Five cleaning uses of vinegar

Clear distilled vinegar is one of the fantastic ingredients, found in almost every home, that becomes something of a miracle cleaner for domestic use. This is not just an old wives' tale. This solution made from distilled alcohol is around 5-8% acetic acid. It's also great at being an antibacterial agent, fights mould plus it's a deodorant.

Vinegar is much more environmentally friendly that many of the manufactured alternatives. It’s safe to use around pets and children, and can also be poured into pipes leading to septic tanks or reed beds. It's cheap and readily available, often working as well as or better than more expensive chemical alternatives. So, here are the top five cleaning situations where you can happily reach for the vinegar. Just remember: it's clear white vinegar, not malt/brown or wine based, that should be used unless stated otherwise.

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1.Cleaning glass. Vinegar removes water residues, is 90% effective in fighting mould and almost 100% against bacteria. It's therefore perfect for glass in the bathroom, such as shower screens. Don't worry if it splashes on steel fittings: it cleans them too. For windows, use vinegar on newspaper. It leaves a clean, smear-free result. If the windows are greasy or stained with tobacco smoke, clear vinegar takes off the marks and the smell too. You can use malt vinegar on smoked stained windows too with the newspaper method: just leave it on to dry.

2.Toilet cleaner. Rather than putting bleach down the toilet, a much more eco-friendly solution is vinegar. This is safe for systems not connected to mains sewerage and will kill smells and 99.9% of household bacteria inside the bowl. You can't pour tons straight down however: use it in a spray bottle, under the rim. It will also help remove mineral deposits and lime scale.

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3.Rid the rust. Iron and steel that has rusted can be treated with vinegar, giving excellent results. This can work for chains, taps, bicycle parts, cars' body panels and locks. Just submerge them in vinegar. It will take a few hours, perhaps days if the vinegar is very dilute. You can also use vinegar to remove the tarnish and polish up bronzes and brass items. It is also safe to use as a kettle descaler. Just fill up to the scale line – leave overnight and do NOT boil. Rinse after thoroughly.

4.Make an all-purpose cleaner. Fill an empty spray bottle with equal parts of clear vinegar and water. You can add a little lemon juice too, if you like. This is suitable for almost all surfaces and particularly effective for bathrooms. Don't use it on marble, which it can eat away. Test it on a small area of wooden surfaces before applying, too. You may need a weaker solution for woods.

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5.Deal with the animals. If you have an ant invasion, they'll flee from and surfaces washed with white vinegar. You can also keep your pets clean and safe: a teaspoon of vinegar per quart of drinking water (based on a 40-pound pet) will deter both ticks and fleas. It's a great dog shampoo, too, removing the doggy smells.

Instead of buying expensive products, just mix a cup of vinegar into two gallons of water and thoroughly wet his coat. There's no need to rinse. You can clean up pet accidents, even on fabrics, sprinkling some distilled vinegar, leaving it for a few moments then working outwards from the middle with a sponge. Blot the liquid away. But test to make sure the material is colour fast, first.