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Vinegar for cleaning: Consumer Reports outlines risk of damaging surfaces

Posted at 8:43 AM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 09:43:13-05

(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of folks turned to do it yourself or homemade solutions to clean their homes because they couldn’t find bleach and other cleaning supplies in stores. However, Consumer Reports has a warning about one of the things in your pantry that it turns out is not such a good thing to use for cleaning.

Consumer Reports says vinegar may actually do more harm than good when you're using it on certain surfaces in your home.

A simple search on cleaning with vinegar will likely yield hundreds of results, proclaiming the acidic liquid’s mighty cleaning powers. But let’s get one thing straight: there is no evidence that vinegar is effective against the coronavirus.

But what if your goal is just to remove dirt and grime around your house? Well, vinegar might be good for that.

“So vinegar is great for cleaning your windows and descaling your coffee maker but it does have its limits and it could even potentially damage your home’s appliances,” Perry Santanachote, Consumer Reports Home Editor.

Many of these items can be found in the very place you’d likely use vinegar to clean: the kitchen.

“Vinegar can eat away at certain synthetic rubbers and it could corrode different grades of stainless steel, especially if there’s already scratches or chips on it,” said Santanachote.

Even the fine edge on sharp knives can be pitted by exposing the knife to vinegar. Stick with a liquid dish detergent and warm water when cleaning your knives. Vinegar is also a no-no for stone and wood surfaces.

“The acid in vinegar can pit, scar, etch and dull the surfaces of natural stone countertops,” Santanachote said.

It’s best to go with a specialty cleaner formulated to clean those types of stone or a sponge or towel dipped in a mild detergent and water solution. Vinegar can also cloud, soften or etch the finish of wood floors.

Instead, follow the manufacturer's recommendations or use a cleaner that’s made specifically for hardwood floors. And even if vinegar won't hurt a surface, it might not be the best tool for the task.

“Vinegar is safe to use on your kitchen range but if it’s a greasy mess you’re looking to clean, it’s not going to do much. For that you’re going to want an alkaline base cleaner like ammonia or Borax,” Santanachote added.

For smooth cooktops, CR recommends using a specifically formulated cleaner for ceramic cooktops.

Consumer Reports also says skip the vinegar as a dishwasher cleaner. They tested it and found it didn’t do anything to remove hard water stains. And don't put it into your washing machine either. It can eat away at the rubber and some of the other parts and cause you all sorts of other problems.

And one other warning: never use vinegar on your electronic screens. It can damage and even remove the anti-glare film and make a touch screen less responsive. Instead, use a soft sponge or cloth dampened with just water and save your vinegar for salads.