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Cleaning With Vinegar: One Helpful Tip

Households trying to minimize their reliance on commercial cleaning products that contain all sorts of harmful chemicals is a welcome trend. Featured along with the benefits of baking soda, ph-neutral dish soap, Castile Soap is that good, old, household staple - white vinegar.

While vinegar, being an acid, is not safe for all surfaces (like marble, granite, furniture or furnishings), it is a useful cleaner for everything from cleaning refrigerators to acting as a fabric softener when doing laundry. Its bacteria-killing properties are highly contested by some, but I always remind people that no cleaner kills 100% of harmful bacteria. If a "nuclear option" is required, you might wish to resort to extremely harsh cleaners like bleach. I cannot say that I recommend the "nuclear option" though. I prefer cleaning methodologies that begin with the least invasive / damaging item (like plain old water) and escalate step-by-step from there.

I would also add that bleach + vinegar = chlorine gas, which is highly toxic. The multiple dangers of bleach is one reason I prefer not to see it within a household.

What is not well known about white vinegar is that it comes in two forms. The form that we usually have hanging around our home that we use for removing odours from drains to flavouring french fries is actually NOT what should be used as a cleaning product.

The white vinegar we usually have in our homes is 5% acetic acid by volume. There is a different white vinegar that has been specially developed for cleaning and killing most bacteria. It is double the strength of the "fish and chip" vinegar we know and contains 10% acetic acid by volume.

So, if you are using vinegar as a cleaning product, you will be better served by a stronger solution that has greater bacteria-killing properties. Not all grocery stores will carry it and, if they do, it will likely be found in the cleaning product section. If you cannot find it in your local grocery store, try a hardware store like Home Hardware.

Remember, double the strength means that the potential to damage is also doubled if it is used on the wrong surface. I should also reiterate (because I know there are plenty of vinegar doubters out there) that, while 10% vinegar has greater bacteria-killing properties, it will not kill 100% of household bacteria. I would also remind people that not all bacteria is created equal. Just as there are bacteria with harmful potential, there are also good bacteria that help create healthy households.

So, bottomline? Double it up with 10% white vinegar and happy cleaning.

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