Does Vinegar Really Kill Germs & Disinfect Your Home?

There are so many cheap and organic ways to clean your home or office. There’s no shortage of cleaning products on store shelves. But the question is: what is the best cleaning product? If you’re looking for an inexpensive and non-toxic disinfectant, perhaps you should try vinegar.

Seriously, many households swear by vinegar. 

But does vinegar kill germs? Can it clean your kitchen and bathroom? Does it effectively eliminate household germs? 

The answer to these questions is a resounding yes. However, there are crucial things that one must know before using vinegar as a disinfectant or a cleaning product. The good news is, this article was written to provide you the necessary information regarding the use of vinegar for cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. 

About Vinegar

We all know that vinegar needs no introduction and perhaps 99% of human beings have already known and been using the product for many years now. This useful and miraculous liquid elixir can be used in endless ways, literally. From salads to snacks, to laundry to household cleaning, vinegar is the “go-to” product. This is because it’s cheap, natural, and chemical-free.

But before you decide to ditch out all your Lysol sprays and Clorox bleaches, we must first understand how it works. It’s also smart that we listen to what the experts are saying regarding the use of vinegar as a disinfectant. 

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Vinegar and Disinfectants

The main ingredient of vinegar is acetic acid and it’s responsible for killing several types of germs and breaking down dirt. However, keep in mind that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not include vinegar on their list of effective home and office disinfectants. It’s also not recommended for commercial use. Regardless, the effectiveness of vinegar when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting is still true.

How Does it Work?

Most of the vinegar that we can find on our shelves is about 5% acetic acid. This particular acid is known to kill not only bacteria but also viruses. It does its job by chemically changing the fats and proteins of these microbes. Once these fats and protein compounds are changed, the cellular structures are destroyed. Consequently, the germs are killed. 

Believe it or not, vinegar can effectively kill the flu virus. A study conducted by reputable UK researchers concluded that vinegar, just like bleach, can rapidly and effectively destroy the flu virus. This study was conducted in preparation for a flu pandemic.

Another study conducted by Peter Collignon (a respected infectious disease physician) from the Australian National University also demonstrated that even vinegar can kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis (which causes tuberculosis). He also added that if vinegar can kill TB, which is a very “hard-to-kill” bacteria, then it’s logical and scientific to conclude that it can kill almost all harmful bacteria. And this statement is not without proof or evidence. Cortesia et al. (2014) conducted a study about acetic acid and Mycobacterium tuberculosis and they discovered that the bacteria were effectively destroyed after 30 minutes of exposure to vinegar. 

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Pathogens That Can Be Killed Using Vinegar

It’s the acetic acid that kills germs and viruses. Bottles of vinegar that can be found on supermarket shelves such as distilled vinegar contain about 4% to 7% acetic acid. Meanwhile, wine and cider vinegar contain about 5% to 7% of acetic acid. Apart from killing the flu virus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, vinegar is also known to kill other pathogens such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E.coli), and Listeria monocytogenes.

The above mentioned pathogens are known to cause serious foodborne diseases in human. Although vinegar is known to be able to kill the influenza A virus, unfortunately, it can’t kill SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. Yes, vinegar can indeed eliminate different types of microbes, but it can’t kill them all.

Can Vinegar Be Used as a Disinfectant?

Yes, it can be used as a disinfectant. However, although vinegar can indeed kill bacteria and viruses, there are other commercial products that you can find in the market today that are more effective. Vinegar contains antibacterial properties but it’s not an all-around solution to all germ problems. For this reason, it’s vital that you also keep potent and highly-effective cleaning products inside your home or your office.            

There’s a great advantage though in using vinegar to kill germs – it’s cheap and safe for everyone. Compared to other cleaning products, vinegar does not contain any harmful chemicals which can lead to health problems. Vinegar is safe for both children and adults.

Before you start using commercial cleaning products or disinfectants, it’s very important that you do more research first. You must check for reviews and read the label first. There are many products out there that bring more harm than good to your health. Also, you must set a specific cleaning and disinfection schedule – you wouldn’t want to use strong and harmful chemicals inside your home or office everyday.

Now, if you decide to start or continue using vinegar as the main disinfectant inside your home, then you should know how to use it properly. There are things that we need to keep in mind when using vinegar to kill germs inside our home or office. We have listed several instructions on how you can use vinegar to kill germs.

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How to Use Vinegar as a Disinfectant

Before we provide you the simple guidelines on how to use vinegar as a disinfectant, we have to know the difference between cleaners and disinfectants first. When we say cleaners, we are talking about getting rid of physical debris, dirt, or germs from a particular surface (such as your table, chairs, sinks, toilet bowls, and even walls). While they do clean the surface, they don’t necessarily kill germs. On the other hand, disinfectants are products or chemicals that destroy or kill germs. They inactivate the cellular structure of both bacteria and viruses.

Vinegar is an incredible product since it can be used both as a cleaner and disinfectant. Apart from the fact that it can clean away physical dirt, debris, and residue, studies have showed that it can also have very potent disinfectant properties. Thus, it’s safe to say that vinegar can be an excellent household cleaner. But then again, if you’re looking for a stronger and more potent product to eliminate germs, then there are a lot of good options out there aside from vinegar.

Making DIY All-Purpose Vinegar Cleaner

Here are the things you need to make an all-purpose vinegar cleaner:

  • 2 cups of clean, filtered, or distilled water
  • 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar (you can also use other types of vinegar)
  • A clean spray bottle

It is pretty simple, all you have to do is pour and mix all ingredients inside the spray bottle and then you shake or mix it well. Be sure that you tighten the lid to avoid spills. Spray the vinegar solution on the surface and wipe it using a clean cloth.

Here are some specific instructions on how to clean or disinfect a particular surface:

Cleaning the Microwave

Vinegar can be used to remove food residue inside your microwave. The insides of the microwave can be pretty messy, oily, and even dirty. There’s an easy vinegar solution to this problem: all you have to do is place a quarter cup of vinegar and a cup of water in the microwave. Mix the water and the vinegar. The steam from this solution effectively disinfects the microwave and makes the food residue easier to clean. Wipe off the residue or debris using a clean towel.

Unclogging and Refreshing Your Drains

You can also use vinegar to unclog and clean your drains. Instead of using strong and expensive chemicals that you can buy from the market, why not use vinegar? The instructions are also quite simple: boil 2 cups of boiling water and then pour it down the drain. After that, pour 1 cup of baking soda. Pour a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water down the drain. Cover the drain and let this solution sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The final step is to pour another cup of boiling water.

Cleaning Stains off the Surface

Using 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of baking soda, you can clean surfaces and items inside your household. You can clean stains from your table, plates, mugs, and even your cooking appliances. Vinegar can easily get rid of stains, dirt, and markings off from your items.

For some people, the smell of the vinegar can be pretty nasty because it’s quite strong and unpleasant. What you can do to reduce the smell (or even make it more aromatic and pleasing to the nose) is to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. You can add chamomile, lavender, or even citrus scent. This should make the whole cleaning and disinfecting process a more pleasant experience.

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Tips for Using Vinegar

Before you proceed with cleaning and disinfecting your home using vinegar, you must consider a few more things. Like for instance, before you clean a specific item or appliance, ask yourself first if the properties of the vinegar (such as acetic acid) won’t damage the surface. There are items inside our house that don’t go well with acid. It’s also important that we ask ourselves first what we want to achieve before we start using vinegar.

Are you planning to clean it or disinfect it? Perhaps both? If you simply want to clean the top of your stove, then soapy water or liquid dishwashing soap might be enough. Again, there are other cleaning or disinfecting solutions out there that are more suitable than vinegar. Also, you must check what kind of vinegar you are using. You need to consider practicality. You don’t want to be pouring volumes of expensive vinegar just to clean the stains off your mug. White vinegar is commonly used since it is cheap and non-toxic.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are mixtures, ingredients, or solutions out there that should not be mixed with vinegar. Remember that vinegar contains acetic acid, which is the main ingredient that combats germs and bacteria; however, when it’s combined with alkaline ingredient, it loses its acidity. Alkaline neutralizes acid and as a consequence, the germ-fighting property of the vinegar disappears.

Apart from this, some substances create harmful gases and even corrosive substances when you mix it with vinegar. Therefore, it’s vital that you are aware of substances that you should not mix with vinegar. Here are some of those ingredients:

  • Baking Soda (neutralizes the acid)
  • Lye (neutralizes the acid)
  • Castile Soap (neutralizes the acid)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (creates toxic and corrosive peracetic acid)
  • Bleach (creates deadly and seriously harmful chlorine gas)

Improving the Vinegar’s Disinfecting Power

There are also easy ways in which you can boost the cleaning and disinfecting power of vinegar. One way is to combine it with other disinfectant or cleaning products. However, just to be sure, it’s better that you use bleach and other excellent cleaning products that are proven to eliminate germs and bacteria instead of creating solutions that you are unfamiliar with.

Other Products That Can Be Used as Disinfectants

Indeed, there are myriads of products out there that work best as disinfectants other than vinegar. Knowing these products is also helpful, especially during this pandemic. We’ve created a list of the widely used and reliable cleaning and disinfecting products that you can find in the market today. These disinfectants should have been tested and proven to kill about 99.9 percent of disease-causing germs such as bacteria. These disinfectants should also be able to kill microbes within 5 to 10 minutes only. These products should be registered and must conform to specific standards set by the EPA.

  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol
  • Phenolic Compounds
  • Bleach or Sodium Hypochlorite
  • Quaternary Ammonium
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

You can find many well-known disinfectant products in the market today such as Lysol disinfectant spray, Clorox disinfecting wipes, Purell disinfecting products, Mr. Clean, and different brands of rubbing alcohol. When choosing a product, it’s crucial that you do your research first. Although these products may have the same germ-killing effect, they have different chemical compositions.

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Tips When Buying Disinfectants

Some people prefer hydrogen peroxide over rubbing alcohol. Some prefer wiping their surfaces with bleach instead of spraying Lysol. Whatever product you choose, what is important is that you make sure that they are safe for you and your family. The best way for you to check whether or not a particular product is safe is to read reviews and testimonials written by people who have used that particular disinfectant or cleaning product.

You should also consider your budget when purchasing products. There are inexpensive disinfectants out there that are as potent as the expensive ones. Again, do your research and reviews. If you think that the product has received too many negative reviews, then the best thing that you can do is to choose another product. You might know someone, perhaps a family or a friend, who has tried and used several disinfectants before. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice and recommendations from these individuals.

Joining online forums or communities where people gather and share ideas regarding cleaning and disinfecting homes and offices is also a good idea. Ask questions from the experts and members. If you have the answer, then don’t hesitate to share your experiences. This pandemic may have caused us serious harm, but it can also become a way for us human beings to become helpful towards each other.

Final Thoughts

Vinegar can indeed clean your home and your office effectively, but just like any product, it also has limitations. If you simply want to clean an item or surface inside your home, then vinegar offers several great benefits. Vinegar can also be very useful when it comes to unclogging the drain in your sink or toilet bowl – it’s like the Swiss knife of condiments.

However, take note that vinegar is not ideal for meticulous disinfection. There are other products out there that are far more efficient when it comes to eliminating germs and viruses. While it’s true that vinegar can destroy the cellular structure of germs and bacteria, keep in mind that it’s not enough to kill viruses such as SARS-CoV-2.

Eliminating all harmful germs inside the house is undoubtedly everyone’s priority especially during this pandemic. For this reason, you must use a product that is known and proven to kill germs. By using the right disinfectant or cleaning product, you’ll be able to sleep well at night and wake up with the assurance that you and your family are safe from disease-causing germs.

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