Better living through vinegar

13 Jan

Fluffy towelsThree ways to improve your morning routine for under $1

I think modern America is entirely too clean. Perhaps we should blame a lifetime of television advertisements for BRAND-NEW, LIFE-SAVING, home cleaning products that only a neglectful monster would try to survive without. I’m all for labor-saving bathroom cleaners and so forth, but please remember that using antibacterial treatments on our hands and countertops as though preparing for surgery does nothing but breed resistant bacteria and line the pockets of cleaning-product vendors. Moreover, there are often simpler, less-expensive alternatives to the myriad brightly-colored bottles found in the cleaning aisle.

Vinegar is one such miracle product — a cheap, effective, non-toxic cleaning agent with has no lingering effects (true, it has a distinctive smell, but that disappears quickly once the vinegar is wiped up or allowed to evaporate). I’ll skip the hippie justification for the moment and put it simply: You can take better showers, use softer towels, and drink tastier coffee by tomorrow with under a dollar’s worth of vinegar. Find me another cleaning product that can improve your entire morning routine so cheaply! If that isn’t enticing, you must live in a different world than I do or never have to get up and get ready for work. You are free to stop reading, and I am jealous of your life.

Vinegar bottle

White vinegar is merely dilute acetic acid. Being acidic, it can dissolve various mineral buildups around the house with ease while still being completely safe to handle. It’s also inexpensive, making it a great alternative to typical household cleaners. There are countless household uses for vinegar. Today, we’re focusing on just three unique quality-of-life applications.

Showerhead with mineral scaleShowerhead diagramShowerhead after vinegar soak

  • Fix clogged, crossfiring showerheads: Gradual mineral accumulation from tap water can cause those misfiring nozzles that hit you in the eye first thing in the morning. It’s also ugly. Submerge your showerhead in vinegar overnight and then run hot water through it. You can attach a plastic bag filled of vinegar using rubber bands to avoid having to unscrew the showerhead (a good trick for renters who don’t want to break out any landlord-defying tools). If you do decide to unscrew the showerhead, be sure to apply PTFE (“Teflon”) tape to the threads before reattaching it to ensure a watertight seal.

Fluffy towels

  • Restore towels to softness: Towels get rougher and rougher as you use and wash them. Try washing your towels with a cup or more of vinegar and no detergent. I found my towels were noticeably softer after a single vinegar wash. You can go back to using detergent or bleach on your towels and just use occasional vinegar baths to restore them.

French press with grimeFrench press after vinegar soak

  • Clean your coffee maker: No matter the type of coffee maker you use — drip, percolator, French press, pantyhose — a clean coffee apparatus will make fresher-tasting coffee. Run a pot of hot vinegar through the works (no beans, of course), and then run a pot of water through to flush out the vinegar. The vinegar will remove clogs of coffee residue and leave you with a much cleaner machine. Once again, no need to do this every time; I don’t get around to it more than once a year, but it works wonders.

I stand by all three of these applications for vinegar because I don’t know of a commercial product that can do a better job at any of them. Do you? If it’s cheaper than vinegar, I’m all ears.


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  1. marybeth.fedor

    01/14/2011 at 5:43 pm

    i’m going out to buy vinegar right now!

  2. andrew

    01/18/2011 at 6:38 pm

    Great additions to ye ol’ blog. I use a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, and water for 90% of my household cleaning. The other 10%?…that’ll be our secret. ;-)