An Ode to Vinegar

Even though I do most of the physical shopping for the family, my husband (with the exception of clothes shopping and gift shopping) does most of the planning, and I merely execute his vision. A few years ago he got into couponing–or, as I like to call it, “productive hoarding”–and other than driving me up the wall with trying to figure out where to put 1,578 bottles of barbecue sauce, he got really great deals and saved us money.

Since then, I’ve become a little more active in looking for deals. I’ve got the Target Cartwheel and other couponing apps. But some things I use on a daily basis rarely, if ever, go on sale.

For example: I really like method cleaners. I use them on granite countertops, windows, bathroom surfaces, shower stall, wood; you name it. For the most part, they’re plant-based and they smell and work great. However, they’re expensive: the granite cleaner costs $7 for a 28-oz bottle, and that lasts us a month or two. I can get it in bulk but the savings are not that much more substantial there. Everything else I buy at Target and even though I’ve got Cartwheel and the Red Card, it’s still costly. (I do not understand why plant-based cleaners are so expensive. There are plants everywhere all over the world. Surely it’s not a supply-and-demand problem.)

As I looked at an array of empty spray bottles this weekend, and a sinking feeling I was going to spend major bank replenishing every method cleaner I had, I decided to play on google and see if I could make my own plant-based cleaners.

And you know what? It turns out I could, and most of the cleaning solutions I researched had one main ingredient: white distilled vinegar. It is inexpensive ($3.29 for 1.32 gallons at my local BJs), natural (vinegar is made when yeasts turn natural sugars into alcohol; then a bacteria turns the alcohol into acetic acid), and versatile. I used it along with water for a wood/glass cleaning solution; I combined it with Dawn, lemon juice and water to create a bathroom cleaner for soap scum, and I poured undiluted vinegar into a spray bottle solely to clean stainless steel appliances.

Another benefit: it’s antibacterial. I went on a trip to Washington DC a few years ago with my family, and at one of the Smithsonian Museums a docent was giving a lecture about World War I. (Bottom line: everyone was woefully underprepared for World War I.) Anyway, medics used pickle juice to help treat wounds because of its high vinegar content.

I called my dad to tell him and he basically said, “Online Offal, I invented vinegar.” He uses it for laundry (in lieu of fabric softener), weed killer and more.

As I’ve been preaching vinegar and its virtues over the past several days, my friends were all, “What about the smell?” (And then they told me I was boring.) This is the only part of the whole business that was expensive, although if you shop around you can find good deals online: essential oils. Just one drop of the oil into a spray bottle was enough to eliminate any vinegar odor. I used orange essential oil for cleaning and lavender essential oil for laundry and I couldn’t smell any vinegar at all.

Some caveats: vinegar can’t be used on granite (the acid eats through) and be sure to google before cleaning a delicate surface. Some great online resources include The Vinegar Institute and



An Ode to Vinegar

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