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Cleaning Myths Debunked: Vinegar

Category: Cleaning Tips

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In the realm of DIY cleaning solutions, vinegar may be the One True King. But, aside from that sharpish, unpleasant smell it leaves behind, vinegar rarely cleans anything and has the potential to do great damage. Here are five vinegar myths debunked:

Myth #1 Vinegar is a great cleaner.
False Vinegar has no detergents to lift away dirt or dissolve oils, meaning it’s not actually a cleaner. Household vinegar is, in fact, a 5% dilution of acetic acid with a relatively strong pH of 3. For perspective, water is pH 7 (neutral) and hydrochloric acid is pH 1. Vinegar may start as fermenting corn, but after distillation and other factory processes, it ends as a strong chemical.

Myth #2 Vinegar makes things squeaky clean.
False Not anymore! Back in Ye Olden Days, when people used to clean with real soap (the highly alkaline kind made from boiled fat and lye—yikes!) it left a slippery, soapy residue that was tough to rinse off. Adding acid (vinegar) to rinse water helped, so the positive association between vinegar and squeaky clean was born. But, unlike old-fashioned soaps, modern detergents don’t leave residues, so the need for an acid-rinse step has disappeared. Sadly, the vinegar myth has remained.

Myth #3 Vinegar is a disinfectant.
False Vinegar is unpleasant for germs, but not nearly deadly enough to be a disinfectant. Undiluted vinegar has been shown to kill only 90% of bacteria and 80% of viruses and mold, and that’s after a nice long soak with undiluted vinegar. When diluted and mixed with other soaps, vinegar’s germ-killing properties become even weaker. While 90% might be a good grade on a test, it’s an absolute FAIL in terms of killing serious germs that can make you sick.

Myth #4 Vinegar and water is the safest wood-floor cleaner.
False No, just no. Old fashioned wax floor finishes used to become easily scratched and dull, so people would use oil soaps to polish and improve their appearance. As you can imagine, this was a slippery business. Thanks to Myth #2, people believed that rinsing with acidic vinegar removed slippery residues, thus another bad cleaning idea was born. Fast forward to today: polyurethane—used to seal virtually all modern wood floors—prevents wood from absorbing both water and oils, making oil-based soaps even more slippery and hazardous. But, vinegar, even when highly diluted, softens polyurethane, slowly ruining a floor’s finish and making it even more susceptible to water damage and scratches. Even worse, since it lacks detergents, vinegar leaves behind the dirt and grit that make floor scratches happen even faster!

Myth #5 Vinegar is a great bathroom cleaner.
Mostly False Okay, yes, sometimes, but only with help! Vinegar’s acidity can dissolve calcium and magnesium, which make up hard-water deposits and give soap scum its crusty shape. However, vinegar still needs the help of real detergents and disinfectants to remove all dirt and body oils, to kill germs, and to make your bathroom surfaces truly clean. Vinegar’s dissolving power is also dangerous for many of the natural stone surfaces, such as marble, travertine, and limestone, that are so popular in bathrooms today.

The best thing about hiring highly-trained PROs to clean your home is they know all the true facts about what works and how to cleaning both safely and effectively!