droplet of vinegar falling into a pool of vinegar

15 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar And Why

Have you ever used distilled white vinegar for cleaning?

Have you wondered if there are any things you should never clean with vinegar and why?

Let me help you to discover the answer to those questions in this post of;

15 things you should never clean with vinegar and why.

THE FIRST QUESTION IS; WHY NOT VINEGAR?

I must say that when it comes to cleaning, vinegar is a solid workhorse. Vinegar can clean stained refrigerators, glassware, hardened paint brushes and ceramic sinks and toilets—but it can’t clean everything. 

Since vinegar is acidic, there are some things that it is best to avoid cleaning with it.  Firstly for example, you should be cautious when cleaning surfaces or parts that can corrode when they come into contact with an acid

Secondly, you should be aware that if vinegar is left on too long, or used in too strong of a solution, then the acid in the vinegar can damage the surface, dull the shine, leave a cloudy mark or even dissolve certain surfaces entirely. 

This is the reason why I do not recommend using it it as your general homemade multi surface cleaner. I personally recommend that you use it for specific tasks when you are cleaning, tasks that play to its acidic strengths and disinfectant properties, for there are many of them.

Please read my post on, 23 reader suggested natural cleaning recipes that actually work, for more guidance on those properties.

So let’s get to the list of, 11 things you should never clean with vinegar and why. 

1. do not clean waxed wood with vinegar

Most hardwood floors, wooden frames and furniture are coated with a layer of wax or paraffin wax. The manufacturers do this to give them a, “as new,” polished look and then they are sealed with a light coat of varnish.

This gives them longevity and makes them water and to some extent, stain repellant. Vinegar however bites into this coating and dissolves the wax underneath. It is definitely best to avoid using acid based formulas on these types of surfaces.

polished wood room with statues
2. never use vinegar on marble, granite or other natural stones

Vinegar is an acid and as such will corrode the porous structure of this natural stone. A single use of vinegar will eat into the marble and start to dull the polished surface.

If used consistently over time it can also cause etching, thus impacting the structural integrity and beauty of the stone. 

Abrasive cleaners, such as baking powder, will also scratch the surface of the marble and dull it over time. I would therefore recommend that you use hydrogen peroxide and a soft cloth instead of an acidic or abrasive cleaner.

Even better, use special stone soap such as Simple Green Stone Cleaner and Polish which can be found on Amazon.

(Vinegar will also have the same effect on natural stone floors and granite)

3. do not use vinegar on cast iron or aluminium pans

Aluminium dishes and cast iron pans have a chemical reaction with the acid of vinegar and so will be damaged from its use. In the case of iron, the acetic acid of the vinegar causes an exothermic reaction. 

This then produces heat and removes the protective coating of the iron, making it susceptible to rust.

Aluminium acetate is the compound created when aluminium reacts with vinegar. Aluminium acetate is also soluble so if you scrub the surface with vinegar then the aluminium will be slowly eaten away.

4. never mix vinegar and bleach together
skull and crossbones

Never mix vinegar and bleach when cleaning clothes

Vinegar + Bleach = Toxic Chlorine Gas. ☠ 

Vinegar + Bleach + Water = hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids. (foul smelling and bad for clothing)..

Chlorine gas, was first used on the infamous day of April 22, 1915, in WW1.  It produces a greenish-yellow cloud that smells of bleach and immediately irritates the eyes, nose, lungs, and throat of those exposed to it.

At high enough doses it kills by asphyxiation so never mix vinegar and bleach together under any circumstances.

5. Don't use vinegar on greasy dishes

Don’t use vinegar as a degreaser or to replace liquid soap for use on dirty dishes.

Alkaline/base cleaners like dish detergent are ideally suited for lifting grease, whereas vinegar will have little effect on it.  

clean cups plates white

Many natural homemade recipes call for you to use vinegar as a degreaser, however castile soap is a far superior option, so save yourself the elbow grease and leave the vinegar on the shelf. 

6. Don't use vinegar on protein stains or spills such as egg
two boiled eggs one fried

If you drop an egg (or have one thrown at you!), don’t use vinegar to clean the stain away. 

The acid in the vinegar reacts with the protein causing it to coagulate. 

This mixture will then form a solid, or gluey substance which will be almost impossible to remove easily. 

7. Don't flush your iron with vinegar

Vinegar may be a great descaler but irons are fragile things. Running acid through the working parts will not be being kind to it in the long run. My advice is to just follow the manufacturer’s instructions to obtain the best results.

hand holding white and blue iron

(Over time the vinegar will dissolve the inner seals).

This is also said to be true, to a lesser extent with dishwashers and washing machines. It must be remembered however that with these appliances, the vinegar is usually flushed out of the machine on a regular basis.

However, vinegar should be avoided on dishwashers with seals made from polyacrylate, fluorosilicone, and Buna-N. This is because if the vinegar sits on the surface of these types of seals for a long period of time, it can cause failure

8. Never clean pearls with vinegar

Pearls are made up of calcium carbonate, limestone and marble. 

Unfortunately the vinegar will react with the calcium carbonate causing  the pearls to dissolve.

9. never use vinegar to clean your smartphone or laptop screen

Some computer screens and smartphones have an oleophobic, (oil resistant), protective coating on them and the vinegar can destroy this very quickly

circle of smartphones with clouds above

This coating is there to prevent oily fingerprint marks and other such stains, so removing it will cause further problems. 

10. Don't use vinegar on heavily greasy surfaces

Vinegar can be an effective degreaser on light grease, like that found on counter tops for instance. However it is far from effective when it is compared with other, more soapy competition.

There is a reason why soap is the king of the kitchen and it’s used heavily whilst vinegar is not.

Use castile soap instead and save yourself the sore arms through hard scrubbing or mopping.

11. never use vinegar on carbon steel knives

Vinegar can cause carbon steel to darken and become blotchy which is most likely not the look you might be going for.  

carbon steel knives in rack
12. Truly stubborn stains
man eating food staining tie

Try as you might, blood, ice cream, grass stains and dried on ink simply won’t come out with vinegar alone. Depending on the material they could be just too tough for our acid friend and may need a little coaching from another source.

Try an enzyme based cleaner for these bad boys as a long soak in vinegar may do more harm than good in the long run. Blood is also a protein stain so avoid using vinegar. Try my recipe of, 1 part baking soda and 2 parts cold water, leave for 40 minutes then rinse and wash.

13. never use vinegar to shine your houseplant leaves

While vinegar can be useful as a cleaner, disinfectant or even as an insecticide, you shouldn’t spray it directly on plants as it can damage them.

 However, you can use the power of vinegar as a plant killer to your advantage by using it as a weed killer. (Sorry snails). 

monstera houseplant leaves against white background do not clean with vinegar
14. Don't use vinegar on unsealed or damaged grout
unsealed white grout against grey tile

Grout that hasn’t been sealed or needs to be resealed due to age or damage should never be cleaned with vinegar.This is because grout contains cement which is a base and therefore the acid of the vinegar will  begin to neutralize it.

In this instance, the vinegar will penetrate into the spaces of air and grime in the grout. It will then begin to disintegrate the cement in the grout. If, however, you have sealed your grout and it is kept in good condition, the vinegar won’t be an issue to you, (even on coloured grout). 

As many people recommend cleaning grout with vinegar I have included a recipe and method for cleaning grout safely.

Dilute with 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water. Spray it on; let stand for 15 min, wipe clean with a very damp sponge using a baking soda/water solution to neutralize the acidity of vinegar, then wipe clean water using a damp sponge.

15. Don't use vinegar to eliminate pet stains on your carpet

If your pet has an accident on the carpet, or your cat has a “deliberate” accident, don’t use vinegar to eliminate the problem.

Vinegar is a great disinfectant and will clear some stains in your rug or carpet very effectively and deodorize the smell.

grey cat face with blue eyes

That being said, the pet stains may disappear from your sight, however to your pet the underlying odour will remain. As cats and dogs like to revisit, or mark their territory in specific places, you may well find yourself with another stain and another bottle of vinegar.

It would be best on this occasion to work through the stain with an enzymatic carpet cleaner which can be found in most good pet stores. 

If you wish to mask the odours using essential oils please read my post on; Essential oils and the danger to cats, dogs and birds. 

Not quite in the brief but I thought the next item was worthy of a mention due to it’s dangerous nature!

Do not mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together
empty chemical bottles of mixed types in lab

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are both effective disinfectants so what happens if we combine the two together? Firstly I have to say that I would never recommend that you start your own chemistry lab at home.

Never start mixing together, “safe” chemicals to see what the end result would be. No chemical is ever truly safe and even the experts get it wrong sometimes, so please… just don’t do it!

A combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide will produce peracetic acid.

Peracetic acid is highly corrosive and although its toxicity is relatively low, it can still cause irritation to the skin, eyes and nasal membrane. It is a highly effective bleach for these reasons, but to be honest it is far safer for you to keep these two ingredients apart. 

So there we have it, My ultimate list of 15 things that you should never clean with vinegar, plus a bonus item to keep you safe.

I hope this list was useful to you and helps to keep you, your family and your products well.

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sustainability dad

Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, would be amateur actor and green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019. 

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He now has an army of followers who are like hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action.