Infused Vinegars for Cleaning & Cooking

Vinegar is a underappreciated liquid. It can clean your house, brighten your salad and balance the pH of your hair and that is just a quick list of its many attributes. It really is a jack of all trades product. Most people think they need fancy, expensive products to get the results they want. It just makes sense in this world that the rosemary lemon vinegar from the boutique store or the name brand bathtub cleaner is better than anything you could make on your own. More often though, those expensive products are just complicating our lives with more chemicals, more cost and not much better results. These days, we should all be getting back to simpler living.

Just like the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding used Windex to cure everything from ‘psoriasis to poison ivy’, I believe vinegar has many more uses than we think. But, before you roll your eyes at me like everyone in that greek movie family, hear me out on all the things you can do.

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First, let’s discuss the types of vinegars that are available. Most commonly, there is Distilled Vinegar or White Vinegar which is commonly used for dying Easter eggs or exploding a homemade volcano. Red Wine Vinegar is commonly used for salad dressings and marinades and is made from fermented red wine. White Wine Vinegar is commonly used for dressings and marinades as well as pickling. Apple Cider Vinegar adds more tartness to dressings or marinades and has also been known to have great health benefits from weight loss to clear skin. Balsamic Vinegar (one of my favorites) is made from pressed grapes and aged in oak barrels to make a sweet and syrupy vinegar that is perfect for salad dressings, drizzling on entrees and even desserts. Mmmmm. Rice Vinegar is commonly used in asian cuisine, Champagne Vinegar is lighter and less overpowering, Sherry Vinegar is great for pan sauces and Malt Vinegar is perfect with a classic fish and chips take-out dinner. There is also a Red Vinegar and a Black Vinegar that are used in asian dishes like dumplings or noodles although I have never cooked with them before. That’s a ton of options, right?

If you look in most American pantries, you will probably always see at least the white vinegar. That is where we will begin with our household products…

Hopefully you have a gallon or more of this popular vinegar, because there are many things that you can clean with it. Check out these 28 uses from Today.com:

1. Window cleaner: Mix equal parts of distilled white vinegar and water. Apply to windows with a sponge. Wipe clean using a squeegee. (Remember to wet the squeegee blade first so it won’t skip.)

2. Blinds: To clean washable blinds, mix 1 cup ammonia, ½ cup white distilled vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon of warm water. Using a sponge or cloth, wipe blinds with mixture. Rinse with clear water.

3. Automatic coffee makers: To dissolve minerals and oily build-up, fill the reservoir with white distilled vinegar and run the coffee maker through a brewing cycle. Empty the carafe. Rinse away vinegar residue by running a full reservoir of water through the brewing cycle. (As always, follow manufacturer’s care instructions.)

4. Kill grass: Forget store-bought grass and weed killers. Pour full-strength white distilled vinegar on unwanted vegetation. Reapply as needed.

5. Keep cut flowers fresh: Fresh flowers last longer if you add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar to the water in a 1-quart vase. Trim stems and change water every few days or when water starts to get cloudy.

6. No-wax floors: For rinse-free cleaning, mop using a solution of ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to a half-gallon of warm water. Change water as it gets dirty.

7. Microwave: Boil a solution of ¼ cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water in the microwave until steam forms on the window. Wipe away food residue.

8. Hair rinse: After every few washings, remove shampoo build-up by rinsing hair with a solution of 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar (either white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar) and 1 cup of water. Adjust amount of vinegar to suit your hair type. Less vinegar for dry hair; more vinegar for oily hair. A second rinse with plain water is optional. Hair will be silky and shiny.

9. Cleaner dishes and glasses: For sparkling results, add 1 ½ to 2 cups white distilled vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher. Wash on regular cycle using the usual amount of detergent.

10. Copper, brass and pewter cleaner: To effortlessly remove tarnish, apply a mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ cup of white distilled vinegar and enough flour to make a paste. Apply to the metal and allow it to stand for 15 minutes. Rinse with clean water and polish with soft, dry cloth. (The flour keeps the vinegar and salt in contact with the tarnished surface.)

11. Bathtub film: Remove bathtub film by wiping it first with white distilled vinegar then with baking soda. Rinse away grime with clean water.

12. Shower doors: To prevent soap scum build-up, wipe shower doors with a sponge soaked in white distilled vinegar. No need to rinse.

13. Clogged shower head: Use vinegar to dissolve mineral build-up in showerheads. Add a cup of vinegar to a plastic storage bag. Position the bag so that the showerhead sits in the vinegar. Allow it to soak overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and turn on the shower to rinse.

15. Pet urine in carpets: Blot up as much of the urine as possible by laying several paper towels over the area and walking on them (the extra pressure increases absorption). Replace towels and blot until most of the urine is removed. Before treating the area with vinegar, test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous place. If colors don’t run, saturate the stain with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Allow it to sit on the area for 10 minutes. Blot as before, replacing towels as needed. When the carpet is mostly dry, sprinkle baking soda on the area. This will help absorb odors. Vacuum in about an hour.

16. Bumper sticker removal: To remove bumper sticker residue, saturate the area with distilled white vinegar. Bumper sticker pieces should peel off easily. Test first on an inconspicuous area of the car to make sure it doesn’t damage the paint.

17. To soften a paint brush: Soak the paintbrush in hot white distilled vinegar until brush softens. Then wash with warm, soapy water.

18. Wine stains: To remove wine stains from all-cotton, cotton/polyester and permanent press fabrics, it’s important to treat the stain within 24 hours. Sponge white distilled vinegar directly onto the area until the stain disappears. Launder according to directions on care label.

19. Clothes rinse: Remove dingy soap and detergent residue in clothes by adding 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to the final rinse. To remove soap residue from heavier blankets and quilts, add 2 cups of vinegar to the final rinse.

20. Deodorant and antiperspirant stains: Rub the underarm areas of white or light-colored clothing with white distilled vinegar then launder as usual. If stain remains after washing, do not machine dry. Re-treat the area with vinegar and place garment in the sun to bleach.

21. Keep colors from running: To keep colored fabrics from running in the wash, first soak them for a few minutes in white distilled vinegar.

22. Setting colors: When dying fabric, help set the color by adding a cup of white distilled vinegar to the last rinse water.

23. Unclog steam iron: To dissolve mineral residue in steam irons, pour equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water into the water reservoir. Turn the iron to the steam setting and allow it to steam for five minutes in an upright position. Unplug and cool the iron. Empty the reservoir — and the dissolved minerals.

24. Clean a scorched iron bottom: Heat equal parts white distilled vinegar and salt in a small pan. Rub mixture onto the bottom of a cooled iron to remove scorch marks. (holy cow, I have been using an expensive iron cleaner for so long!)

25. Scorch marks on clothes: Dip the corner of a cloth in white vinegar. Rub lightly on scorched area of fabric. Wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat as needed.

26. Deodorize the kitchen drain: To keep drains fresh, pour a cup of white distilled vinegar down the drain once a week. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes then flush with cold water.

27. Fruit-stained hands: Wash berry-colored hands with vinegar to remove fruit stains.

28. De-calcify sleep apnea (CPAP) machines: To remove calcium deposits in the reservoir, heat 1 ¾ cups of vinegar in the microwave for 2 minutes. Pour vinegar into reservoir and replace the cap. Allow this to sit for 1 hour before pouring out the vinegar. (As always, follow manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning.)

 

As you can see, there are MANY uses for vinegars in your daily household activities and it can replace many expensive and specific products that are just full of chemicals or creating more plastic waste. Now that you know you can use that big ole jug of vinegar to replace SO MANY bottles of cleaning products in your hall closet, go get some of your own.
For cleaning the windows, carpets, countertops, floors, microwave, clothes and dishes, I like to infuse that basic White Vinegar with citrus peels to make the scent more appealing. You can infuse it with other scents as well – just plain old vinegar isn’t my favorite smell. Luckily, it’s super easy to infuse vinegars as long as you plan ahead. For cleaning or for cooking.
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All you need is a sterilized jar with a lid, your vinegar and whatever herbs or foods you plan to use. For cleaning, I use citrus rinds. As my family peels and eats oranges, lemons and limes, I save the peels in the fridge until I get a huge pile to throw into my vinegar. Or, if you are planning a specific dish with citrus, save those peels! Just put the rinds in the jar, fill with vinegar, seal and leave for at least 2 weeks. Once it’s done, you can strain the rinds and then use the vinegar as needed for cleaning. You can use pine needles, rosemary, lemon balm, peppermint or combinations of this to make your infused vinegar for cleaning. It’s up to you!
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To make an infused vinegar for cooking, you can do the same method but you can use garlic, chili peppers, ginger or peppercorns and even fruits with a White Wine Vinegar to make specific flavors. Now you see why it’s silly to buy infused vinegars, right? They are super simple to make and you can create whatever combination you prefer for your type of cleaning and cooking.
They make amazing gifts as well – just remember to plan ahead as they need a month to steep! If you can’t wait, you can cheat and make an infused vinegar by heating up the ingredients. Some people heat the vinegar up and pour over herbs/fruits and some people boil it all together for a few minutes. Straining the herbs/fruits from your cooking vinegars is up to you because it is totally a visual thing.
Hopefully, you understand the quiet importance of the mighty vinegar now! Go out there and start an infused vinegar of your own because it’s fun to experiment, right?
Happy Infusing!
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