Vinegar is mentioned as the “go-to” cleaner in virtually all the posts and videos you will ever see on the subject of natural cleaners. However, if misused, it quite literally has the power to kill you!
In this article, I will enlighten you to the dangers of five things that you should never mix with vinegar when cleaning.
All that being said, vinegar is still a vital tool in your natural cleaning toolkit. When used alongside other natural cleaners such as baking soda, Castile soap, and essential oils, the results can be simply amazing. Unfortunately, it’s when we start mixing these products that our problems really begin.
Many online recipes frequently advise you to mix vinegar with other ingredients. They do this to somehow boost its effectiveness and turn an ordinary cleaner into a super cleaner.
This may encourage you to do a little bit of experimenting of your own.
When this happens, you can quite quickly run the risk of turning perfectly harmless ingredients into a deadly cocktail or, at best, a useless sludge.
With this in mind, here is my list of five things you should never mix with vinegar when cleaning…
1. Vinegar and baking soda
The two most popular online recipes requiring you to mix these two ingredients, are for a multipurpose spray cleaner, and an effective drain cleaner. Both of these recipes are not your best options, and here’s why…
Look out, here comes the science stuff!
When baking soda and vinegar are mixed, hydrogen ions in the vinegar react with the sodium bicarbonate ions in the baking soda and start a chemical reaction.
This initial reaction is the formation of two new chemicals: Carbonic acid and Sodium acetate. Carbonic acid is what you find in most fizzy drinks, and it is the fizzing reaction that is unblocking your drains.
Like the carbon dioxide bubbles found in fizzy drinks, the carbon dioxide bubbles that form result from the carbonic acid decomposing into water.
This bubbling gas then rises to the top of the mixture and is evidenced by the fizzing and frothing you see and hear. (It is this action that displaces the blockage in your drains).
The result of this visually explosive chemical reaction is water (H2O) and sodium acetate (C2H3NaO2).
Consequently, the net result of all this activity is a solution of foul tasting salty water.
Not a natural household multipurpose cleaner as advertised. Although many people who refuse to see the natural chemistry at work.
Now, who would want to clean down all their surfaces with slightly salty water?
So, what should we be doing?
The simple truth is that in the case of a multipurpose cleaner, you are far better off using a neat or 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Spray this onto a cloth, and apply this to the surface to be cleaned. This stronger recipe will sterilize the surface and begin breaking down the light grease deposits.
Once done, you can then apply the baking soda as the abrasive and finish by rinsing off the residue with a damp cloth. However, this may leave a white residue and is still less effective than using a multipurpose cleaner that includes Castile soap.
If you are going to use vinegar and baking soda, then that is the way you should be doing it.
However, a lot of the online gurus don’t give you this information. They tend to follow the flow of everyone else’s advice and refuse to do any practical research of their own.
For me, the truth is that baking soda and vinegar react chemically because one is a base, and the other is a weak acid. This means that when they are brought together, they immediately begin canceling each other out.
(Basic schoolboy science).
This is why I would never mix these two ingredients. However, I would recommend the homemade multipurpose cleaner recipe that includes soap as I quoted earlier, or the separates solution.
2. vinegar and castile soap
Another much-touted recipe for natural homemade cleaners that I see very often is one that puts the cleaning power of the soap and the disinfecting power of the vinegar together in one mixture, sharing the same container.
This is never a combination that works well, and if you were wondering why not, then here’s the reason why.
Lookout, another sciency bit coming up!
Vinegar is an acid, and castile soap is a base. When you mix them, the great grease-cutting ability of the soap and the vinegar’s disinfectant quality are canceled out by each other.
Moreover, the vinegar “unsaponified” the soap, which means it is reduced back to its original oil composition.
What you have in your bottle and have unconsciously created is an oily curdled mess. This mixture then clogs the spray or cloth you are using and leaves a deep claggy coating over whatever you were attempting to clean.
Is there a better way?
A far better way to use these two items is to use your Castile soap-based multi-surface cleaner to remove the grease. Once done, wipe down with a damp cloth and then use a vinegar solution to disinfect the cleaned area.
This is a superior method to the neat, or 50/50 mix, followed by a damp cloth wipe down method mentioned at the beginning of this post.
If you are washing dishes, then hand wash them with soap, rinse, and then spray them with a light vinegar solution to disinfect.
Many cleaning tasks can be completed this way, but please always use them separately and don’t mix them.
Alternatively, use Sal Suds. Unlike Castile soap, Sal Suds is a detergent and can be combined with vinegar.
This is achievable because it has a different chemical composition compared to Castile soap.
One word of warning would be that as Castile soap “unsaponifies” whenever it comes into contact with acids, please check that your essential oils or other additives are plant-based and not juice-based, as stated on the ingredients list of your recipes.
3. vinegar and hydrogen peroxide
Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are both effective disinfectants. So what happens if we combine the two?
Firstly 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 the 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 cause irritation to the throat, 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.
4. vinegar and bleach
As I have already demonstrated in this article, it is never a good idea to mix your cleaners, or as my old chemistry teacher used to say…
“Chemistry is an insane thing, and what you don’t know could kill you!”
Without a firm understanding of how chemicals react with each other, you are quite literally playing with death. Never has this been more true than when you mix vinegar and bleach. The effect of mixing these two products is the production of chlorine gas.
This gas is a killer, and here’s why!
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.
It kills by asphyxiation at high enough doses, so never mix vinegar and bleach under any circumstances.
vinegar + Bleach = Toxic Chlorine Gas.
5. Vinegar, Bleach and water
Vinegar + Bleach + Water = Hydrochloric and Hypochlorous acids.
Foul-smelling and bad for clothing.
The chemical substance of Hydrochloric acid is the aqueous (water-based) solution of Hydrogen Chloride gas.
It is a strong, highly corrosive acid, clear in color with a strong, pungent smell.
It is also the major component of gastric acid, which is naturally produced by cells in the human body to aid digestion.
When vinegar, bleach, and water are mixed in a washing machine, Hydrochloric and Hypochlorous acids are formed.
These acids may be weak due to the large water content in the machine, but they still have the potential to be dangerous. Both of these acids are foul-smelling and corrosive, therefore direct contact should be avoided.
Next time you feel like mixing things to see what happens, remember this post, then stop and reconsider your actions.
THE RESULT MIGHT NOT BE THE ONE THAT YOU EXPECT!
If you can’t do that, then think of this quote and take in its full meaning.
“There’s nothing about my life that is an accident.”
of the seventies rock band T-Rex, shortly before his fatal car crash.
Mark Aspland is a proud father of two boys, an amateur actor, and a green living enthusiast. He has been sharing hints, tips, and sustainable living content on his website Sustainability Dad since august 2019.
He now has an army of like-hearted individuals passionate about the environment and how to affect positive change through peaceful action. For a little inspiration on this, check out the articles and videos referencing sustainability quotes that can be found on the site. Enjoy