Spring Cleaning on a Budget

Cynthia Ross Cravit | March 24th, 2017

Gearing up to tackle the grimy grill, the smelly fridge and other cleaning chores? Buying this one product for your domestic to-do list could save you big at the supermarket.

Time to tackle those cleaning chores on your domestic to-do list? You’ve probably noticed that a trip down the cleaning supplies aisle can add big bucks to your grocery bill. So before you reach for the pricy all-purpose cleaners, toss a few bottles of distilled white vinegar in your cart instead.

The simple, unpretentious bottle of vinegar actually has an illustrious past. According to legend, Helen of Troy bathed in it, Cleopatra dissolved pearls in it (to prove she could consume a fortune in a single meal) and Caesar’s armies enjoyed it as a beverage.

Because of its mildly acidic nature, vinegar is also a natural sanitizer and an effective remedy for removing stubborn stains, food smells and hard-water residue from most appliances and home furnishings, experts say. Here are a few tips from Consumer Reports:

Think vinegar for household cleaning

The culprit: A grimy grill

The solution: Use a non-scouring nylon brush and a solution of water and distilled vinegar (in equal parts) to remove stubborn stains, discoloration and corrosion on painted or porcelain surfaces. (For stainless steel, use a mild dishwashing soap instead.)

The culprit : A dirty dishwasher

The solution: To get rid of residue inside your dishwasher, place a container with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar in the bottom rack. Run a normal cycle (but without drying).

The culprit: A befouled fridge

The solution: Thoroughly sanitizing a dirty fridge requires several steps, experts say. First wash thoroughly with hot water and detergent (preferably with chlorine beach or baking soda). Remove unpleasant smells by wiping with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water.

The culprit: A clogged coffeemaker

The solution: Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to your coffeemaker. Run it through a regular brewing cycle to clean out the dregs. (Tip: You can also use the same process for your washing machine.)

The culprit : A crusty shower head

The solution: If a grungy shower head is giving you a weak (and potentially unsanitary) shower, unscrew the shower head and give it a good soak in a container filled with distilled white vinegar.

The culprit: Messy wood furniture

The solution: Mix 6 teaspoons of light olive oil with 3 cups of distilled white vinegar in a 1-quart spray bottle, and blend well. Spray the cleaner onto the wood surface and then wipe with a damp cloth. Finish drying with a clean, lint-free cloth. (Note: This solution should only be used on sealed wood.)

The culprit: Stained wood floors

The solution: Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to a pail of hot water to clean wood floors.

The culprit: Soda-spilled carpets

The solution: First blot the stain with a solution of 1 teaspoon of a mild clear or white dishwashing liquid (with no bleach) in 1 cup of warm water. Then blot with a vinegar solution of one-third cup distilled white vinegar with two-thirds cup water. Finally, rinse with warm water. (Note: If a trace remains, experts advise dabbing with a mix of water and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.)

The culprit: A moldy humidifier

The solution: Descale your humidifier by wiping it down with a vinegar solution. Experts say you may also want to disinfect with bleach. (Check the owner’s manual for specifics on how — and how often — to clean your humidifier.)

While it’s effective for the big jobs, keep in mind that vinegar is a natural and inexpensive disinfectant for everyday use on just about any surface. (Do not use on marble.) Simply prepare a water-vinegar solution (equal parts water and vinegar, or two parts vinegar to one part water, depending on who you listen to) and mix it in a spray bottle for a cheaper — and less toxic — way to keep your home sparkling clean. (For more ideas, try our article on making your own natural cleaners.)

And in case there’s any doubt on vinegar’s versatility, consider using it to:

— Remove tough fruit stains (like cherries) from your hands.

— Absorb unpleasant room odours by setting vinegar out in a bowl. (You can reduce the ‘vinegar smell’ by adding fragrant spices like cardamom.)

— Clean coffee stains from china. (Use a mixture of salt and vinegar for this.)

— Make the microwave spotless by mixing 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Simply bring it to a full boil inside the microwave, and baked-on food will be loosened and odors will disappear. Wipe clean.

— Get rid of fruit flies by setting out a small bowl of undiluted white vinegar.

— Remove gummy labels from jars or clean ‘sticky’ scissors.

— Polish mirrors and chrome sink fixtures.

— Kill unsightly weeds. (Spray a solution of full strength vinegar for this one.)

— Keep your windows frost-free on winter mornings by spraying them with a vinegar solution the night before.

What’s your favourite use for vinegar? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: Consumer Reports; Wisebread.com; Vinegartips.com