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On Vinegar

(Ha – you thought I was going to go with a photo of bottles of vinegar or something, right? Fooled you. Photo courtesy of Casch52)
Housekeeping:
Vinegar comes from the Old French, “vin aigre”, meaning ‘sour wine’. Vinegar has the taste and the pH that it does because of the action of acetal bacteria which turns whatever carbohydrate there is in the liquid (and you can make vinegar out of the most amazing stuff out there – the list is almost endless and includes coconut milk and water, malt, any fruit known, and so on)in acetic acid. In the US, household vinegars are sold at 5% strength. This discussion is not about vinegar as a cooking ingredient.

I’m here to shake the pompoms for vinegar as a utility item. If you are concerned about chemicals in the house (and I’m not even thinking about some little person getting their hands on oven cleaner out from underneath the sink), then Aunt Toby is here today to tell you that you all you need to clean stuff in your home is baking soda (another topic for another time) and vinegar.

And I’m not even going to tell you that you should be using one vs. another. I’ve used cider and white vinegars to clean with and they really are the same. Same strength, same result. Some uses I’ve put vinegar to which have worked amazingly:

Toilets, bathtubs, showers: We live in a hard water state. Stains the toilets, holds that nasty detergent/calcium deposits on the floors and doors of showers, etc. Vinegar, because it is acid, dissolves calcium (remember earth science and the whole thing with stalactites and stalagmites – same deal).
How to clean a toilet: You’ll need 1-2 gallons of vinegar for this, so buy the cheapest jugs of the stuff you can find. You’ll also need a bunch of paper towels. Do this when it is NOT freezing outside because you will want to open all the windows (it’s just that the smell will make you go bald, ok). Empty out the toilet. Yes, it’s gross. Use a yogurt container or something else that you will not feel guilty about throwing away to empty out the last bits at the bottom (yes, the last bits. OK?). Put a gallon of vinegar in the toilet bowl. Put paper towels all around the toilet bowl so that the surface above the vinegar to the top of the bowl is covered. Carefully pour more vinegar into the bowl so that the paper towels wick up the vinegar. Make sure the paper towels are clinging to the sides of the bowl. Close the lid of the toilet, close the bathroom door. If you have family members (ahem, teenaged boys) who would not think about using the bathroom while this operation is going on, take something like masking tape and put a big slug across the door, like crime scene tape and a sign: “Bathroom out of order” or something like that. Go do something else elsewhere for 30 minutes. Then come back, take out the paper towels and throw those away and using a toilet bowl brush (or if you are brave and have lost your sense of smell by this time, 3M ™ pads work great for this, scrub the inside of the toilet. Clean as a whistle. This even works on those nasty blue stains in the bottom.

It’s harder to perform the same trick on tubs, but you can dilute vinegar and scrub the tub and showers with that – 1/2 cup in a couple of gallons of water will do the trick.

DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT MIX VINEGAR WITH ANY COMMERCIAL CLEANING PRODUCT (or ammonia or chlorine bleach or anything like that), THINKING THAT SOMEHOW YOU WILL PRODUCE SOME SORT OF SUPER-CLEANER. My mom tried that, and we found her unconscious on the kitchen floor. vinegar and water is great. Period.

Cleaning stained aluminum pots and pans: I love my heavy cast aluminum pots. They will outlive me, but sometimes you end up with stains on them or you burn something in them (yes, yes, I know) and you feel they are ruined. Au contraire, mes amis. Just take a half cup of vinegar, put in the pot, put more water in the pot, put on the lid and put on to simmer for 30 minutes (and yes, open the damn windows…). Stains gone.

Want to clean dishes and glassware and don’t want to use ammonia (and you shouldn’t you know) – put a little vinegar into the rinse water (takes the spots off if you live, as we do, in hard water country). Even if you don’t rinse it enough, no one will be poisoned by it. Little ones might end up making a face such as the one on the young lady above, but it is not poisonous, won’t freak up the environment or melt your pipes.

Great stuff. And oh yeah..it’s great for a lot of cooking, too, but that’s another topic for another time.

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One Comment

  1. Shiphrah says:

    Oh yes, Auntie Toby! I’ve discovered the wonders of baking soda and vinegar recently. Cleans drains, counter tops, that icky spill on the kitchen floor. No more toxics under the sink. And the little fizzy action volcano is a great amusement for my grandson. Shout it from the rooftops: you don’t need all that other (toxic!!!) crap!

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