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How to Clean with Vinegar: Easy Ways to Use This Pantry Staple

Dishwashing liquid dripping on a stain; a jug of vinegar with cleaning supplies; a spray bottle beside a sink
Dawn/Lucy’s/Sally’s Organics

Whether you’ve got a minor stain to tackle or need to do a major clean of your whole house, you probably already have the ingredient that can make it all easy: white vinegar.

When it comes to household cleaning, it’s hard to match the power of vinegar. The acidity of vinegar is powerful enough to tackle all your common household cleaning needs, from lifting stains out of your favorite clothes to breaking down residue on faucets, floors, and appliances. We’ve rounded up some of the most useful ways you can use this affordable pantry staple to get your home clean without having to buy and store (and smell) a ton of harsh chemical solvents. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker with Vinegar

A drip coffee maker; a bottle of vinegar next to cleaning supplies
Black + Decker/Lucy’s

You probably clean your coffee maker every day with a basic wipe down and wash. To continue to get great-tasting coffee all the time, however, you need to do a deeper clean about once a month. White vinegar is the key ingredient in this process.

The process, also known as descaling, is actually super easy. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix together equal parts water and white vinegar.
  2. Pour the mixture into your machine’s reservoir.
  3. Run a full brew cycle.
  4. Repeat once.
  5. Clean all the removable parts, like the brew basket and carafe.
  6. Run at least two cycles with clear water to remove any residual vinegar.

Lucy's Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar

Leave surfaces clean and disinfected with this simple ingredient.

BLACK+DECKER 12-Cup Thermal Coffeemaker

Keep your coffee maker clean and it will keep you well caffeinated.

How to Clean Your Floors with Vinegar

A glass spray bottle by a kitchen sink; a mop and bucket
Sally’s Organics/O-Cedar

Need a DIY floor cleaner without the harsh chemical smell? A white vinegar solution gets your wood and tile floors sparkling clean without chemicals that can strip the surface and leave unpleasant odors behind.

Cleaning tile floors requires just two ingredients (water and vinegar) and these easy steps:

  1. Take a one-gallon bucket and fill most of the way with warm or hot water.
  2. Add 1 cup of white vinegar. Mix until well diluted.
  3. Using a mop that doesn’t come with its own mopping fluid, your floors with this vinegar solution.
  4. Mop again with clear, warm water to rinse.

For cleaning hardwood floors, you’ll want to mix up a solution that both cleans and conditions the wood. Try a solution that combines oil and vinegar, like this:

  1. In a spray bottle, mix equal parts white vinegar and plain vegetable oil.
  2. Spritz the floor, working in small sections.
  3. Mop using gentle, circular motions.

Clear Glass Spray Bottles 2 Pack

Mix your cleaning solutions in these handy bottles.

How to Clean Your Clothes with Vinegar

Vinegar is a helpful ingredient for a number of DIY laundry hacks, including refreshing clothes that have an unpleasant or musty smell. While you’ll still need laundry detergent in the end to actually “wash” your clothes, adding vinegar as one step in the cleaning process works wonders to remove odors—and actually removes them, rather than just masking them.

If you have clothes that have been in storage for a while (or got forgotten in the washing machine) and have developed an odor, vinegar can help. Try this process to deodorize your laundry:

  1. Load the washing machine with your clothes.
  2. Add 1 quart of white vinegar.
  3. Run a cycle using warm or hot water (depending on the care labels on the clothes in question), but no detergent.
  4. Run through a second cycle, using detergent as normal.

Tide Free & Gentle Laundry Detergent

Gentle, unscented detergent cleans without depositing more residue.

How to Remove Stains with Vinegar

A bottle of dish soap dripping on a stain; a bottle of laundry detergent sitting in a laundry basket
Dawn/Seventh Generation

Vinegar is one of the most versatile DIY stain removers out there. Whether you’re tackling upholstery, carpets, or clothing, variations on a white vinegar solution can make a big difference, all without expensive or harsh chemical products.

There are several different “recipes” for vinegar stain-fighting solutions, each with different strengths. For tackling odorous stains, like pet stains on carpet, try a solution pairing vinegar with baking soda for odor-lifting fizzing power.

Make your stain-fighting solution using this process:

  1. In a spray bottle, mix 1 cup of water, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 3 teaspoons of baking soda.
  2. Spray the solution all over the stain and the area immediately surrounding it.
  3. Let the solution sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Blot with a clean paper towel or cloth, and then repeat if necessary.

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

This pantry staple is a top-tier stain fighter.

Cleaning upholstery also requires particular care, since stains can’t be submerged for removal and any lingering stains or damage will likely be very visible. You can try two different methods: combining vinegar with dish soap or with rubbing alcohol.

For the dish soap method, follow these steps:

  1. Combine 1 cup each of white vinegar and water. Make sure the water is cool to room temperature—warm or hot water just sets stains further.
  2. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap.
  3. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and blot the stain. Start from the edges and work inward toward the center of the stained area.
  4. Blot with a fresh, damp cloth to remove any detergent residue.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 if necessary.

Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid

Lift stains out of any material.

If you’re dealing with a tannin-based stain (such as cranberries or red wine), a rubbing alcohol solution may work better. Try this process:

  1. In a plastic (not metal) bowl, mix 2/3 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.
  2. Dip a clean cloth into the solution, then blot the stain gently.
  3. Once the stain has been lifted, blot the area again with a clean cloth and clear, cool water.

Dealmed Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol 70%

Remove tough stains with the combined power of vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

For stains on clothes, towels, or other fabric items that can be fully submerged or laundered in a machine, try this process instead:

  1. In a sink or bucket, mix a solution using 4 cups of cool water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent.
  2. Fully submerge the item and let soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with clear, cool water.
  4. Run through the laundry as you normally would.

Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent

Gentle and scent-free for cleaning without leaving residue.

How to Clean Your Washing Machine with Vinegar

Clothes themselves aren’t the only thing in your laundry room that can be cleaned with vinegar. From time to time, it’s important to clean your washing machine itself to avoid a buildup of odors, bacteria, and other things that you definitely don’t want getting on your clothes.

For a simple cleaning cycle, just follow these steps:

  1. Leave your machine empty, and set it to run a hot cycle.
  2. Put 2 cups of white vinegar in the drum.
  3. After the cycle completes, use a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts warm water and wipe down the corners of the machine. Pay particular attention to the opening of the door or lid of the machine, as well as the bump or lip just inside the opening.
  4. Run another empty, hot cycle, this one just with water.
  5. Leave the door or lid open for a few hours to let any remaining water evaporate.

How to Clean Faucets with Vinegar

A woman wearing yellow gloves dipping a rag in a jar of vinegar

At some point, pretty much every faucet or showerhead develops a buildup of minerals and other “gunk.” When left too long, the buildups can affect the water flow and just looks dirty.

Letting vinegar saturate the area can work wonders for removing the mineral buildup. Just follow these steps:

  1. Saturate paper towels with pure white vinegar.
  2. Wrap the saturated paper towels against the faucet or showerhead, ensuring that it wraps closely around the mineral buildup area.
  3. Place a plastic baggie around the wrapped faucet and secure everything with a rubber band.
  4. Let sit for approximately 1 hour.
  5. Remove and wipe down with a clean, damp paper towel or sponge.

Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels

Paper towels and vinegar form an easy DIY solution for mineral deposits.

Ziploc Sandwich and Snack Bags

Seal in the cleaning solution with a plastic baggie.

Amazon Basics Assorted Size and Color Rubber Bands, 0.5 lb.

Easy to use for securing your cleaning setup.

Instead of stocking up on specialty cleaning products, you can streamline your cleaning routine by learning the best ways to use white vinegar to get things spotless. Your house—and your wallet—will thank you!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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