How Does Vinegar Work as a Cleaner?

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The basics of vinegar

  • Vinegar is a natural bi-product of vegetables, fruits, and grains. It's both edible and biodegradable. Vinegar has a basically unlimited shelf life. In addition, literally any alcoholic beverage left exposed to the air will eventually become vinegar. It's cheap to make, cheap to clean with, and cheap to cook with. Vinegar can also be diluted easily with water, added to a multitude of food, and can clean even the messiest greasy mess. It's an all around versatile liquid.

How vinegar is made

  • Vinegar is acid based. The acids in the vinegar come from a fermentation process where grains, fruits, and vegetables are broken down with a biological process that turns carbohydrates into acetic acid. Two processes are at work to make vinegar. The first process, called alcoholic fermentation, occurs when sugars are broken down by yeast. After the fermentation process, another specific process must occur to make vinegar. Acetobacter, a type of mild bacteria, are added to the mix to convert the alcohol to acetic acid.

    Fermentation is a carefully controlled process. The resulting acetic acid isn't the vinegar you'll see in the bottle at the grocery store yet. The many varieties of vinegar all have vitamins added as well as minerals to give each a particular flavor. The acetic acid is simply the starting point for vinegar.

Acids break down grease and bacteria

  • Molds, grease, and bacteria are no match for the cleaning power of vinegar. But why is this? Since we now know that vinegar is acid based, it's easier to understand how it can clean so effectively. When an acid is applied to grease, it breaks it down quickly.

    The typical vinegar that can be purchased at the grocery is a 5 percent solution. And yet, it's very effective at cleaning just about everything in your home. Grease, germs, and bacteria in the kitchen are no match for the cleaning power of vinegar. Fingerprints on the windows are gone in second. Vinegar is a great, streak free window cleaner. It's excellent for cleaning the sink garbage disposal and for disinfecting the refrigerator. Want a great shine on a no wax floor? Use vinegar. It's excellent at removing wax build up. It can also be used as a deterrent to insects. Vinegar is such a powerful cleaner than for the most part, it should be cut 50-50 with water to dilute the solution.

Why vinegar is such a good cleaner

  • Vinegar is also environmentally friendly. It's biodegradable and won't harm the environment in any way. It's even effective and safe enough to use to kill grass or weeds in place of spray weed killer. One study showed vinegar kills 99 percent of surface bacteria, 80 percent of germs, and 82 percent of molds on a counter. That's with a 5 percent solution just like you could purchase at the grocery store. Since vinegar is natural, it won't harm your plumbing at all.

    Since vinegar is an acid, it's great for breaking up water mineral deposits. Vinegar can be used to dissolve buildups like lime deposits on drains, in sinks, and on shower heads.

    Vinegar is also relatively cheap. A big bottle of plain white vinegar will cost 2 to 3 dollars less than one single bottle of household cleaner that can only clean one part of the house. Cutting the vinegar with water makes it last even longer.

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