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White vinegar for cleaning: vinegar uses and tips

White vinegar is a household product you can use for a variety of things! Go for the natural option and find out uses & tips for cleaning with vinegar here.

Distilled white vinegar can be used in many different ways around the home. But how do you know when to use white vinegar and when to use commercial cleaning products? As versatile as it is, white vinegar can’t be used for everything. Here are four recommended uses for white vinegar cleaning, and four situations where you should use commercial cleaning products instead.

When to Use Vinegar for Cleaning

As a non-toxic, natural cleaning agent, white vinegar is particularly good for odd little jobs where either commercial cleaning products don’t exist, or they contain chemicals that may be less eco-friendly or less healthy for a house with small children. Here are four examples:

  1. Dealing with odours – Instead of using a commercial air freshener to cover up an unpleasant odour, vinegar can clean the air of the offensive smell – although its own odour will be temporarily rather pungent.
  • Fill a microwaveable bowl with 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup of water, and microwave it to boiling point for 2-3 minutes. It’ll clear any odours from your microwave. Be careful when using this method, as the liquid and bowl will be hot, so wait until the bowl has cooled down before removing from the microwave.
  • Or, soak a sponge in diluted white vinegar, wipe down the inside of your conventional oven, rinse with water, and air-dry – and your oven will be odour-free. You don’t want chemicals from a commercial air freshener on your cooking surfaces anyway, as they will contaminate your food.
  1. Combating limescale – The natural acids in vinegar can break down limescale and hard water deposits on surfaces that may come in contact with your food or body. This makes it a suitable alternative if you can’t get your hands on a more powerful commercial cleaning product.
  • Boil a diluted solution of white vinegar in a kettle and let it soak overnight to dissolve any limescale inside. Rinse the kettle out thoroughly with cold water before using to remove the limescale residue.
  • If your shower head is clogged with limescale, unscrew it, and soak it overnight in a bowl of water mixed with vinegar.
  1. Added to laundry for an extra kick – While vinegar will never be enough to clean clothes on its own, it does help to brighten colours and eliminate odours if used alongside a good quality laundry detergent like Persil small & mighty.
  • Add 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse in your washing machine, and it can brighten colours, flush soap residue, remove strange odours, and reduce static cling! Just be sure never to combine vinegar with bleach, as that will create chlorine gas, which is toxic.
  1. Dissolving sticky residue from adhesives – Ever peel off a sticker or price tag, only to have a sticky residue ruin the surface of an intended gift or household item? Simply soak a rag with vinegar, let it sit on the sticky residue for 15-20 minutes, wipe away, and surface will be shiny and new! 

When Not to Use Vinegar for Cleaning

Vinegar cleaning isn’t suitable for all situations. Here are some important examples of when vinegar can damage your health or household – in these cases, be sure to use the appropriate commercial cleaning product instead!

  1. Vinegar is not a substitute for soap – As useful as it is, vinegar is an acid, and many soaps and alkaline cleaners (like dishwashing liquid) are the only products that can really lift grease from your dishes. Similarly, Persil small & mighty will wash dirt and grease from your clothes, but vinegar will only bring an additional kick to your laundry cycle.
  2. Vinegar should be not used on aluminium and cast iron pans – These metals are reactive surfaces that will actually be damaged by vinegar. Always use a commercial dishwashing liquid like Persil Washing Up Liquid to clean your dishes, and if you must use vinegar to break down limescale or soap scum, only use it on stainless steel and enamelled cast iron cookware.
  3. Vinegar should not be used on waxed surfaces – Vinegar will actually strip away wax, leaving a surface dull. Never use vinegar on a waxed car, and for varnished wooden floors, specialised floor products like Cif Wood Floor Cleaner Camomile should be used instead.
  4. Vinegar should never be combined with bleach – This is a big no-no in vinegar cleaning. While vinegar can help to clean in many situations, adding an acid like this to bleach will result in chlorine gas, which is toxic. So use a commercial bleach like Domestos Bleach Spray on its own, far away from any vinegar. Always read the directions on the label and test any product in a small area before use.

These examples should give you a good idea of when to use white vinegar for cleaning – and when not to. Now you know how to balance using the nearly-all-purpose cleaning agent of vinegar with specially designed commercial cleaning products, you can maintain a healthy, eco-friendly household with ease!

For more information on the ingredients in products mentioned in this tip, visit What’s in Unilever Products here.

Top Tip


White vinegar has many uses, but no product is infallible. Do a quick spot test on a small, unnoticeable area of any surface to ensure that this method is safe.

Safety Warning


Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.