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Vinegar and what you need to know to use it differently yet correctly.

 « White vinegar, household vinegar, alcohol vinegar, flavored vinegar, table vinegar…. acid, corrosive, anti-scale… »

Feeling lost? Me too, so let’s get back to the basics:

  • Vinegar is a liquid that contains water, acetic acid and sugars. The acetic acid is the result of the degradation of an alcoholic solution by bacterias. It is the main « active » agent of vinegar (but we will get back to that later).
  • Wine vinegar, apple vinegar or honey vinegar, means that bacterial fermentation has been made out of a « natural » alcohol.
  • If we use pure industrial alcohol (like ethanol), we get white vinegar, which is colorless and also called household vinegar.

« But is it dangerous ? »

Vinegars that you will commonly find in supermarkets are not dangerous as their pourcentage of acetic acid is less than 10%. Table vinegar has usually between 4% to 8%. Let’s take an example from my kitchen: red wine vinegar, on the label we can read ” acid 4,5 % “.

But an acetic acid solution with a higher percentage can be dangerous. It is corrosive and can damage your skin or your eyes very fast. When using them, you need safety glasses, acid-resistant gloves and so on. All good chemist would tell you so!

Vinegar is a real danger when mixed with bleach: mixing them would result in the production of dichloride, a very toxic gas. Do not store bleach next to something acid.

« So how should I use it and what can I use it for? »

The acetic acid that vinegar contains is a weak acid, which means that you can use it at home without wearing a white blouse or gloves. But the acid in vinegar is great to dissolve limescale, for example.

You can use vinegar around the house:

  • In the laundry machine as a fabric softener;
  • To clean the sink, the toilets, the kettle or the iron;
  • To balance the pH of your hair after the shampoo (hair has a natural pH of 5, whereas water is around 7.5, therefore rinsing your hair with vinegar gives it back some acidity after washing it);
  • To clean the windows (because oil is not soluble in water but when you mix water with a bit of vinegar, it gets acid enough to dissolve small amounts of grease that can be found on your kitchen windows for example).

And you, are you using it for anything else?

Two more tips!

When you are done with a jar of pickles, filter the liquid with a strainer then pour the vinegar in your toilets. It is a great way to clean them.

If you are not a fan of the smell of vinegar, you can infuse orange or lemon peels in it for a couple of weeks. Take the peels out of the liquid before using it to clean. That will give a nice smell to your bathroom!

Author: Flavie, chimiste