Vinegar is often touted as the magical liquid fit for every job. It can remove mold, soothe a rash or sunburn, and make your toilet bowl shine. The humble liquid can also help prevent the spread of infections like the flu when used properly. But the praised cleaner can’t do everything. Here are nine times to put down the bottle and look for another cleaning solution.
CLEAN STONE COUNTERTOPS
Don’t ruin your beautiful countertops or stone tiles with vinegar! Vinegar is 5 percent acetic acid, and that’s enough to damage or etch your marble, granite, limestone, travertine, or concrete tiles. Vinegar can also remove the sealant on your countertops or tile and make it more prone to future stains. Instead, wash with a simple soap and water solution. Check with the manufacturer before using vinegar on man-made countertops like quartz.
REMOVE SPILLED EGG
Dried-on egg or spilled yogurt can be a pain to clean up, but add vinegar to the mix and you’ll be scrubbing for even longer. The acidity of the vinegar makes the proteins coagulate and stubbornly stick to the surface. Keep vinegar away from any protein-based messes.
SCRUB TILE AND GROUT
Be careful using vinegar on tiles—it’s great for removing mold stains and soap residue, but it can also break down your grout. That’s because vinegar reacts to the cement within grout, causing it to dissolve. The stronger the vinegar solution, the more damage that may be done. You can safely clean sealed grout with a diluted vinegar solution—just be sure to test it on a small area first to see if it etches the tile or removes the sealant.
IN THE WASH... BUT NO BLEACH PLEASE
Between tough stains and musty towels, it seems like a great idea to add a little odor-neutralizing vinegar to the wash. But before you do, make sure you don’t have any bleach in your load. Combining vinegar and bleach creates deadly chlorine gas. It can also ruin your clothes by creating hydrochloric acid, which is highly corrosive. Likewise, oxygen bleach should not be used with vinegar. The peroxide in the oxygen bleach combines with vinegar to make peracetic acid, an acid so strong that it’s used to sterilize medical equipment
It makes an excellent glass cleaner, so it makes sense to try to clean your touchscreen or computer with vinegar. But doing so may remove the protective oleophobic coating from the screens. Instead, just buff your devices with a slightly damp microfiber cloth, and stay away from vinegars or other cleansers.
KILL PESTS ON PLANTS
Vinegar-maker Heinz recommends using vinegar to deter ants and remove other insects; however, this should be used with care out in the garden. Vinegar is a well known weed killer, which means that spraying or spilling it on your plants could easily harm or kill them. Stick to indoors or the perimeter of the house to protect plants and get the pest removal benefits.
SCRUB YOUR POTS
Your homemade dish detergent or anti-spot rinse that includes vinegar may work great to cut the grease and make your dishes shine, but they can damage your pots. Cast iron and aluminum pots may corrode when exposed to vinegar, and it will also remove your hard-earned seasoning on your cast iron cookware. However, vinegar is safe to use on stainless steel and enameled cast iron pots.
MIX WITH CASTILE SOAP
Castile soap and vinegar are the holy grail of green cleaning—until you mix them together. Vinegar breaks down the castile soap and reverses the soap’s saponification. When mixed, you’re left with an oily, curdled liquid that won’t clean very well. But don’t fret! You can still use both. Simply wash with one, rinse, and wash with the other to get the maximum power out of both.
REMOVE DYE STAINS OR COLOR TRANSFERS
We’ve all had our favorite white T-shirt ruined by a pair of dark jeans or accidentally turned our socks a sad shade of pink. But don’t look to vinegar to fix this one—it will actually make the color permanent. On the plus side, adding vinegar to a load with a new pair of jeans or other colored clothing can help set the dye and prevent it from coming out all over your clothes in the first place.