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15 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar And Why

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Although hailed as an affordable, Eco-friendly cleaning marvel, there are simply some things that you should never clean with vinegar.

In fact, there are some surfaces, such as smartphone screens, that can be damaged by even a single application.

So join me as I reveal 15 things that you should never clean with vinegar, and I explain why.

15 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar

If you need a great, effective, and inexpensive cleaner that can be quick to hand my recommendation would be to give Spruce a try.

Spruce is an ALL-NATURAL cleaner for use around the home and delivered directly to your door that won the award for:
 “BEST ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANING PRODUCT” in MARIE CLAIRE‘S first-ever Sustainability Awards.

To find out more about this amazing product please read my post: Best Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Cleaning Product With Refills

1. do not clean waxed wood with vinegar

never clean with vinegar polished wood room with statues
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Waxed Wood

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 “like new,” polished look. Following this, they are then 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. 

Therefore, to prevent damage, avoid using acid-based formulas, such as vinegar, on these types of surfaces.

2. never use vinegar on marble, granite, or other natural stones

never use vinegar on marble
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Granite

Vinegar is an acid and will exploit the porous structure of natural stone, granite, and marble to begin corrosion.

Frighteningly in the case of marble, a single use of vinegar can begin the process of internally dissolving the stone. 

If vinegar is used consistently, it can also dull the polished surfaces and cause etching.

And excessive applications will significantly reduce the structural integrity and massively impact the beauty of the stone.

Plus abrasive cleaners, such as baking powder, will also scratch the marble’s surface and dull it over time.

Therefore, I would recommend using hydrogen peroxide and a soft cloth instead of acidic or abrasive cleaners.

Even better, use special stone soap such as Stone Care International Granite Cleaner, which can be found on Amazon.

Vinegar will also have the same negative effect on natural stone floors and granite but slower. 

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

Aluminum dishes and cast iron pans chemical react with the acetic acid of vinegar. Therefore, they will be damaged from their use.

In the case of iron, the acetic acid of the vinegar causes an exothermic reaction. 

Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Cast Iron

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

Aluminum acetate is the compound created when aluminum reacts with vinegar. 

Aluminum acetate is also soluble. This means that if you scrub the pan’s surface with vinegar, the aluminum will be slowly eaten away.

It is for this reason that many DIY solutions for cleaning aluminum suggest using vinegar.

However, when cleaning aluminum, you should always start with the mildest method possible.

The best cleaners for aluminum are plain water, mild soap or detergent, and solvents such as kerosene, turpentine, or white spirit.

Care must be taken when using solvents as they are flammable.

4. never mix vinegar With bleach

skull and crossbones homemade cleaning products

Never mix vinegar and bleach when cleaning clothes.

Vinegar + Bleach + Water = hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids.

(foul-smelling and bad for clothing).

Vinegar + Bleach = Toxic Chlorine Gas. ☠ 

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 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 ideal for lifting grease, whereas vinegar will have little effect.  

clean cups plates white never clean with vinegar greasy dishes
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Greasy Dishes

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. Never use vinegar on protein stains or spills

two boiled eggs one fried
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Protein Stains

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

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

This mixture will then form a solid or gluey substance that will be almost impossible to remove completely.

A dried egg stain can be removed from clothing by soaking the stain in a mixture of cold water and liquid detergent.

The soaking should last at least 30 minutes before vigorously rubbing the stain. This process should be repeated until the egg is no longer visible. 

7. Don’t flush your iron with vinegar

Vinegar may be a great descaler, but irons are fragile, and running acid through the working parts may prove costly.

hand holding white and blue iron
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Your Iron

Given time, vinegar will dissolve the inner seals and any protective coatings present within the chamber.

This is also true, to a lesser extent, of many dishwashers and washing machines.

However, it must be remembered that the vinegar is usually flushed out of the machine regularly with these appliances.

Vinegar should always 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 seals for a long time, they will eventually fail.

The best way to clean an Iron is not to use vinegar but to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Usually, this is to fill the tank with distilled water, heat the iron, unplug it, and hold it over the sink with the soleplate facing downwards.

Now you can press and hold the self-cleaning button, which will eject steam and impurities from the iron through the soleplate. 

8. Never Use Vinegar To Clean Pearls

never clean pearls with vinegar
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Real Pearls

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

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

Clean pearls by gently wiping each pearl using a soft white non-abrasive cloth dampened in lukewarm water.

Don’t be tempted to soak pearl necklaces or bracelets, as this can weaken or stretch any delicate threads. 

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. Vinegar will react with and destroy this coating very quickly.

circle of smartphones with clouds above
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – A Smartphone

This coating is there to prevent oily fingerprint marks and other such stains.

Removing the oleophobic protective coating with vinegar will cause operating issues, create further problems, and invalidate warranties.

Always use a soft, lint-free, non-abrasive lens cloth and a 70% isopropyl spray to wipe down the screen gently.

The spray can be picked up from most opticians or camera stores.  

10. Don’t use vinegar on heavily greasy surfaces

open kitchen
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Heavy Grease Stains

Vinegar can be an effective degreaser on light greases, such as those found on countertops.

However, vinegar is far less effective than soap on anything else but light grease.

That is why soap is the king of the kitchen, and it is used heavily in commercial areas, whereas vinegar is not.

Use castile soap instead of vinegar and save yourself the arm pain received through hard scrubbing or mopping.

11. never use vinegar on carbon steel knives

Vinegar can cause carbon steel to darken and become blotchy, most likely not the look you are going for.  

Plain old soap and water are far more effective.

carbon steel knives in rack
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Carbon Steel Knives

12. Don’t Use Vinegar On stubborn stains

man eating food staining tie
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Stubborn Stains

Try as you might; blood, ice cream, grass stains, and dried 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, over time, may do more harm than good.

Blood is also a protein stain, as mentioned above, 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

Although vinegar can be useful as a cleaner, disinfectant, or even 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 very effective weed killer. (Sorry, snails). 

monstera houseplant leaves against white background do not clean with vinegar
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Houseplant Leaves

14. Don’t use vinegar on unsealed or damaged grout

unsealed white grout against grey tile clean with baking soda
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Unsealed Grout

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 the acid of vinegar will immediately begin to neutralize it. 

It does this by penetrating the spaces occupied by air and visible grime within the grout. It will then begin to react and disintegrate the cement content within it chemically.

If, however, you have sealed your grout and it is kept in good condition, the vinegar won’t be an issue for you (even on colored grout).

Don’t use bleach on colored grout, as bleach will discolor the grout.

I have included two recipes and methods for cleaning grouts safely.

Sealed grout – Dilute with 2 parts vinegar, and 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 vinegar’s acidity, then wipe clean water using a damp sponge.

None sealed grout – Use Hydrogen Peroxide (This has a tendency to discolor things, especially fabrics).

Dilute and spray it on; let it sit for 15 min.; then wipe clean.

Warning: Do not combine vinegar with bleach. (as per point No4)

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

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

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

essential oils toxic to cats
Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar – Pet Stains

The reason is that although the pet stains may have disappeared from your sight to your pet, the underlying odor will remain.

So, as cats and dogs like to revisit or re-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 odors 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 its dangerous nature!

Do not mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide

empty chemical bottles of mixed types in lab
Do not clean away hydrogen peroxide with vinegar

Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are both effective disinfectants, so what happens if we combine the two?

Firstly I have to say that I would never recommend that you start your own chemistry lab at home.

Never start mixing “safe” chemicals to see what the result would be.

No chemical is ever truly safe, and even experts sometimes get it wrong, so, please…

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 irritate the skin, eyes, and nasal membranes.

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.

Final words

If you need a great, effective, and inexpensive cleaner that can be quick to hand my recommendation would be to give Spruce a try.

Spruce is an ALL-NATURAL cleaner for use around the home and delivered directly to your door that won the award for:
 “BEST ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANING PRODUCT” in MARIE CLAIRE‘S first-ever Sustainability Awards.

To find out more about this amazing product please read my post: Best Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Cleaning Product With Refills

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 safe and well.

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

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