A staple in any pantry, vinegar is a multitasking wonder with a rich history of use for everything from making pickles to treating war wounds. The ancient Babylonians used it to preserve food; medics during World War I treated wounds with it; and Roman armies diluted it with water to create an everyday antibacterial drink. Today, versatile vinegar is still widely used in food preservation, but its household uses extend well beyond pickling. Thanks to its acidity and neutralizing properties, vinegar can clean, disinfect, soften, shine and more. Use it from the kitchen to the bathroom, in everything from homemade cleaners to hair rinses, to take full advantage of this humble household wonder.
1. Grease Cutter: Vinegar’s acidity lets it cut through grease with ease. Dip a sponge in vinegar and wipe to degrease stovetops, microwaves, dirty dishes and more.
2. Disinfectant: A natural antibacterial, vinegar makes a great base for any nontoxic cleaning solution. For an all-purpose disinfecting solution, dilute 1 part vinegar in 4 parts water and use anywhere germs are found, such as countertops, keyboards, shared phones, doorknobs and remote controls.
3. Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Clean, disinfect and deodorize your toilet by pouring 1 cup of vinegar around the inside of the bowl. Let sit for an hour, use a brush to remove rings, then flush.
4. Drain Cleaner: To keep drains clog-free, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, then follow with 1/2 cup of vinegar. Wait for foaming to subside, then follow with a gallon of boiling water. If necessary, remove hair and other debris with a wire. Repeat if drain is still slow.
5. Glass Cleaner: For a streak-free shine, combine 2 cups water, 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Spritz onto mirrors, then wipe down with old newspapers.
6. Residue Remover: Clean the glue residue that labels and stickers leave behind by wiping the sticky surface with a rag dipped in a vinegar-water solution.
7. Hair Rinse: Shampoos and other hair products can leave behind residue, making hair lackluster. Remove buildup by diluting 2 tablespoons vinegar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice in 3 cups water and mixing well. After shampooing, pour rinse over hair before rinsing with water. The vinegar will close the cuticle and leave hair soft and shiny.
8. Furniture Polish: Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in a spray bottle. Shake well before use, and refrigerate any leftover solution to keep it from going rancid.
9. Stain Remover: Purge grass stains and blood spots by whipping up your own natural stain remover. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda and 3 cups water in a spray bottle. Just spray on the stain and toss clothing into the laundry!
10. Laundry Softener: Conventional fabric softener stays in clothing, where a buildup can cause irritation, but vinegar breaks down and dissolves detergents. For softer clothes, towels and sheets, just add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.
11. Dandruff Preventive: Vinegar’s acidity can help kill some of the bacteria responsible for causing dandruff. Rinsing with vinegar can also deep-clean the scalp and help remove flakes of dead skin cells. For a no-dandruff rinse, mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried leaves) and 1 cup boiling water. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, strain, then pour over scalp after shampooing. Rinse treatment from hair with water.
12. Wart Killer: To remove unsightly warts, dip a cotton ball in vinegar, place over wart and secure with a bandage. Change the cotton ball daily. The acid in vinegar will eat away at the wart over time. (Be sure to keep the skin around the wart moisturized.)
13. Breath Freshener: Eliminate bad breath by rinsing with 2 tablespoons vinegar and 1 tablespoon salt diluted in 1 cup water. This rinse is especially effective at removing onion and garlic odors.
14. Paintbrush Softener: Make stiff paintbrushes useful again by dipping hardened bristles in a bowl of vinegar for an hour or less. Rinse the bristles with warm water and soap, then let dry before using.
15. Greens Reviver: Leafy greens looking wilted? Soak them in a bath of 2 cups cold water and 1/2 teaspoon vinegar to bring them back to life.
16. Egg Aid: When hard-boiling eggs, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the water to prevent egg white from seeping out of cracks in the shell.
17. Rust Remover: Revive rusted nuts, bolts, nails or tools by soaking them in a bath of pure vinegar for several hours. If the solution becomes cloudy, change the vinegar. After soaking, wipe away rust with a cloth.
Versatile Vinegar: Buyer Beware
Not all vinegar is created equal. While all vinegars require ethanol for production, some vinegars are made with synthetically produced ethanol made from petroleum. Check the label before you buy for words like “grain alcohol” or “neutral grain spirits” to ensure you’re buying a product made from natural food sources.