How Vinegar Kills Bacteria In Your Home

Vinegar is one of the staple cleaning products I have in my cupboard. I love it because it is natural, non-toxic, cheap and doesn’t make me want to choke like commercial cleaning sprays often do.

Yes, vinegar does have a smell, but personally, I don’t mind it. The odour quickly wears off, unlike a bleach smell that seems to linger for hours.

As well as a good cleaner, vinegar is known to kill bacteria and germs too. Granted, it isn’t EPA approved but it has been proven to kill nasties like Staphylococcus responsible for skin infections.

The bottom line is if you need your surfaces to be medically safe then don’t rely on vinegar, use something like bleach instead which is known to be more effective.

In my home, the only place I will use bleach is in the toilet bowl and plug holes, otherwise, my go-to cleaner is a combination of dish soap, microfibre cloths and vinegar for extra protection.

What is vinegar?

different types of vinegar Pin

Vinegar is produced by bacterial fermentation of sugars and starches in organic matter. It is a cheap, biodegradable and non-toxic way to clean your home.

How does vinegar work?

For centuries, people have been using vinegar to clean their homes.

Vinegar is a weak acidic solution. It’s good because it cleans and disinfects, it’s cheap and it doesn’t smell too bad.

Different types of vinegar are made in different ways. The most common type, white vinegar, is made from grain-based ethanol which is converted to acetic acid and diluted to achieve a 5% acid content.

It is the acetic acid that contributes to the characteristic aroma of vinegar as well as its role in preserving food and disinfection.

What type of vinegar is best to use for cleaning?

Vinegar can be made from anything with sugar but white distilled vinegar is the best kind to use as a cleaner because it is the purest.

The American Vinegar Association says a gallon of distilled white vinegar has three times as much acetic acid as a gallon of wine.

Vinegar is made from a fermentation process that can take up to two years and then distilled or filtered to remove impurities. It has been used for centuries both in cooking and cleaning.

Originally vinegar was used for pickling, marinating and as medicine, but later people started using it to clean their homes.

How does vinegar kill bacteria?

Vinegar is composed of 5% acetic acid, which is why it can be used to kill germs. It’s the acetic acid in vinegar that kills off bacteria and viruses by chemically breaking their proteins and fats.

Important things to note:

  • Vinegar needs 30 minutes to kill
  • Vinegar doesn’t kill the Covid 19 virus.
  • Vinegar should not be mixed with bleach as it causes a dangerous toxic vapour

Can vinegar be used as a disinfectant?

vinegar for cleaning Pin

According to the science-based environmental non-profit foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation, household white vinegar is about 80% effective at killing germs.

It’s important to note that vinegar is not an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) registered disinfectant or sanitiser, which means you can’t count on vinegar to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses as you can for commercial products.

However, there is some good news because vinegar has been proven to kill tuberculosis and staphylococcus bacteria and fungal infections. Staphylococcus bacteria is the leading cause of skin infections even at hospitals. It is also often found in wounds, boils, pus-filled spots and ringworm which causes round scaly patches to grow on your skin.

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You’ll need to clean up first to kill more germs

wipe down surfaces with a microfibre cloth Pin

Germs need something to feed on! Give vinegar a head start by wiping down surfaces with soap and water or a microfiber cloth to make sure dirt is removed before you apply it.

Microfiber cloths are especially great at wiping up oils and sticky messes which is why I love using them to save money on cleaning products.

If you clean up first then there are fewer bacteria for vinegar to deal with which means the number of pathogens reduce to undetectable levels.

Vinegar VS Bleach

Always go for bleach over vinegar if you need to kill most of the bacteria. Vinegar kills less, but here are some important distinctions.

  • Vinegar is biodegradable, non-toxic and fairly cheap to buy.
  • Bleach doesn’t remove soap scum as well as vinegar.
  • Bleach doesn’t remove mildew stains and odours like vinegar does. Bleach only masks the odour of mildew, not the root cause of it.
  • Bleach is harder on wood and fabrics than vinegar. According to the USDA, bleach can ruin wood finishes and dye laundry items.
  • Bleach is safer to use than vinegar around kids and pets because it doesn’t have an overwhelming odour as vinegar does.
  • Vinegar doesn’t need to be rinsed like bleach does so it is easier and faster to use.
  • Bleach is weaker than vinegar so you have to work harder with bleach than vinegar.

Vinegar also has a deodorizing effect due to its acidic nature. This makes it useful for removing the musty odours and mildew growth commonly found in basements, as well as carpets and clothing that have gone unwashed for too long.

Important to note: Never mix vinegar and bleach because the two together produce dangerous toxic vapours.

How to clean with vinegar

Vinegar can be used as a cleaner and as a decent disinfectant, though note that its disinfectant ability isn’t as good as commercial cleaners.

Vinegar is great for cleaning things like:

  • Kitchen and bathroom counters – To disinfect and deodorize your kitchen counters, fill a spray bottle with ¼ cup white vinegar and 2 cups of water. Spray onto your countertops and wait 10 minutes before wiping down with a microfiber cloth.
  • Dishwasher – To deodorize and clean a dishwasher: Fill your dishwasher with 1 cup of white vinegar and run on a hot cycle with no dishes inside. (Your dishes will be stained.)
  • Wine glasses – To remove wine rings from wine glasses, use 1 teaspoon of white vinegar per glass, fill with water and stir with a spoon.
  • Stainless steel – To clean stainless steel, wipe with a vinegar-soaked cloth.
  • Jars – To clean jars, fill with vinegar and put in the oven on low for about 10 minutes. Let them cool completely before removing them from the oven. The jars will be easier to clean, and you’ll get rid of any odours they may have picked up while in storage.
  • Microwave – To clean your microwave, fill a microwave-safe bowl with water and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar. Cook for 2 minutes. Let stand in the microwave for 10 minutes. Wipe clean, and enjoy!
  • Cutting boards – To get rid of the smell from wooden cutting boards, soak them in a mixture of ½ cup vinegar and ¼ cup water. Leave for 20 minutes and dry.
  • Toilet bowl – To clean your toilet bowl: Use 1 cup of white vinegar added to the water in your toilet tank and let it stand for an hour before flushing.
  • Washing machine – Add vinegar to your washing machine and run a cycle to clean the drum and pipes.

How to make vinegar cleaner

It’s super easy to make your own vinegar cleaner! Just add the following ingredients to a spray bottle.

  • 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • a couple of drops of essential oil (optional)

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Hi, I'm Penny. A frugal mum of two boys, with the aim to enjoy life to the full.