Make Your Own Natural Clean With . . . Vinegar!
By Lisa Barthuly
Vinegar is one of the most amazing, frugal, all-purpose, “natural clean” items you can have on hand. Yep, vinegar! The word vinegar comes from the French and is suspected to have originated when a cask of wine cracked. The words “Vin aigre!” (which mean “sour wine”) expressed disappointment about what would now be “sour wine” because the wine had been exposed to air. Little did they know how wonderful that “vin aigre” would turn out to be!
We’re all familiar with the use of vinegar as a salad dressing and in foodstuffs—after all, it is a completely natural food. However, vinegar is technically an acid with a low ph, therefore it has its own natural germ-and virus-fighting properties! Not only does it make wonderful salad dressings, but it also is a disinfectant, it cleans, it sanitizes, it has medicinal healing properties, and it’s even known for killing E. coli bacteria when marinating meats.
Vinegar has been around for thousands of years. The Bible even mentions it. Babylonians used it as a preservative and condiment, adding herbs and spices to it. The Greeks reportedly used vinegar to pickle vegetables and meats. During the Civil War it was used to treat scurvy, and in World War I it was used to treat wounds. There is even an International Vinegar Museum and an annual International Vinegar Festival in Roslyn, South Dakota!
Can you think of anything else that can clean your toilet, soften your feet, and be a main ingredient in your next homemade salad dressing? I can’t! Vinegars do so many jobs—from the kitchen to the bathroom and everywhere in between!
Let’s start with the basics: plain old white vinegar. I buy this stuff by the gallon, because it is so useful for just about everything. It contains no toxins and no harmful chemicals! Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of this little miracle in a bottle.
In the bathroom, vinegar can be used full strength in a sprayer bottle on tile and grout. Spray down your tile, let it soak for a few minutes, and then grab an old toothbrush and a small cup of full-strength vinegar to dip your toothbrush in. Apply elbow grease and scrub that grout to whiten it and remove soap scum! You can also use full-strength vinegar on glass shower doors to remove soap scum and to remove hard water stains on fixtures and porcelain. I like to dump a cupful of vinegar in the toilet before I clean the rest of the bathroom. Then I go back to the toilet, sprinkle in some baking soda, and scrub. Vinegar cleans and disinfects!
Clean your showerhead by unscrewing it off the pipe and placing it in a plastic container filled with vinegar and a tablespoon of baking soda (this will fizz a bit). Let the showerhead soak in the container for a couple of hours, then rinse it with hot water and screw it back on the shower pipe.
Vinegar in the kitchen has endless uses! Keep an old sprayer bottle filled with a half vinegar/half water mixture. This can be used to clean (and shine!) glass and stainless steel. It will clean countertops easily and is a wonderful de-greaser!
Full-strength vinegar can be used to clean coffee pots with little effort. Fill the water compartment with vinegar, run through the brewing cycle once (or even twice), and then run two cycles of fresh water through the coffee pot to rinse it thoroughly. Clean your wooden cutting boards easily with full-strength vinegar too. Simply wipe/scrub with the grain of the wood, rinse, and dry. Dump a half-cup of vinegar in the dishwasher for a sparkling and streak-free clean rinse for your dishes!
To clean no-wax floors, use a half-cup of white vinegar in a half-gallon of warm water. To deodorize your kitchen sink drain, pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain every few weeks. Do you have a “smell” in the refrigerator that just won’t go away? Pour 1 cup of apple cider vinegar into any old container and place that on a refrigerator shelf for a few days. Soon the mystery smell will be gone!
In the laundry room, you can add a cup of vinegar to each wash load as a fabric softener. If you prefer to use fabric softener in the dryer (instead of in the rinse cycle of the washing machine), dump a small amount of vinegar on an old washcloth and toss it in the dryer with your wet load of clothes. Use your half vinegar/half water sprayer bottle to treat stained clothing before tossing the items into the wash. Every two or three months, add a couple of cups of vinegar to your washer (hot water-only cycle) to clean, freshen, de-grease, and disinfect your washing machine.
When you launder your shower curtain, add 1 cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle and hang up the shower curtain to let it dry. When washing baby clothes (especially diapers), add 1 cup of vinegar to the load; it will get rid of the urine smells/acid and make your clothes soft and fluffy!
Vinegar beauty treatments? Absolutely! Vinegar makes the most fantastic hair rinse! In our culture, we truly over-wash/treat our hair with the daily shampooing, conditioning, hair drying, hair sprays, gels, and colorants that we put it through. Apple cider vinegar tends to work best on the hair, and a cup of it rinsed through the hair in the shower is a perfect, simple clean! You can also make up herbal rinses with vinegar to treat oily hair, dandruff, or dry hair—even to add dark or light “highlights” naturally! Vinegar rinses are great for an itchy scalp or dull hair, and they help restore a natural balance to the scalp, not to mention that healthy shine! If the vinegar smell is not appealing to you (actually, after you rinse well, it’s not a strong smell at all), you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mixture too.
I start with a clean, quart-sized canning jar and add my herbs (see below) and then fill to the top (leave an inch of headspace to shake it up once a day or so) with apple cider vinegar:
¼ cup chamomile
½ cup sage leaf
¼ cup rosemary
¼ cup thyme
For oily hair:
½ cup rosemary leaf
½ cup yarrow leaf
For dry hair:
½ cup calendula flower
½ cup nettle leaf
¼ cup marshmallow root
For golden highlights:
½ cup calendula flower
½ cup chamomile
For dark highlights:
½ cup sage leaf
¼ cup comfrey leaf
½ cup black walnut hull (chopped)
Once my herbs and vinegar are in, I put my lid/ring on the jar firmly, shake it up, and set in a sunny windowsill for a week or two. (This is known as “solar infusion.”) When I am ready to use it, I strain out the herbs, put the mixture into a plastic container, place the container in the shower, and it’s ready to use! I always have a batch of one of these mixtures brewing on a windowsill somewhere in the house—works great!
For a “salon conditioning treatment” try this homemade recipe! Mix 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Apply this mixture to your hair and then cover your head with a towel or one of those cheapie plastic shower caps for about thirty minutes. Then rinse in the shower with 1 cup apple cider vinegar and voilà . . . clean, conditioned, shiny hair!
Working in the garden? Try this Super Clean Hand Scrub! Just take ¼ cup of cornmeal, add in enough apple cider vinegar to moisten, scrub up, and then rinse in cool water.
Apple cider vinegar has many natural beauty treatment and natural health uses. Keep a small jar of it in the medicine cabinet to use as an aftershave. It will keep the skin soft; just splash it on after shaving. You can fill a jar of half apple cider vinegar/half water for use as a toner/astringent to control problem skin/pimples. (Try this first on a small patch of your skin to be sure it doesn’t irritate your particular skin type.) You can soothe a bee sting by dumping vinegar on the sting; it not only soothes but also stops the itching and irritation.
Relieve dry, itchy skin by adding a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to your bathwater. To create a great foot soak to soften your feet, fill a bucket or large plastic bowl with 2 gallons of warm water and 1 cup of vinegar. Soak your feet for thirty minutes. After soaking, you can easily remove dead skin cells and callused areas with a pumice stone.
As you can see, vinegar has so many uses! Pick up a few gallons today and make your own simple “Natural Clean!”
Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.
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