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A scoop of cleaning powder
Cleaning vinegar is one of the most environmentally friendly and best cleaning supplies available. We’re sharing tips on how to use it.

The solve-it solution

Cleaning vinegar is a miracle-worker. It’s more eco-friendly and a healthier option than regular household cleaning supplies, it’s hardworking, and it can help shift grime in the unlikeliest of places. We're sharing tips on how to put this clever multi-tasker to work for you.

Safety tip: Always wear the appropriate safety equipment (safety glasses, gloves, ear muffs and a mask, for example) and always follow the instructions for the product or equipment.

What is the difference between cleaning vinegar and white vinegar?

Regular white vinegar, which can be found in the condiment aisle of the supermarket and doubles as a pantry staple, is not the same as cleaning vinegar. The difference is in the concentration of acetic acid, one of the key components of vinegar (besides water). Regular white vinegar contains four to seven percent acetic acid, while cleaning vinegar has at least six percent acetic acid.

This difference, although it sounds small, is thought to make cleaning vinegar 20 percent more powerful; it’s better able to cut through grime and eliminate bacteria. However, in a pinch you could use regular distilled white vinegar for many cleaning jobs around the house.

Cleaning vinegar dos and don’ts

  • DON’T ever mix vinegar with chemical cleaning products, particularly bleach, as this creates dangerous and toxic chlorine gas. 
  • DON’T be tempted to cook with cleaning vinegar – it’s not food-safe or meant for human consumption. 
  • DON’T store it in the kitchen, in case it’s mistaken for regular vinegar. Put it with other cleaning equipment and supplies and out of reach of children and pets. 
  • DON’T use it on all surfaces. Cleaning with vinegar may cause damage to natural stone (such as marble and granite), hardwood floors and enamelled porcelain.
  • DON’T use it on TVs or computer monitors, as it can damage the anti-glare coating. It is usually fine on other glass, such as windows and mirrors.  

Here are a few suggestions for using cleaning vinegar:

  • DO always conduct a small test patch on surfaces in an out-of-sight area before using cleaning vinegar.   
  • DO use it safely. Wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. 
  • DO use it in the laundry to help shift fabric stains – but not too often. Cleaning vinegar can be an effective remedy for some stains and odours, but it can cause damage to rubber seals and hoses in your washing machine over time. 

Multipurpose vinegar cleaning

Cleaning vinegar and baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda) and dishwashing liquid plus water, can be used to make a whole range of cleaning supplies.  

For a multipurpose cleaner you can use in every room of the house, Beth McGee, author of Get Your House Clean Now: The Home Cleaning Method Anyone Can Master (getyourhousecleannow.com) recommends “a homemade cleaner using dish soap and white vinegar for most regular maintenance in your home. There’s no need to spend a ton of money on products that disappoint.”

Combine ¼ cup of vinegar and 2½ cups of water in a spray bottle, add a tiny squirt of dish soap (roughly ½ teaspoon), and shake to combine. Spray over surfaces and wipe with a microfibre cloth.

A teaspoon of baking soda is added to a jar of vinegar with lemons surrounding

Try a vinegar-based bathroom cleaner

For a naturally clean bathroom, use a cleaning solution of equal parts vinegar and water, with a dash of dish soap. Spritz this all over your bathroom, wait a few minutes for it to work its magic, then wipe clean. Rinse with clean water. For tough build-up on tiles or baths, try using undiluted vinegar.

Clean windows with vinegar

Eliminating pesky smudges and marks on glass is perhaps cleaning vinegar’s greatest claim to fame. “I love cleaning vinegar and my favourite way to use it is to clean our outside windows,” says cleaning and organising expert Chantel Mila Ibbotson (@mama_mila_au). “Simply mix four cups water, two cups cleaning vinegar and a half-cup of dishwashing liquid. Use a squeegee to apply this mixture to your windows for a streak-free shine.”

Vinegar cleaning for clearing drains

To clear slightly clogged drains, try this vinegar trick. Pour one cup of bicarbonate of soda down the drain, followed by one cup of cleaning vinegar. Leave it to fizz for a few minutes. When the action subsides, flush the drain with hot water. Doing this every so often helps keep drains clear; it also reduces smells, which are a particular problem in greasy spots like kitchen sinks.

A woman's hand wipes a wooden table with a sponge with a bottle of clear liquid behind.

Clean and descale the kettle with vinegar

When was the last time you looked inside your kettle? Limescale can build up in the base of the kettle – it’s not pretty and can reduce the lifespan of your appliance. To descale the kettle, half fill it with equal parts water and cleaning vinegar. Boil the kettle, then tip it out. Rinse it thoroughly a few times by filling it with clean water, boiling the water, and discarding it.  

Refresh the dishwasher

Use cleaning vinegar to refresh the dishwasher and help wash away grease, smells and limescale. “Remove filters and drains, and clean out [your dishwasher],” suggests Carmen Strong of Little Strong Home (@littlestronghome and @strongcleaningco). “Then add a cup of vinegar to the top shelf and a sprinkle of bicarb, and run on a regular cycle.”

Freshly washed glasses and plates from the dishwasher ready to be cleared out

Use vinegar to kill mould

Mould and mildew are notoriously hard to get rid of, but vinegar can help. It’s a natural alternative to bleach. Use a mixture of four parts vinegar to one part water, scrub with a microfibre cloth and rinse in clean water to avoid contaminating the cleaning mixture. For mould on fabrics, work straight distilled white vinegar directly into the stain, or soak in a diluted mix before washing.

Vinegar is also good for removing that mildewy smell from towels left in the machine too long. Add a cup to the cycle and wash as normal.

Tip: Don’t do this too often, as vinegar has been known to affect seals and hoses in appliances.

Hands with yellow rubber gloves holding detergent spray bottle and cleaning tiles in bathroom with pink cloth.

Need some more cleaning inspiration?

Check out these seven time-saving cleaning hacks to get you started. 


Image credit: Getty Images 

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.