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Vinegar – Green Cleaning 101

Submitted by on Tuesday, 2 February 20102 Comments

vinegarYou can’t make this stuff up: I was on a plane flying home to upstate New York from Los Angeles, and a nice Australian man sat down next to me who happened to be one of the world’s leading experts on vinegar! I had been studying vinegar for years and it was a mainstay of my book Clean & Green, so we had a lot to talk about. My biggest takeaway from the conversation was his saying how fabulous vinegar was as a disinfectant.

Given how the Environmental Protection Agency has ownership of the word “disinfectant” as applied to products in the U.S., companies couldn’t use that word as applied to vinegar without massive amounts of testing and red tape. Here was a man telling me that cheap ol’ vinegar, a kitchen cupboard ingredient in most homes in the U.S., could kill germs, mold, and bacteria.

I started looking for corroborating information and spoke with the Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen, who referenced numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of white distilled vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses). He said that it is well known that vinegar is powerfully antibacterial.

How to use?

Because it is so cheap, there is no reason not to use white distilled vingar straight for cleaning. Gallon jugs of it are readily available in the supermarket. I pour the vinegar into a clean spray bottle and use it on toilet rims, cutting boards, and any other place where I would like to kill mold, bacteria, and germs.

Why white distilled? Why not balsamic? Balsamic would kill the pathogens, but it could also stain. Even apple cider vinegar could stain. White distilled vinegar is the safest choice to use for cleaning.

A key to working with vinegar is to spray it on the surface that needs cleaning and not to rinse, as this lets the acid work away at the germs over time.

Some people don’t like the smell of vinegar, even though it dissipates in a few hours. In these instances I recommend adding a few drops of pure essential oil of lavender.

Photo from Flickr: Lessismorebalanced.

By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).

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