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What Not To Clean With Vinegar

What Not To Clean With Vinegar
June 30, 2024

Distilled white vinegar is a great cleaner for many jobs from washing windows to removing salt from shoes. Vinegar has acetic acid which is what gives it its cleaning power but also its potential to damage. Multi-purpose doesn’t mean all-purpose and when it comes to cleaning with vinegar there are some common household items and materials that can be damaged by vinegar. And when mixed with other cleaning agents like chlorine bleach the acid in vinegar can create toxic reactions.

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While vinegar is cheap, non-toxic and readily available it’s not a one-size-fits-all all solution to every cleaning problem. Alternatives like dishwashing liquid are often better for certain items.

So, let's get to it. Here is a list of what you should never clean with vinegar to avoid damage.

Anything That Contains Chlorine Bleach

When you mix chlorine bleach with vinegar it creates a chemical reaction that produces toxic chlorine gas. This first rule of what not to clean with vinegar is a bit of an outlier but it’s the most important one which is why we’re putting it first. Never mix chlorine bleach or products that contain chlorine bleach with vinegar ever. Period.

Marble, Granite and Other Natural Stone Surfaces

Marble, granite, and other natural stone surfaces like slate, whether used as home finishes like countertops, floors, and shower walls or household items like tabletops or serving pieces, should not be cleaned with vinegar. The acid in vinegar can dull and damage stone countertops and stone surfaces, causing pitting, loss of shine, and potential damage to any sealers applied to the stone.

Grout

Unsealed or damaged grout should not be cleaned with vinegar which can etch or wear grout away over time causing it to deteriorate. Sealed grout can be cleaned with vinegar but it’s best to avoid it in favour of non acidic cleaners to weaken it.

Stainless Steel

When it comes to cleaning stainless steel knives, cookware and household appliances it’s best to skip vinegar and use a non-acidic cleaner. Instead, use dish soap or dishwashing liquid and warm water to clean stainless steel knives to keep them in good condition. Prolonged exposure especially to the acids in vinegar can cause pitting on stainless steel.

Waxed or Unfinished Wood

Cleaning waxed or unfinished wood with full-strength cleaning vinegar can cause discolouration and should be avoided. Instead, use diluted vinegar or opt for a non-acidic cleaner safe for wood.

Cast Iron

Vinegar can strip away the protective layer of seasoning on cast iron cookware. With prolonged exposure distilled white vinegar can pit the cast iron itself.

Electronics

The screens on TVs, mobile phones, computer monitors and other electronics should never be cleaned with vinegar or with cleaners that contain vinegar as it will damage the anti glare coating. Instead use a mild dish soap mixed with water to clean electronic screens. One of our content creators evaluated these cleaning methods in her tiny Manhattan apartment, emphasizing the importance of using the right cleaning agents.

Rubber Gaskets and Hoses

Prolonged or repeated exposure to vinegar can cause rubber parts like a door seal, gaskets and hoses to disintegrate. Using vinegar as a fabric softener can damage the rubber seals and hoses in washing machines. Check the manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning household appliances like washing machines, refrigerators or dishwashers with vinegar to make sure the type of rubber used in those machines can be safely exposed to vinegar.

Clothes Iron

Steam irons should not be cleaned with vinegar as it can damage the coating inside the chamber. A clothes iron is another example of a household item that may or may not be safe to clean with vinegar depending on its fabrication. Before using vinegar to descale an iron check the user’s manual to make sure it won’t damage the metal components irreparably.

Pet Messes

Vinegar is not good for cleaning pet messes, especially on soft surfaces like carpet, upholstered furniture or mattresses. It’s not effective in removing food stains from clothes. Strong chemical odours may encourage your pet to reinforce the urine scent mark in that area. Instead, use an enzyme-based cleaner to clean pet messes.

Instead, you can read our guide on how to clean pet messes from your carpets.

Hardwood Floors

Vinegar can dull the finish of hardwood floors and if not diluted can damage the wood by breaking down the protective sealant and cause discoloration.

Washing Machines

While vinegar can be used occasionally, frequent use can damage the rubber seals and hoses inside washing machines and cause leaks and malfunctions.

Waxed Furniture

Vinegar can dissolve the wax on waxed furniture and destroy the finish on wood furniture making the wood more prone to damage and giving it a dull cloudy look. This removes the protective layer and leaves the surface unprotected against scratches and stains.

Electronic Screens

The acidity in vinegar can damage the coatings on electronic screens and cause streaking making the screen harder to see and potentially causing long term damage.

Knives

Vinegar can corrode the metal of knives especially if they are made of high carbon steel. For a safer alternative, use dish soap or dishwashing liquid and warm water to clean kitchen knives and keep them in good condition. It can also damage the handle if it’s made of wood or other sensitive materials.

Dishwasher

Using vinegar in the dishwasher regularly can deteriorate the rubber seals and gaskets and cause leaks. It can also leave a strong smell that’s hard to remove.

Egg Spills

Vinegar can react with the proteins in eggs and cause them to coagulate and make the spill harder to clean.

Mirrors

Vinegar can seep behind the mirror and corrode the backing and cause dark spots and a damaged reflective surface.

Refrigerator

While vinegar can be used on some refrigerator surfaces, don’t use it on rubber seals and certain internal parts as it can damage them.

Porcelain Tile

While vinegar is less likely to damage porcelain tile, it can still weaken the grout and cause it to deteriorate over time.

Aluminum

Vinegar can oxidize aluminium and cause discolouration and pitting on the surface. It can also weaken the metal over time.

Grease

While vinegar can cut through some grease, it’s not as effective as other cleaners and can leave a residue. It also lacks the surfactants to break down and remove grease.

In conclusion, while distilled white vinegar is an effective and versatile cleaner, it can damage certain materials like marble, granite, stainless steel, cast iron, rubber gaskets, and electronic screens. It should never be mixed with chlorine bleach due to toxic reactions.

To avoid costly repairs and maintain the quality of your household items, use vinegar cautiously and appropriately. For expert cleaning that protects your home, contact Crystal Carpet Cleaners today. Trust us to keep your home sparkling clean without risking damage.

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