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7 Things You Should Never Ever Clean With Vinegar, According to a Scientist and a Cleaning Expert

Vinegar is like a magical concoction. I use it in the kitchen to clean the drain and spray it on the shower head to remove built-up gunk. Although it can be very handy in many cleaning situations, sometimes it is not recommended to use vinegar.

I spoke to a cleaning expert and a food scientist about the things you should never clean with vinegar. Ruojie Vanessa Zhang is an assistant research professor of food sciences at the University of Missouri and chair of the Division of Food Chemistry at the Institute of Food Technologists. Jessica Ek is a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute.

Why Vinegar is Used for Cleaning

Vinegar, a solution of acetic acid and water, is an excellent cleaner and disinfectant, says Zhang. “Its acidic properties effectively dissolve mineral deposits, dirt, grease and grime while killing bacteria,” she says. “Vinegar is non-toxic, environmentally friendly and economical, making it a versatile and safe choice for a wide range of kitchen cleaning tasks. »

Vinegar is also handy because chances are you already have some on hand.

Ek points out that it can remove hard water residue from clothes, towels, and your shower head. “It can help deep clean pots and pans, such as restoring shine to tarnished copper cookware.” It can be used to eliminate lingering odors,” she adds. She suggests using white vinegar so it doesn't add colors or residue to whatever you're cleaning.

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Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar

The acidic composition of vinegar could damage certain surfaces. Here's when you should choose another cleaning product.

  1. Melting: Vinegar can strip seasoning from cast iron pans, which can lead to rust and damage, says Zhang. She recommends cleaning cast iron with mild soap and water.
  2. Hardwoods: Vinegar can damage the finish of hardwood floors or furniture. Use a cleaner specifically designed for hardwoods.
  3. Stainless steel: Vinegar can be used to clean stainless steel, “but it can cause discoloration or damage if left on too long or used in high concentrations,” says Zhang. “Use a mild soap or cleaner formulated specifically for stainless steel.”
  4. Natural stone countertops: Vinegar should not be used on natural stone countertops like marble or granite. “The acid in vinegar can damage the surface by discoloring or etching it,” says Ek. Choose a cleaner specifically designed for natural stone surfaces.
  5. Electronic screens: Do not clean your laptop, TV, or phone screen with vinegar. “Vinegar can damage the coatings of electronic screens, leading to streaking or discoloration,” says Zhang, who advises using a microfiber cloth and a screen-safe cleaner instead.
  6. Washing machines and dishwashers: It's tempting to pour vinegar on for a deep clean, but Ek advises against it. “Acid can also cause rubber seals and hoses in your dishwasher to break prematurely, so it should not be used to clean the dishwasher or washing machine.”
  7. Grout: Vinegar can clean grout, but its acidic nature degrades grout over time. This can lead to mold growth and damage. Use grout cleaner or baking soda and water for grout, says Zhang.

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