By Jennifer Noonan
10 Handy Household Uses for Vinegar
If you think vinegar is just for salads, think again. Here are 10 practical and easy ways to improve your household with vinegar—from cleaning tiles to repelling insects.
Unclog a Drain
Clear a clogged drain by pouring a 1/2 cup of baking soda into it, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. It will bubble and foam, and once that stops, ﬂush the drain with hot water. About 5 minutes later, rinse with cold water. This approach is effective, non-toxic, and less damaging to your pipes (and wallet!) than commercial drain cleaners.
Control Insects in the Garden
Create an earth-friendly insect trap by filling a closed container with a cup of apple cider vinegar. Add in small slices of banana peel and 1 cup of cold water, and then shake. Poke holes around the top and place it on the kitchen counter near a fruit fly infestation. You’ll be catching critters in no time. Discard the trap and replace it with a new one when it gets, um, too gross.
Wash Your Dishwasher
Your dishwasher washes all the food off your dishes. But who washes the dishwasher? You can, by pouring 1 cup of vinegar into the bottom of the tub and running it through a cycle without any dishes. Doing this once every month or two will remove built-up soap residue and keep it in squeaky clean shape.
Clean Your Shower Heads
Got a clogged shower head? Put boiling water in a bowl with a 1/2 cup of vinegar. Soak the shower head for 10 minutes and watch those clogs disappear. If you can’t remove the head, partly ﬁll a plastic bag with full-strength vinegar and tape it over the ﬁxture. Let it sit for an hour and remove, and you’ll be shower-ready!
Renew rusty tools by soaking them in full-strength vinegar for several days. Once the rust dissipates, rinse and dry them well. This method also works well for screws and bolts.
Clean Your Wood Floors
Wash your hardwood or pre-ﬁnished ﬂoors the old-fashioned way. Add a 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of hot water and mop or scrub as usual (make sure to barely wet your mop or cloth). Dry the ﬂoor completely with a towel afterward -- standing water is the enemy! Don’t try this technique on waxed ﬂoors because it will strip off the wax ﬁnish. To lessen the smell of vinegar, add a drop or two of essential oil to your mix. Lemon- or lavender-scented oils are excellent options.
Cleaning Dried Paint Brushes
Don’t throw that synthetic brush away just because it’s caked with dried paint. Soak it in a cup of vinegar until the bristles loosen up. Then wash it in warm, soapy water. Still stuck together? Boil it in vinegar for 10 minutes and follow up with another soapy water bath. Your brush should return to its old pliable, useful self.
Remove Smoke Odors
Tar and resin from cigarette smoke can stick to furniture and leave an odor long after the smoke evaporates. To break through and eliminate that icky residue, spray orange-infused vinegar onto hard surfaces, let it sit and then wipe it down with a dry cloth. You may need to repeat the process a few times if the situation is super stinky. Avoid spraying onto fabrics.
Clean Ceramic Tile
Make your own cleaning solution to freshen up dingy tiles around tubs and sinks. Just add a 1/2 cup vinegar, a 1/2 cup ammonia, and a 1/4 cup borax to a gallon of water. Scrub ‘em up, and let ‘em shine! Rinse thoroughly with water and allow to air dry.
Test Your Soil
You can do a quick and cheap test for excess alkalinity in your soil by putting some dirt in a container and pouring about a 1/2 cup of vinegar into it. If it ﬁzzes or bubbles up, it’s too alkaline. Simply add peat moss or sulfur to make your soil pH more neutral.