Nine Everyday Uses For Plain Old White Vinegar


We all run into situations where we end up using chemical products we don’t want to use. So, it’s nice to know there’s a safer alternative. Trusty old vinegar, especially white vinegar, can solve many of those problems without side effects. Here are nine ways to use it at home.

White Vinegar vs Cider (or other) Vinegar vs Cleaning Vinegar

Not all vinegars are equal. One reason why I specify white vinegar rather than apple cider or other kinds of vinegar is price. White vinegar only costs about $2.50 a gallon. Another is because other vinegars have residues in them. The same apple cider vinegar with the “mother” that is so beneficial when consumed, will clog the tiny openings in your nebulizer. It might leave smelly residue on your pets, or particles on your bathroom shower walls or door. Why pay more when white vinegar gives better results?

Most white vinegar is 5% strength. Another product, called cleaning vinegar, is a bit stronger at 6%. Cleaning vinegar has a bit more punch, but watch the price. At $5/gallon, it’s not THAT much better. At $3/gallon, it’s a deal.

Personal Uses for Vinegar

Vinegar to Prevent Cellulitis

This trick is one I figured out when my lower leg flared up on a weekend when the doctors’ offices were closed. I’d had cellulitis before and didn’t want it to progress to the infection stage. But it wasn’t worth a trip to the emergency room, either.

I figured that it couldn’t hurt to try the vinegar treatment – better that than do nothing. After soaking a dishtowel in vinegar (I could have used any type of vinegar as the residue wouldn’t make a difference,) I wrung it out and wrapped it around my ankle and lower leg for about 30 minutes. It worked. The inflammation went down right away and it didnt feel hot anymore. I did this again the second day, and my leg returned to normal by the third day.

Caution, though. If you do this and don’t get noticeable results within an hour or two of the first application, do seek medical care. If it’s hot and tender, definitely go to an urgent care or the emergency department. People have been hospitalized for cellulitis.

Vinegar to Remove Dry Skin

One outcome of treating the cellulitis was that the some of the vinegar dripped down to my foot. After 30 minutes of that, my dry, “summer foot” callouses began to break down. After scrubbing them with a washcloth to remove the vinegar-saturated, calloused skin, I was down to nice, soft skin on my feet. Compared to using lotion, which often took several applications, over several days, resulting in only partial softening the vinegar worked in less than an hour.

I’ve noticed, also, that anytime I work with vinegar, my hands are softer. And that’s better than using chemical laden lotions.

Vinegar as Pet Wash and Flea Killer

Like most cats, Mr. Mooo hates baths, so, we keep this torture as short as possible. This is as much for our benefit as his – he’s been known to draw blood the longer he’s kept wet. Judging from his angry eyes and iron grip on the edge of the sink (if not my arm,) I’m sure he hates this, but it cleans him nicely and leaves his fur extra soft.

While he rarely has fleas, we found that washing him with plain white vinegar kills any fleas he does have, immediately. They fall off easily during rinsing.

While, even with a thorough rinsing, he might smell vinegary for a while, the smell goes away completely once he’s dry. It also rinses off much easier than pet shampoo, so he, and we, are in and out much faster. And if he gets away before he’s completely rinsed, the vinegar won’t hurt him. I don’t know how licking off shampoo would affect cats, but it can’t be or taste good.

If you’re camping or RVing and have to wash your pets, especially outside, white vinegar is a godsend. No one’s going to care if you rinse a vinegar soaked dog in a river, or from a hose in the camping area.

Vinegar IS a weed-killer, so rinse where nothing desirable is growing, like a lawn or flower bed. Most RV slips have patios, dirt or graveled areas where you wouldn’t want weeds growing anyway, so you can knock out two jobs at once this way.

Practical Uses for Vinegar

Vinegar as Weedkiller

Speaking of weed-killer, white vinegar is a perfect choice. It’s natural, so no chemicals. Mix it with some magnesium and your weeds will wilt in about a day, and you’ll do no harm to the environment, people or critters. But, it can also kill off plants and grass that you want to keep, so apply it directly on the weeds you want to kill.

Vinegar to Remove Hard Water Stains

One day my husband decided to clean the shower door with vinegar instead of the chemical products we usually used for this purpose. Hard water is the toughest thing to clean in a shower, but white vinegar makes it a snap to clean off.

He was amazed at how easily and thoroughly it cleaned everything. It’s even easier when you use one of those Mr. Clean white sponges. But even with a regular or scrubber sponge, it works so nicely that I wonder how commercial products ever made it to the shelves. No chemicals, no smells, no fumes. And it disinfects, too.

Vinegar for Cleaning the Stove 

Easy-off and similar products clean ovens, stove tops, grills, very nicely. But they give off toxic fumes, and an RV is so small a space that everyone has to get out if they want to breathe safely.

On the other hand, good old white vinegar can cut right through those burnt spots. Well, not right through, but spray it with vinegar and let it sit a while. Then scrub it off with a scrubber sponge or a Mr. Clean sponge. If it doesn’t come off right away, spray the stubborn spot down then warm the oven or microwave before scrubbing to soften those stubborn stains.

Vinegar for Cleaning Burnt Pans

We’ve all burned something while cooking, then get frustrated about how to clean it up. Vinegar is excellent for loosening burnt on foods. Pour a layer of vinegar, enough to cover the burned-on area, and simmer it for a few minutes. Let it sit for an hour, then scrub it off. Heating it usually works when you need a bit more cleaning power.

Vinegar for Cleaning the RV’s Black Tank

Most of us use the bacteria solutions in our black tanks, but sometimes that’s not enough. About once a month we pour a gallon of cleaning vinegar into the tank to help break down whatever solids that are stuck to the tank. Because vinegar kills bacteria, pouring the usual tank solution with bacteria would be a waste of that product, so save it for the next time you flush the tank.

Vinegar for Cleaning Respiratory Equipment

If you use any type of respiratory equipment at home, you may wonder about the best way to clean it. This equipment can range from nebulizers for breathing treatments, to CPAP machines, to oxygen concentrators, and anything you reuse.

I’m a retired respiratory therapist (RT) and, at one time, owned a medical equipment company. I’m disappointed in how things have changed over the years. It used to be that an RT came to your home and showed you how to assemble, disassemble and clean this equipment. But lately, the trend is toward just delivering the equipment via UPS or FedEx, assuming you will read and understand the instructions. That is, if they’re even included.

The good news is that cleaning this equipment isn’t difficult. Just disassemble the pieces of the nebulizer, or water bottle for the concentrator, or CPAP, or whatever equipment you reuse for any type of treatment. Pay close attention to how the pieces go together so that you can re-assemble them easily.

Then soak them in white vinegar mixed with water for about 30 minutes. Then rinse them and lay them on a paper towel to dry before reassembling them. Hang tubings so they can drain and dry faster. Alternatively, reassemble them and run the equipment so that the airflow dries the insides of the tubes, nebulizers, bottles, etc.

Distilled water is best, but people have used tap water with no problems. Recommendations vary from using one part vinegar to either three or four parts water (20% to 25% vinegar solution.) While either concentration works, it does matter that you use white or cleaning vinegar and not cider vinegar, because the particles can clog the tiny openings in nebulizers and water-bottle filters.

Hope these tips make your RVing life a little easier and healthier.

Michele Boyer
Fulltimers in spirit since 1999. We've worked from home since 1977 and have plenty to share about that. As a full timer, the ability to work from wherever we take our RV is a survival tactic. Our travels our funded through writings, courses, Shoestring Startup™ business books, teaching courses in working from home or RV, courses in genealogy, and our affiliate sales of similar materials. Our resource pages are accessible through Everyone can do something, and we'll help you live healthier by making a living from whatever it is you do, naturally. Full timing was the best decision we ever made. We enjoy a healthier lifestyle and time to give and take according to the opportunities life presents us.