The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning with Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar is a common practice thanks to its ability to break down grime, and mineral deposits, kill mold, and deodorize. You can use it on dozens of household surfaces as a non-toxic alternative to regular cleaning agents.

cleaning with vinegar

But, even though vinegar is multipurpose, it’s not safe for every area of your home. The high amounts of acetic acid can strip down sealers, eat at grout, and etch delicate surfaces. Here’s an overview of what type of vinegar to use, how to use it, and what you shouldn’t clean with vinegar.

18 Household Items You Can Clean with Vinegar

To clean with vinegar, use white distilled vinegar or cleaning vinegar. Both are available at all major grocery and general stores. The difference between the two is that cleaning vinegar is slightly stronger at 6% acid versus white distilled vinegar at 5%. In a pinch, you can use Apple Cider Vinegar, although it has the lowest acidic content of the three.

Washing Machine

You can clean and eliminate bad smells in top-load and front-load washers using vinegar. Since front-load washers have rubber gaskets on the front, avoid contact with undiluted vinegar. Instead, wash the gaskets with soap and water.

To clean a front-load washer with vinegar:

  • Add 2 cups of vinegar to the detergent dispenser
  • Add ½ cup baking soda to the drum
  • Run on a hot water cycle
  • Towel dry the dry and gaskets afterward

To clean a top-load washer with vinegar:

  • Add two cups of vinegar to the washer
  • Run on the hottest setting

Always consult your owner’s manual before cleaning a washing machine with vinegar. Machines with multiple rubber gaskets may advise against it.


To clean your dishwasher with vinegar, remove the filter, clean it, and put it back in place. Then, place a coffee mug filled with one cup of vinegar on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. Next, run the dishwasher on the quick cycle. Once it’s finished, wipe down the inside with a microfiber towel.

Tip: Don’t put vinegar in the dishwasher detergent dispenser. Undiluted, the vinegar can damage the rubber gasket.

Coffee Maker

Clean your coffee maker or Keurig by filling the reservoir tank with half water and half white distilled vinegar. Run the brew cycle. When finished, dump out the coffee pot or cup, and run the brew cycle three more times using water only.


Make the best mirror cleaner by combining 1 cup of rubbing alcohol, 1 cup of white vinegar, and three drops of dish soap. For a simpler solution, fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water. Both mixtures will clean mirrors and leave them streak-free.


Clean your windows by spraying them with half vinegar and half water and wiping them with a lint-free cloth.


If your bath towels smell musty, deodorize them with vinegar. Here’s how:

  • Add towels and two cups of vinegar to the washing machine
  • Run on the hot cycle
  • Rewash the towels with regular detergent


One of the best natural oven cleaners is a baking soda and vinegar combo. To get started, make a paste by combining baking soda and water. Spread the paste in the oven and let it sit overnight. The following morning wipe as much residue out of the oven as possible. Spray the oven with undiluted vinegar, allow it to react with the baking soda, and wipe away the rest of the caked-on food.


Steaming your microwave with vinegar and water is the most effective way to clean it.

Add one cup of water and three tablespoons of white distilled vinegar to a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the mug for five minutes, then leave it in the microwave for five more minutes. The steam will loosen up burnt food and residue, making it easy to wipe away. 


Since vinegar cuts through grime and deodorizes, it’s a top choice for cleaning the fridge. Remove items and then wipe the interior with vinegar and water.

Shower Head

Remove mineral deposits by filling a Ziploc bag with vinegar and securing it to the shower head. Allow the shower head to soak in vinegar for at least three hours, then scrub the nozzles with an old toothbrush and rinse.

Stainless Steel Sink

Vinegar and baking soda will remove build-up and restore shine to a stainless steel sink. 

Sprinkle baking soda in the sink and scrub with a damp soft-bristled brush—Spritz vinegar over the baking soda. Once the combo stops fizzing, rinse the sink with water and dry with a microfiber towel.

Toilet Bowl

If you’re looking for a non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner, use baking soda and vinegar. But be cautious – never mix vinegar with bleach-based cleaners.

Sprinkle baking soda all over the toilet bowl and scrub with a toilet bowl brush. Spritz vinegar on the baking soda, allow it to fizz, and then rebrush the bowl and under the rim before flushing the toilet.

Sink Drain

Boiling water and vinegar can deodorize even the stinkiest sink drains. Before you clean the sink drain with vinegar, ensure there are no clogs in the drain pipe. Then, follow these steps:

  • Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain
  • Dump one cup of baking soda down the sink drain
  • Dump one cup of white distilled vinegar down the drain
  • Place a rag over the drain while the combo fizzes
  • After fifteen minutes, dump another pot of boiling water down the sink


Vinegar is not safe for all floor types, especially undiluted. But, it can aid in removing haze caused by soap-based cleaners and sticky residue. The best vinegar-based floor cleaner combines 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of vinegar, ½ cup of rubbing alcohol, and ¼ teaspoon of dish soap.


A mixture of half-white distilled vinegar and half water is suitable for cleaning painted walls with a satin or semi-gloss sheen. Vinegar is also superior at killing mold on walls, and you can use it undiluted to eliminate mold spores. 

Concrete Patio and Sidewalk Stains

If there’s a stain or mildew on your concrete sidewalk or patio, use a mix of vinegar and water to clean it. Mix half water and vinegar, spray it on the stain, scrub with a soft-bristled brush and rinse.

Note: We don’t recommend using vinegar on concrete countertops or polished concrete floors. Instead, opt for a PH neutral cleaner or a mix of dish soap and water.

Stainless Steel Appliances

Vinegar can cut through the grime and sticky fingerprints on your stainless steel appliances – just make sure to use it diluted. Fill a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water, spray on the surface of your appliances, and wipe in the direction of the grain with a soft, lint-free cloth. You can follow up with a light coat of olive oil to make your appliances shine.

Rusty Cast Iron Pans

If your cast iron pan has developed rust, fill a sink with half water and half vinegar and allow your pan to soak for 1-8 hours. Check the pan every hour to see if the rust is eliminated. If so, scrub with a soft bristled brush and wash the pan. After drying, you’ll need to reseason your cast iron.

Things You Should NOT Clean with Vinegar

While vinegar cuts through grime, it’s not suitable for all surfaces. These are the items you shouldn’t clean with vinegar.

Hardwood Floors

The high acid content in vinegar can strip the polyurethane coating from hardwood floors. While it probably won’t hurt to use diluted vinegar occasionally, never clean your hardwood floors with undiluted or weakly diluted vinegar.

Natural Stone 

Vinegar can etch natural stones such as slate, marble, limestone, and travertine, leaving permanent white marks on the surface. While granite holds up a bit better, the acid in the vinegar will strip the sealer. Instead, opt for a natural stone cleaner or a simple dish soap and water mix.

Most Grout

The acidity in vinegar can strip your grout’s sealer and eat at the top layers of your grout. If you have dirty grout, consider a specialized grout cleaner for the best results.

Electronic Screens

Electronic screens are delicate, and vinegar will strip away the anti-glare coating. Stick to plain water or a screen cleaning solution.

Clothes Iron

Use your iron’s self-clean feature instead of trying to clean it with vinegar. The acid in vinegar can strip away the protective coating inside your clothes iron.