Friday, November 23, 2012

Granola Mom: Vinegar is Sexy*


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*OK, vinegar is so not sexy. I know.

Once upon a time, I loved to clean every surface possible in my home with bleach. Nothing made me feel like my house was sparkling clean like walking into a bleachy clean home. I'd leave after a morning of cleaning just so I could walk back in and smell the chemical goodness. I'm the person all of those cleansers came out with a "Now With Bleach!" line.

When I got pregnant, I realized that breathing in bleach fumes was probably not super desirable. I feared that my house would never feel clean again. I also knew that after baby was born I'd still not want to be dousing the house in bleach as much as I'd like. I knew I'd need to find a "nicer" cleaning product. Since I'm mostly a stay at home mom and only teaching one class this semester, I also liked the idea of an economically friendly cleanser. (I mean, the budget is way limited now, and if I can get one inexpensive cleaner for almost everything, that leaves money for more important things like shoes!)

Then I rediscovered vinegar. True, vinegar's smell can be unpleasant to some, but it really is a miracle liquid. I mean, come on, you can make a tangy salad dressing with it and then turn around and clean a clogged drain. Ah-mazing.

Obviously, since salad dressings and other kitchen uses are possible with it, it is completely nontoxic. As a new mom I love that. It also has antibacterial properties and as we are headed into flu season, I appreciate that I can kill bacteria. Keeping Little Man safe and healthy is super important to me. As I clean the house with it, I'll be killing those nasty germies. Then, I'll make a salad, and will have spent almost nothing since the stuff is dirt cheap! (Favorite "salad": sliced, peeled cucumbers, a few slices of onion, vinegar, water, ice. Let it sit for a while and eat. A simple, tangy, clean salad." 

Here, then, are a few (of very, very many) ways I use vinegar in the home:

  • When I started losing my hair, somehow the drains got clogged often. Using vinegar, baking soda and hot water cleaned out those clogs super quickly. Simply shake about a quarter of a cup of baking soda into the drain, pour in about a cup of vinegar and watch science happen. (Elementary school volcanoes, yo!) The bubbly magic will break up clogs. Let the reaction work for about five minutes and then dump boiling water down the drain. If the clog is especially stubborn, a plunger at this point may help move the newly broken up grossness. (Note: I don't actually measure this stuff. I just dump what I think looks about right. And be careful with the plunger in super hot water. Duh.)
  • Along the same lines, you can use baking soda and vinegar to freshen up a stinky garbage disposal. (I like to follow it up with a chunk of lemon or lime in the disposal to get a citrus burst to freshen the room. Pull the mangled rind out after grinding or you'll be stinky again in a week or so...)
  • Make a paste of baking soda and a bit of vinegar to clean grout. Vinegar kills mold and mildew. Woot.
  • If baby/toddler/drunk roommate has an accident on a mattress or couch, spray the stain down with vinegar and water and then follow up with baking soda. Once everything is completely dry, vacuum the soda and you should have an odor and bacteria free surface.
  • If you have stinky hands after chopping an onion, rub a bit of vinegar on your hands and the onion smell will be gone. Don't worry, the vinegar smell will be gone shortly, too.
  • According to the back of my bottle of vinegar, it helps soften hands after they have been in contact with harsh chemicals and plaster. Just rub it on undiluted. Again, the smell will vanish pretty quickly. Or you can just use lotion...
  • Soak a smelly sponge in water and vinegar overnight and the sponge will no longer be stinky.

  • Clean out the microwave with vinegar and water (perhaps on your newly clean sponge... or microwave the sponge and all, then--being careful not to burn yourself, obvs--wipe down the microwave with the hot, wet sponge. Caked on grossness should lift off the microwave pretty effortlessly. and you'll have killed two birds with one sponge stone.
  • Use your clean sponge to get rid of a stinky fridge or Tupperware by wiping the offending surface down with vinegar and water.
  • Run vinegar and water through a coffee pot to get rid of hard water buildup. This doesn't smell super yummy--I used to hate it when my mom did this when I was little, but since we had well water and coffee drinkers, it seemed to happen pretty often. They were always happier and more quickly caffienated the next day, so it seems like a fair trade.)
  • Instead of buying packets of soap made to clean our front loading washer, when the clean washer light comes on, I run the cleaning cycle with vinegar in it. If you don't have a washer that is smarter than a fifth grader, just do this on a semi-regular basis. The acid in the vinegar cleans soap build-up. Since I wash diapers in our washer, I like to run a cycle of vinegar about once a month to get rid of any sort of build-up. Use a vinegar soaked sponge or rag around and inside the rubber gasket and over the door.
  • If you want to clean toys and board books without spraying them down with either a bleach/water combo or Lysol, a soapy water/vinegar solution is just as effective. (Well, almost as effective. I think Lysol actually disinfects a bit better.)
  • Mop hardwood floors with it. Use about a half a cup per gallon of water. I've been bugging Beau for a floor steamer before Little Man starts to crawl. I'm pretty sure you can use a vinegar/water solution in the steamer for a super duper clean floor. (Steam + vinegar= a germ's worst nightmare.) Hopefully I'll let you know that soon.
And, here are two really interesting uses that I've heard of (thanks, Pinterest!) but haven't yet used:
  • Wipe down your car windows with a 3-1 vinegar to water solution and you'll have frost free windows in the winter. Fa La La La La.
  • Combine a couple of tablespoons of Apple Cider vinegar with a pint of water and use it as a conditioner. You'll have shiny, soft hair immediately. And, I understand the smell subsides rapidly. (I saw a suggestion to add a few drops of essential oil--like my fave lavender!)
It used to be that when I came back to the house after going on a bleach cleaning binge, I'd inhale and smile. While I'm not quite there with the vinegar, I can tell you that the smell doesn't last very long. And the knowledge that it is so much better for all of us makes it worth it!

Vinegar is so safe and gentle that I have no issues using it in the same room as Little Man. I don't worry that he's going to touch a surface I've just cleaned with it. (Or more realistically, he's going to lick said surface...) Harsh cleansers that are full of ingredients I can't pronounce do worry me.

In case you aren't totally convinced at this point, on top of being cheap, safe, antibacterial, nontoxic, etc. it is also super duper green and good for the planet.

Everybody's doing it. Come on. You know you want to.

Do you use vinegar for magic or salad that I haven't mentioned here?  Or are you of my old mindset: chemicals/chemical smell = clean?

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