Cleaning with vinegar: The truth on whether it's better than chemicals

Cleaning with vinegar can be good for some things, but not great for others. Source: Pixabay

When it comes to cleaning, many people believe that vinegar is the perfect natural alternative to harmful chemicals and other cleaners on the market.

In addition to being non-toxic, it’s relatively cheap, good for the environment and probably something that your own mother and grandmother used to clean their house.

But were they putting undue faith in the cleaning powers of vinegar? A new report by the ABC has shone a spotlight on vinegar and how effective it really is at killing germs. While the report acknowledged that vinegar wasn’t always as effective as many cleaners on the market, it was still a powerful disinfectant in its own right.

The report noted that because most vinegar contains 5 per cent acetic acid, it has the ability to kill harmful viruses and bacteria. It does this by transforming the fats and proteins that make the germs harmful in the first place and effectively destroying them.

This means that if you have been using vinegar around the house when someone has had a cold or a flu, you’ve been helping to destroy the virus. Furthermore, the ABC suggested that vinegar had the potential to destroy Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which, as the name suggests, is the main bacteria that causes tuberculosis.

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It’s important to use elbow grease when cleaning with vinegar.

Vinegar is also credited by other studies with being able to kill salmonella bacteria and e.coli, which makes it good for cleaning cutting boards and counters and for giving your refrigerator interior a wipe-down. The Pesticide Research Institute says it’s also effective at preventing the growth of mould and mildew, so works well on shower interiors and screens.

It’s just important to remember NEVER to mix vinegar with bleach or ammonia, or even to clean with one and then the other on the same surface, because that can create a harmful chlorine gas.

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As any regular user of vinegar as a cleaning agent knows, though, elbow grease is just as important if you want to actually remove a mark or stain, because that’s not what vinegar excels at. A report by Green Cleaning Products added that vinegar wasn’t necessarily great if you were looking to destroy dirt and grime.

Quoting the Journal of Environmental Health, it suggested that vinegar was actually the worst at removing soil and dirt from kitchens and bathrooms when compared with commonly-used commercial cleaning products.

Read more: From grapefruit to vinegar, natural tips for a spotless toilet

“Vinegar was more effective in reducing microbial contamination than the other alternative cleaners tested but was least effective in removing soil,” the site said. “All of the cleaners, including water, could conceivably have removed the soil with enough cleaning strokes.”

It suggested that vinegar was most-effective when used for mopping or removing stains, as well as cleaning bins, the bathroom and even for dishes. 

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What do you think of the findings? Do you regularly clean with vinegar, or do you opt for commercial cleaners and disinfectants?

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