Vinegar is an amazing and versatile cleaner for all kinds of applications around the house. However, because it is acidic it has limitations. Vinegar has the potential to harm certain surfaces. To prevent any damage, avoid using any strength vinegar on the following surfaces and household items.
No. 1: Hardwood floors. Even regular, supermarket plain white vinegar that is labeled 5% acidity has sufficient acid to dull or harm the finish of hardwood floors.
Achieving a shiny appearance on hardwood floors can be a challenging task, and the use of vinegar over time can ruin that beautiful shine. You may not notice any problem after the first few cleanings, but the damage is cumulative.
Warning: When you are using vinegar to clean in the house, never add it to chlorine bleach; it will create noxious chlorine gas, a potentially deadly compound.
No. 2: Wood furniture, paneling and cabinets. Vinegar can also harm the finish on wood furniture, whether it’s stained, painted or waxed. It can leave the surface looking dull and cloudy.
Granted, you’ll frequently read that vinegar is ideal for cleaning all types of wood and you might like to use vinegar on finished or waxed wood furniture. If you choose to use vinegar on finished or waxed wood furniture, be aware of the risks involved and use it infrequently.
No. 3: Chalk or milk painted furniture. For furniture with chalk or milk paint, whether waxed or not, it’s best to avoid using vinegar on the surface. Instead, opt for a gentle cleaning method using a slightly damp microfiber cloth.
No. 4: Grout. Avoid using vinegar on unsealed, poorly sealed or in need of resealing grout. Vinegar’s penetration into the grout pores weakens the material and leads to deterioration over time, causing etching or wearing.
However, if you have regularly sealed your grout, vinegar should not pose a problem. Check your grout annually for resealing needs and use a recommended tile cleaner.
No. 5: No-wax flooring (vinyl and linoleum). The acidic nature of vinegar can strip away the shine and luster of no-wax floors. These types of flooring require a sudsy cleaner, so vinegar is not suitable. Instead, use a sponge mop, warm water and a squirt of gentle dishwashing detergent like Blue Dawn for a deeper clean. Rinse the floor well to remove any suds and avoid using other liquid floor cleaners that may cause waxy buildup over time.
The best way to clean a no-wax vinyl or linoleum floor is to use a sponge mop and a bucket of warm water. For a deeper clean, add a squirt of gentle dishwashing detergent like Blue Dawn to the bucket of water, and be sure to give the floor a rinse to get rid of any suds.
Using any other type of liquid floor cleaner on no-wax floors could cause a waxy build-up over time.
No. 6: Carpet odors. Although vinegar is often suggested for pet stains, it is not as effective as specialized enzymatic carpet cleaners like Nok-Out (nokout.com). Vinegar may temporarily mask the odor but does not address the underlying cause. For better results, use Nok-Out or a carpet cleaner designed specifically for pet stains that contains enzymes to eliminate the odor.
For best results, use Nok-Out or a carpet cleaner specifically designed for pet odors that contains enzymes. Nok-Out eliminates the offending cause of the odor through a process known as oxidation.
No. 7: Stone surfaces. Stone surface countertops — granite or marble as examples — can become etched and damaged by the use of vinegar. For best results, check with your stone supplier for guidance on the best cleaners. Often, all that is needed is weak dilution of Blue Dawn and water plus a soft cloth to keep your stone countertops look great. A dedicated stone cleaner is often recommended as well.
No. 8: Screens and eyeglasses. While vinegar works well for streak-free windows and mirrors, it is not advisable to use vinegar for cleaning electronic screens or eyeglasses. The acidic properties of vinegar can damage or remove protective coatings and anti-glare features. Opt for proper screen and eyeglass cleaners instead.