Looking for a powerful, versatile, and totally environmentally friendly cleaner? Then you’re going to want to stock up your pantry with a bottle of vinegar!
Vinegar has been in use for thousands of years, and it’s a classic and go-to cleaning staple for a reason. Today, as we all refocus on green cleaning habits that are environmentally friendly, sustainable, and suitable for our homes, vinegar is seeing another big resurgence in popularity.
In this post, I wanted to talk about vinegar, since it’s a cleaning product that often gets taken for granted. Keep reading for a brief history of vinegar, some thoughts on why it’s such a great eco-friendly cleaning tool, and what to look for when you’re stocking up next!
What Is Vinegar, Really?
Have you ever stopped and thought about what vinegar really is, and where it came from? Vinegar has been in use for thousands of years. It is made through fermentation. To put it broadly, vinegar is usually the byproduct of a two-step process. First, grains or fruits ferment into alcohol. Second, that alcohol is fermented again, turning into acetic acid. This acid is then diluted with water to make the vinegar we know and love.
The various types of vinegars on store shelves are created from different bases, ranging from grapes to apples. Distilled white vinegar is typically fermented from a distilled alcohol made with grains, similar to vodka. Fun fact: the term “vinegar” actually comes from the French “vin aigre,” or “sour wine.”
Why Vinegar Is a Handy Eco-Friendly Cleaning Must-Have
By its very nature, vinegar is an extremely environmentally sound product — it is vegan, non-toxic, hypoallergenic, clean, and is typically plant-based and all-natural (more on the exceptions that might prove the rule in a minute).
Vinegar is typically about 94-95% water, meaning that it is fully biodegradable. Vinegar is wallet-friendly and extremely inexpensive to buy in bulk. Better yet, it is also extremely durable and long-lasting, with an “almost indefinite” shelf-life, according to many experts.
And with so many practical uses, the likelihood of that vinegar lasting for long is pretty slim! Indeed, one of the best things about vinegar as a green cleaner is its versatility. You can put white vinegar to work for a wide variety of cleaning purposes around your home, including but not limited to:
- Making your own sprayable, natural, DIY all-purpose cleaner
- Cleaning washing machines and dishwashers
- Cleaning tile, porcelain, grout, and caulk in the bathroom
- Cleaning out your coffee machine, tea kettles, and tea pots
- Removing minor clogs and blockages from drains
- Cleaning your microwave and refrigerator
- Removing hard water stains
- Polishing glass and mirrors
- Cleaning hardwood floors
- Washing dishes
- Eliminating carpet stains
- Polishing stainless steel
- Acting as a fabric softener and deodorizer for your laundry
Remember, as with any chemical, safety first! Though vinegar is natural and environmentally friendly, it is still an acidic cleaner. Wear gloves and protect your eyes, as vinegar can cause irritation. Keep rooms well-ventilated, and try to keep kids and pets out of the way while you’re deep cleaning to make sure that everything is as safe and straightforward as possible. Do not mix vinegar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, as this can lead to the creation of dangerous chemical compounds that you do not want in your home.
Keep in mind that there are also some household surfaces and materials that should never be treated with vinegar, including cast iron, natural stone, and natural wood.
What to Look for When Purchasing Vinegar for Green Cleaning
Unfortunately, as with so many other products, vinegar has become increasingly mass-produced over the years — and that means that there is a wide disparity in what’s available on store shelves.
One of the most important things to know is that, since vinegar can come from any alcohol as a starter, some commercially available vinegar products can be distilled from ethyl alcohol, which comes from natural gas and petroleum products. Obviously, petroleum-based products are anything but eco-friendly. Indeed, petroleum and other petrochemicals are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and can lead to acidification and damage in local ecosystems and environments.
For that reason, it’s important to be vigilant with vinegar, just as you would with any store bought cleaner. Read the labels carefully to see if you can determine what the vinegar is distilled from, and don’t be afraid to do a little extra research online to find brands with mission statements and processes that align with your values. One spot of good news? Many experts do agree that petroleum-based vinegars are very rarely manufactured and sold in the US. Still, you might want to opt for organic vinegar, made from plants that were not treated with mysterious pesticides and fertilizers.
In addition to its chemical makeup, be considerate about packaging. Look for products with minimal packaging, and remember that glass bottles are generally more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle properly than plastic.
Finally, keep in mind, as we mentioned above, that not all vinegars are created equal. While distilled white vinegar is the go-to for cleaning, there may be times when you want to opt for something a little bit more acidic. For instance, you may find a product called “cleaning vinegar,” which has a higher concentration of acid and a higher pH level, making it more useful for heavy duty jobs like eliminating mold and mildew in the bathroom.
Sweeping Dimensions: A Cleaning With a Conscience
Here at Sweeping Dimensions, we focus on handling all sorts of cleaning and housekeeping projects, so you can focus on the other things that matter most to you.
A big part of that is making sure our clients’ wants and needs are met at all times. That’s why we make a point of always having sustainable and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions on hand and ready to use.
We also believe in passing along our green cleaning knowledge, whenever we can. We love to talk about all things cleaning and organizing, including the strategies that can make taking care of your home a more sustainable practice. The more people we can bring together in our mission for a greener world, the better off all of us will be!
So, if you ever have a question about comparing cleaning products, or making a green switch in your home, don’t hesitate to get in touch – I am always happy to talk shop! At SDCS, we are sincerely passionate about these issues, dedicated to finding real solutions, and always eager to keep the conversation going.
Want to set up a green cleaning for your Chicago home? Don’t hesitate to reach out for your FREE service estimate!
Looking to exchange ideas on reusable alternatives to sponges, or share how you’re going to focus on sustainability this year? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via email or on social media to let us know your thoughts.