Vinegar as wonder substance

In the latest Cool Tools newlsetter, Roger Knights reviews a book called "Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of."
200711121020 Sample recommendations:

Make creamy scrambled eggs: as eggs thicken when scrambling, add a tablespoon of vinegar for every two eggs.

Rub vinegar on the cut end of uncooked ham to prevent mold.

Add a tsp. of vinegar and sugar to correct a too-salty taste (in any recipe).

Pour a dash of white vinegar on a cloth and lay it over a burn, including sunburn.

Try vinegar ice cubes to clean and deodorize a garbage disposal.

Pour a cup of vinegar into the dishwasher and run the empty machine through the whole cycle to get rid of soap buildup and odors.

Use a paste of vinegar and baking soda to clean tarnished brass, copper, and pewter, or the scorch marks on the bottom of an iron.

Renew sponges, loofahs, dingy white socks, and dish rags by letting them soak overnight in dilute vinegar.

Remove grease and grime from fan blades, oven interiors, tops of refrigerators, etc.

Pour 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar into a sandwich-sized or quart-sized plastic bag and tying over a scummy shower-head for an hour.

Clean toilet bowl rings by turning off the input spigot, removing water from the bowl, and laying vinegar-soaked paper towels on the ring for an hour or more.

Stretch any commercial window cleaner by combining it with 1/3 water and 1/3 vinegar.

Scrub fireplace bricks with vinegar.

Decrease static or dust accumulation of plastic or vinyl surfaces by wiping them down with vinegar and water.

Use vinegar on mildewed garments that cannot take bleach.

Wash new clothes with 1/2 cup white vinegar to eliminate manufacturing chemicals.

Remove odor and perspiration or deodorant stains by spraying vinegar on underarm or collar areas.

Make nylon hose look smoother and last longer by adding a tablespoon over vinegar to the rinse water.

Get salt stains off shoes with a dilute vinegar wipe.

Stop itching from insect stings or poison ivy by dabbing or spraying with vinegar.

To cut appetite and reduce weight, drink one glass of a mixture of vinegar, honey, and grapefruit juice before meals.

Pour vinegar wherever you don't want ants to congregate.

Add it to the kids' sandbox to discourage cats from employing it. Also, spray vinegar on furniture or surfaces you want a cat to leave alone.

Get rid of rust on spigots, tools, or bolts by soaking them.

Tighten the cane in a sagging chair by sponging it with a heated solution of 50/50 vinegar and water.

Wash skinned game with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution to reduce the gamey taste.

Add vinegar to a pet's drinking water to discourage fleas and mange.

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  1. See, I’ve never understood anything that advises you to use “a paste of vinegar and baking soda.” Granted, chemistry isn’t my strong suit—but isn’t the end result of mixing vinegar and baking soda just salt water and CO2?

  2. I’m pretty sure the salt stains and the static ones would work just as well with water as with vinegar — and i’m not sure my pets want to drink vinegary water.

  3. I recall trying to clean out an old coffee maker by running vinegar through it– didn’t seem to improve the coffee any. . . oh wait! I was supposed to use the vinegar to CLEAN the coffee maker, not make coffee. . . never mind!

  4. Um, wouldn’t 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar in a quart ziplock cause a big big mess? Or maybe Jr High science fair physics no longer applies?

  5. I don’t know about all those claims, but I have to say I’ve become a believer in apple cider vinegar…at least it’s very helpful to control a troublesome digestive system/heartburn.

  6. Acetic acid + sodium bicarb = sodium acetate (a salt) and carbonic acid (a very weak acid which decomposes to water and CO2). I am not sure why this would clean things better than just vinegar or baking soda alone? Perhaps people like the foaming action?

  7. “Add vinegar to a pet’s drinking water to discourage fleas and mange.”

    side effects might include dehydration…

  8. “Clean toilet bowl rings by turning off the input spigot, removing water from the bowl, and laying vinegar-soaked paper towels on the ring for an hour or more.”

    Too complicated. Let more water into the bowl by holding down the handle until water flows but doesn’t flush. Then drop in some bleach and leave overnight. Flush in the morning.

  9. Vinegar and baking soda propel small toy rockets nicely. When I was 8 or 10, we could buy a 2-inch rocket filled with candy beads. The beads were stale, so we dumped those. But the rocket, which looked a bit like a V-2, was designed so you could put baking soda in the base, vinegar in the top, put ’em together and wait for blast off!
    –Mike

  10. “…spray vinegar on furniture or surfaces you want a cat to leave alone.”

    If by “leave alone” they mean “urinate on repeatedly”, then by all means do this.

    Something tells me this Vicki Lansky didn’t actually try all these tips.

  11. Unusual Suspect:

    I have to agree. Check out this quote from Vicki’s Amazon page:

    “In 1988 I was approached by FAMILY CIRCLE magazine to write “grown-up” tips. It was a wonderful opportunity… I learned about so many things you can do with baking soda, vinegar and other items we all have around the house… My favorite tip? Usually the newest one sent me or I have read.”

    I’m willing to bet she didn’t spend a lot of time in a lab coat testing out her discoveries. Once again, we’re suckers for the propaganda of Big Vinegar.

  12. I think “paste of vinegar and baking soda” should have been “paste of vinegar and salt”– a traditional (and effective and.. non-foaming!) way to remove tarnish. Maybe an error in transcribing the list, mixing up the “remove tarnish” with “make volcano” preparations?

  13. We had our rugs professionally cleaned last year, and the cleaner told me that one part white vinegar to two or three parts water was a good spot lifter. I now have this in a spray bottle and use it for rug stains, in conjunction with a spot-lifting hand vac. He said not to use Shout, because that’s soap, and attracts dirt.

  14. Mexican grocery stores are a good place to find double-strength vinegar (10% acetic acid solution) for those boingboing readers without a mad scientists’ supply shop handy.

  15. For all the non-believers:

    check out EarthClinic.com for more on Apple Cider Vinegar (http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/acvinegar.html)

    ACV in pet water/food won’t discourage them from drinking/eating – in fact my two dogs love it just the same.

    —-

    I actually use ACV as a health tonic amongst other things – I also add about 1/4 TBSP baking soda to it and while it may fizz a little, there’s no major volcanic activity :)

    —-

    I can also firmly attest to the cleansing powers of regular Vinegar. From scrubbing my bath room, windows and floors to using it as a deodorant.

    It’s cheap and OH so plentiful!

    I’m not sure about the book above but these sites have the quick fixes you’re looking for:

    http://weirdfacts.com/fun-facts/50-uses-for-vinegar.html
    http://odyb.net/food-cooking/62-little-known-uses-of-vinegar/

    Oh and don’t buy that Heinz crap, use the Bragg brand! It’s organic and comes with “The Mother”: (http://www.bragg.com/products/applecidervinegar.html)

  16. “Get rid of rust on spigots, tools, or bolts by soaking them.”

    WRONG! As a metalworker and artist, I can tell you that I use vinegar soak to MAKE THINGS RUST! When I want a piece of steel to rust quickly, I soak it in vinegar for a half hour. Or bleach for 15 minutes.

  17. Rubbing apple cider vinegar on affected areas helps minimize the symptoms of shingles, plus it keeps other people away because you smell AWFUL. Trust me – I know.

  18. After reading the warning of poster #19, I Googled for “rust removal vinegar” and looked at the top dozen or so items. None warned against using vinegar on metal, as long as it was done with caution. One of them stated, for instance: “NOTE: Vinegar is acetic acid. After removing the rust, it will continue to slowly eat away at the part.”

    Therefore, another site stated, “You need to soak and agitate the parts in clean water to dilute and remove any acid left in the pores. Acetic acid is pretty mild so it shouldn’t be a big problem. You could also dip them in a mild alkali solution (pool chlorine) to neutralize the acid.” Another site stated, “A rinse in household ammonia or a weak baking soda solution will neutralize the residue.” Another site suggested using a power washer to clean off the part after it had soaked.

    Other cautions, which I’m paraphrasing for brevity: Vinegar can cause slight pickling of the part it’s cleaned. This pickling can in turn make it easier for the part to rust in the future. So it would be wise to swab the part with a protective coating (oil or WD-40, for instance). Also, a too-long a soak in vinegar can cause the removal of certain thin platings on delicate parts like sewing machine bobbins. So check progress every few hours.)

    OTOH, one site recommends speeding the reaction time by adding salt to the vinegar, and another suggests heating it. (Caution: stinky.)

    A final note: phosphoric acid (found in Coca Cola and some commercial de-rusting compounds) is safer for the underlying metal than the acetic acid in vinegar.

  19. You’re supposed to “spray vinegar on furniture or surfaces you want a cat to leave alone“, but “add vinegar to a pet’s drinking water to discourage fleas and mange“.

    One is supposed to dissaude a cat’s presence, but the other isn’t?

  20. Poster #1 (backed up by #5) wrote, “See, I’ve never understood anything that advises you to use ‘a paste of vinegar and baking soda.’ Granted, chemistry isn’t my strong suit—but isn’t the end result of mixing vinegar and baking soda just salt water and CO2?” So I Googled for “Clean shower head vinegar” and discovered that he is right: nearly all the top 50 recommendations are to use straight vinegar in the plastic bag or (for a more thorough cleaning) to remove the shower head and soak it in vinegar, heating it if necessary.

    Poster #15 wrote, “I think ‘paste of vinegar and baking soda” should have been “paste of vinegar and salt.'” Consequently I Googled for “clean pewter brass vinegar” and a scan of the top 50 hits showed that he is right. Only one or two of them recommended using baking soda. The others recommended straight vinegar, vinegar with salt, or vinegar with salt and/or flour.

    Incidentally, here’s a money-saver: I stumbled on a website that contains 1001 vinegar tips from Vicki Lansky, the author of the book that is the topic of this thread, at: http://www.vinegartips.com/ (It is sponsored by Mizkan, apparently one of the tentacles of Big Vinegar.) This site seems to contain nearly all the important tips that are in the book.

  21. Poster #12 wrote, “‘…spray vinegar on furniture or surfaces you want a cat to leave alone.’ If by ‘leave alone’ they mean ‘urinate on repeatedly’, then by all means do this. Something tells me this Vicki Lansky didn’t actually try all these tips.”

    I Googled for “cat vinegar” and discovered that he is right, although not 100% right. For instance, http://www.thecatsite.com/Care/48/Combat-Cat-Urine/2.html states, “Do not use ammonia, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, FeBreeze, or lemon juice to remove cat urine. Ammonia and vinegar will encourage your cat to continue to pee in the spot, and the other products will cover up the smell for your satisfaction, but not for your cat’s incredible olfactory unit. If she even gets a hint of urine scent, she will return every three days to refresh it.”

    However, several sites recommended its use out doors; e.g., “Sprinkle vinegar in areas you don’t want the cat walking, sleeping or scratching.” Apparently the vinegar stings a cat’s sensitive paws. (This is why a cat (or some cats) don’t shrink from consuming a little of it in their drinking water.)

    Incidentally, here’s a link to a site on “70 Uses for a Humble Jug of Vinegar”: http://www.naturalfamilyonline.com/go/index.php/357/uses-for-vinegar/

  22. I’ve used vinegar to clean limescale off taps and shower heads – works great, but the whole house smells like vinegar for ages!

  23. I have virtually no odor problems, although I regularly use vinegar in a spray bottle to clean off counter-tops or boil a saucerful of it in a microwave to loosen baked-on grime. I think the reason is that I use distilled white vinegar, which has less odor than cider vinegar. (Also, I have exhaust fans in my kitchen and bathroom.)

  24. Yeah, vinegar is an amazing household tool, but it looks as if that list isn’t the best illustration of that point. I started using vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and other natural oils and things to clean. They are usually cheaper and I was getting a bit worried about all the chemicals I was costantly spritzing and spraying around my house.

    “Clean toilet bowl rings by turning off the input spigot, removing water from the bowl, and laying vinegar-soaked paper towels on the ring for an hour or more.”
    What in the world would you do all of that for? I have never had such a ring in a toilet that I couldn’t scrub off with a toilet brush and comet or a toilet brush and baking soda. I am sure it depends on where you live, the kind of water you have, etc…

    And since vinegar is a mild acid and baking soda is alkaline, they kind of neutralize eachother.

  25. I can’t believe people don’t buy this stuff by the vat. Of course then, the government would place a huge tax on it, and then we’d get an underground vinegar economy, and spammers would send out emails about “che4p v1neg4r!!!!”

  26. Having just tried the vinegar with my scrambled eggs, I wouldn’t recommend it.
    Unless you like eggs that taste very acidic.
    Ugh.
    (And I used half of what was recommended)

  27. KludgeGrrl:

    What kind of vinegar did you use? Maybe trying a more flavorful vinegar would yield a better result.

    Generally speaking, white vinegar won’t yield very good results in most cooking.

  28. Poster # 9 wrote (quoting one of the vinegar book’s recommendations in his first paragraph):

    “‘Clean toilet bowl rings by turning off the input spigot, removing water from the bowl, and laying vinegar-soaked paper towels on the ring for an hour or more.'”

    “Too complicated. Let more water into the bowl by holding down the handle until water flows but doesn’t flush. Then drop in some bleach and leave overnight. Flush in the morning.”

    Similarly, poster #28 wrote:

    “I have never had such a ring in a toilet that I couldn’t scrub off with a toilet brush and comet or a toilet brush and baking soda. I am sure it depends on where you live, the kind of water you have, etc…”

    Consequently I Googled for “toilet bowl ring vinegar” and learned more than I wanted to know about this topic. Everyone has a favorite remedy. (In medicine, when there are lots of remedies in use for an ailment, it’s an indication that none of them works very well or very consistently. For instance, none of the 101 cures for hiccups works for a majority of cases. (Except a spoonful of sugar, as was recently discovered.))

    The top “hit,” at http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf801679.tip.html, contained dozens of interesting suggestions and war stories, the following of which are most relevant here:

    “The rings could be either stain or mineral deposits or combination of both. Stains are usually easier to clean since they are thin. Mineral deposits however are much harder to clean and the older and thicker they are the harder it would be to clean. Mineral deposits can be removed either chemically using acids or mechanically using pumice. … Anyone who has found good results using bleach or baking soda or any other base chemical products most likely removed stains and not mineral deposits of any significant degree. So the reason everyone reports different results is mainly because of the degree of the mineral deposit or stain.”

    “We have hard water and use the toilet brush to “plunge” quickly for a few minutes to lower or even remove the water in the toilet (a trick from a custodian friend).”

    “Due to hard water, we get toilet bowl stains that are hard to remove. The cure-all for me is to remove the back reservoir lid and place a funnel into the overflow pipe then pour muriatic acid down the pipe. This cleans the flushing vents around the rim and then flows down the side of the bowl. About 6 ounces does the job. After a couple minutes, the bowl is brushed clean. Warning: this is truly an acid and proper ventilation is needed and be careful not to splash any on your carpet or clothes!”

    Another observation of note at http://www.servicemaster.com/library/tips/housekeeping/bathroomToilet.dsp was this:

    “Bleach may take the color out of a toilet bowl ring, but the ring itself continues to build up and stain. You can usually remove a young ring by brushing briskly with acid bowl cleaner. If the chemical action of the bowl cleaner doesn’t dissolve the mineral buildup entirely, you can scrub it with an abrasive (green) nylon-backed scrub pad while the acid is working.”

    Therefore, I think the recommendation in the book was a good one–for a persistent mineral stain. Draining the water and laying on vinegar-soaked paper towels was, I presume, designed to ensure contact with undiluted vinegar and to reduce the amount of vinegar used by 90% or more. But distilled vinegar is cheap, and pouring in a large quantity as poster #9 suggested is more convenient. His suggestion of raising the water level to cover the ring by holding the lever down slightly is a slick trick.

    A preventative measure I’ve found helpful is the NeverScrub gadget that splices into the refill tube in the tank and dispenses a bleach-type cleaner. I reviewed it for Cool Tools here: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001702.php

  29. In response to posts #33 & 34:

    The book recommended: “Make creamy scrambled eggs: as eggs thicken when scrambling, add a tablespoon of vinegar for every two eggs.” I followed that recommendation using Balsamic (flavored) vinegar, and there was no unpleasant taste. The eggs did seem creamier too. Distilled vinegar probably wouldn’t taste pleasant.

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