp of vinegar) Love the article!
M Fucile picture
M Fucile
Wipe down walls, ceilings, non-carpeted floors with two to one solution vinegar and water. No more spiders or ants. Worked for two years in my house before I had to reapply. Plus makes the walls look like they were just fresh painted!
Ninyadelrey picture
I think I'll bookmark this site and refer to it every few weeks, incorporating another use of vinegar each time! There are so many great ideas here that I want to try, that I'll forget them all if I don't. But, to start with, I'll be adding some vinegar to my next loads of cloth diapers and towels, and will try it in my dishwasher in place of rinse aid. The only use that I know that perhaps hasn't been listed here yet is to use it with some baking soda as a toilet bowl cleaner, with some essential oils if the smell bothers you.
kimmalieate6 picture
These are all fabulous uses for vinegar. But fyi, do not use vinegar to disinfect your natural stone (ie. granite) countertops. It will break down the sealer on your granite and return the stone to its natural, porous state. If your counters are porous, they aren't food safe. Thanks for all the tips!!
quinalla picture
So instead of something like jet dry, just use a TBSP or two of vinegar. I usually just splash some from my gallon of white vinegar onto the door of the dishwasher right before I start it, dishes come out sparkling! And I too use it in laundry occasionally, I need to use it more for cleaning as it does such a good job. Going to try the 3:1 on the car windows this winter!
m00nm00n picture
When I developed thrush when nursing my son, I did vinegar and water washes which helped kill the yeast. I always use it in my laundry, especially towels! Also, I have heard good things about drinking a capful of apple cider vinegar a day for balancing flora in your body.
NYCChica picture
If you have ever burned rice then you know how hard it is to clean the pot afterwards. I add a few tablespoons of vinegar to a enough water to cover the stuck-on food bits and simmer it for about 10 minutes. The burn bits will come off easily with a sponge. I also used it to clean dried egg whites out of the egg tray in my fridge. An egg had cracked and some edge white leaked into the indentation. It dried and I couldn't get the out a chunk of shell that was stuck in the tray. I filled the indentation with vinegar and waited ten minutes. It came right off with no scrubbing! I started using vinegar as fabric softener after my Dad developed an allergy to manufactured softeners and my Mom tried it based on a tip she picked up from somewhere. I developed similar sensitivities a few years later and began to do the same. The best part is that white vinegar is cheaper than bottled softeners. (Sorry Seventh Gen, I love your other products, but all softeners are a problem for me.) picture
Cleaning w/ vinegar is absolutely brilliant & very budget friendly ! I used it w/ baking soda to clean the glass in shower & is amazing how the soap scum disappears , Also great for shower heads. I have a sprayer bottle w/ water & vinegar to clean all surfaces ... Is safe for the family & pets .
susanguare picture
I've used it on the skunked dog, of course, although the groomer can do a more thorough job somehow. But simmering vinegar on the stove for fifteen minutes or so really helps the lingering skunk odor in the air.
rachel.stephens picture
When I was a kid, and we ran out of detangler, my mom would pour vinegar on my hair after I shampooed it. It worked great! Just make sure to rinse the vinegar out after you get the tangles out so your hair doesn't smell funky.
Debra Nelson picture
Debra Nelson
You may smell the vinegar for a while after you have cleaned, but the odor dissipates quickly. You may buy essential oils (I use peppermint). After cleaning the bathroom, you can put a couple of drops in the toilet, or in the waste basket. The oil aroma will overpower the vinegar.
Debra Nelson picture
Debra Nelson
My family uses vinegar for many, many things: *Fabric softener *Toilet cleaner *Tub, tile and sink cleaner (mixed with baking soda for grit) *Stove top cleaner *Cat box cleaner *Add to our fountain to keep water clear *Hair rinse to clarify *Floor cleaner (added to bucket of water) *Window cleaner *Clean and freshen refrigerator I literally only buy Seventh Generation dish soap and laundry detergent. I have no other products to clean anything in my house. We use vinegar for literally everything! I have been doing this for years. At first, I felt like my house smelled like a giant pickle, but now it just seems clean and healthy.
wvwoman picture
ha ha! Maistral, that's exactly what I've resorted to!! But again, I was intrigued by Inkslinger's use of the word "toss"---which bears no resemblance to the "eke out" method I'm currently using---and whether he actually has a quicker, easier method of getting it down. The point it to get it to do the fizzing action down in the pipe under the drain, right? And the major fizz is when the vinegar first hits the baking soda...
aliebaba picture
for the laundry comment's question, you fill the fabric softener compartment to the top with white vinegar. this makes all your laundry soft and takes out smells. my baby's clothes and towels are super soft, the cloth diapers and towels are more absorbent. and my husband's towels don't stink after one use! i use 50/50 vinegar/water to clean the floors-all types, and everything else! it is nontoxic so the kids can help w/o worry! then i learned to use it to clean veggies/fruit after doing a youtube search! **just don't get it on cheap metal that is coated to keep it from rusting. the vinegar eats the coating away, metal rusts quick after that! (think laundry sorter on wheels)
maistral picture
I put the end of a malleable plastic funnel down the hole in the centre of the what-you-may-call-it covering the drain in the sink, and carefully add a little baking soda at a time, shaking the funnel after each addition. Otherwise just dump small amounts of baking soda at the entrance to the drain, pour on some vinegar (it will fizz but eventually go down the drain)and repeat until you have about half-a-cup of baking soda in there. I give the mixture at least 30 minutes to work, or preferably leave it overnight, them pour a kettle of boiling waster down before using the drain. I you do it about once a month, the drains tend not to get clogged.
artchick530 picture
Thank you for this (as usual) great blog! I am curious to know if you have used the 10:1 vinegar & water solution on other fruits, such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and if it would also work on vegetables.
lauram1976 picture
I have used white vinegar and water 50/50 for years, recntly I began to add some lemon juice to my bottle. neutralizes the harsh smell, and i think it works even better. I have also added orange/citrus rind to the bottle let it sit a few days . gives it a clean citrus scent.
Amadancer1 picture
So many great tips, and all just with plain old vinegar. Terrific :)
treppils picture
Karen, You can "soak" orange peels in vinegar for a week or so to get a nice orangey smell.
wvwoman picture
you said you "toss down a half cup of baking soda" into your drains---how do you accomplish that?! it might be easier in a dry-as-a-bone drain, but that's never the case---so when you try pouring dry baking soda down the drain, it just sits there on top---so then you have to start poking at it to try to get it DOWN through the little drain holes where you want it! there's gotta be an easier way. just writing this made me realize that there's no reason i couldn't mix it with water first and then pour it in the's gonna mix with water when it gets down there anyway, right?! (well, thanks for helping me solve my problem, but i'm still interested in how you do it!)
wvwoman picture
jsplichal, i'm interested in trying this--when do you add the vinegar, and how much do you use?
bikermo picture
i have a cat who is very picky about using the litterbox and if it doesn't meet his standards, he will go next to it instead of in it. in the garage (on cement floor) i pour vinegar directly on the spots and it completely neutralizes the odor. i mix some vinegar in with my clean water in the carpet cleaner and it neutralizes the cat urine smell in the carpet too. way better than any of the cleaners made specifically for that purpose, which, due to chemical allergy, i can't use anymore anyway.
dheacurrie picture
Thanks for calling attention to all the great uses for vinegar. I too love it in the battle against icky can opener blades. Here are some other vinegar miracles I use: 1. Apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes to get rid of dandruff 2. Used orange, lemon, grapefruit peels soaked in white vinegar until it smells like citrus instead of vinegar is a great way to make a homemade orange cleaner/degreaser and recycle at the same time! 3. 1-2 drops of Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid + white vinegar equals the world's best window/eyeglass cleaner 4. White vinegar + water + Seventh Generation unscented dishwashing liquid equals my favorite fruit/veggie wash 5. White vinegar in a spray bottle makes a great baby high chair tray food-safe cleaner or super easy fruit/veggie wash. For more vinegar miracles I use besides these and the other great tips featured in this article, visit for a listing of the ones I use for my home and body use.
Karen Young picture
Karen Young
I'm not that keen on the smell of vinegar and though it goes away, can I add something to give it a better aroma while I clean? Can I use an essence oil or something that would work with it like orange or lemon or the like?
jsplichal picture
My towels used to get that musty/stinky smell after one or two uses. I read an article about how fabric softener actually traps moisture inside of the towel fibers and that you should use vinegar instead. I immediately started doing that and the stink is completely gone!!
SouliciousLife picture
It cleans my house windows like no other! I also pour it right into the rinse aid compartment of my dishwasher for sparkling dishes every time. It also makes a great fabric softener; just pour in the comparment where you would normally pour your liqued fabric softener. Oh, and, like you, I definitely use for slow or clogged drains, followed by a kettle of hot water 5 minutes later. Sometimes it takes a few treatments, but it always works!
Nancee picture
Disinfecting countertops Use with baking soda on carpet stains 50:50 solution water/vinegar for cleaning windows Loved the additional ideas you listed!
sheila hollender picture
sheila hollender
This is an outstanding post. thank you!