Summer of Green & Clean (Part II)

Live Green Mom continues her series…

Photo by Elyce Felix

If you are a mom (or dad) trying to go green, you have probably heard plenty of hype about cleaning with white vinegar. O

r maybe you haven’t. If not, you should know that cleaning with vinegar is just as effective as cleaning with a spray like 409 or Clorox.  No, I’m not making this up.

Cook’s Illustrated (a great cooking magazine with no ads) did their own testing on cutting boards, to see if bleaching the boards after cutting up meats on them is the best method for for eliminating bacteria.  They sent a stack of boards to a lab, where they were colonized with salmonella.  The boards were then washed with either hot soapy water, sprayed with bleach solution, or cleaned with undiluted vinegar. The results? “All methods were equally effective at reducng bacteria to 10   CFUs, (colony forming units).” (Cook’s Illustrated #102, January & February 2010, page 16)

Courtesy of Flickr

What? Equally effective? How can that be? Haven’t we all bought into the idea that bacteria is a big, bad beast only to be tamed with a chemical spray of might containing bleach?  I used to believe it. I used to mop my floors with Clorox bleach spray. I know, I know, I hang my green head in shame. It was the 90’s and I had a white linoleum floor that was hard to keep clean. I thought that the bleachy smell signaled everyone that walked through my door “This is a clearly clean floor/sink/toilet!”  In my quest to be greener, I have found out differently. I am glad I did, though I wish I had done so sooner.

Chemical cleaners are toxic, especially to children & pets , and should be avoided when possible.  Also, by using chemical cleaners, we are creating super-bacteria that is stronger and more difficult to battle with antibiotics when it is necessary.  It’s like sending bacteria to mini Gold’s Gyms for Germs.  People have been using vinegar for longer than chemical cleaners have been around with success.

I have done my own experiments. I have clean my own wooden cutting boards with undiluted vinegar and hot water after cutting chicken and meats, and I have never had a problem with getting my board clean.  Never had an issue spreading bacteria or anyone getting sick.  By cleaning my cutting boards with vinegar, I am also not infusing it with chemicals that can spread to foods I prep on these boards.

So, with my spray bottle of undiluted vinegar, I make my way around the house.  I am talking about the plain old vinegar you see at the grocery store that runs about $2-3 a gallon.  I don’t use organic white vinegar for cleaning, that can get expensive, and my toilet bowl doesn’t need it.  What do I use it for? Here are just a few ideas:

Cleaning the fridge – works great and no chemicals or bleachy smell infused into your foods! (Have you thought of that before when cleaning your fridge with chemical cleaners?)

Cleaning windows – they will sparkle! I love cleaning my windows. (I never just say ‘I love cleaning windows’ because someone always inevitably replies ‘then you can come and clean mine’)

Cleaning the bathroom – throw some eco-friendly Borax in the toilet and some vinegar and scrub, shiny shiny! Clean the tub & shower the same way. Vinegar is fine for Formica, but not for marble & granite, since it can etch.

Cleaning your fruits & vegetables! – Surprise! It’s a non-toxic and effective produce wash that’s cheap and easier to rinse than the produce washes I used to buy!  Rinse well, I promise it leaves no taste.

Quick hand sanitizer when cooking – When cooking, sometimes I worry that even though I’ve washed my hands after handling meats & chicken that there might be lingering bits under my nails or my rings.  A quick spray and then the hand wash reassures me.  Careful on cuts, though, it is an acid, it can sting!

Sanitize my rubber cleaning gloves – I always wear rubber gloves when I clean.  After cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, I wash my hands with the gloves on with vinegar and hot water. (Note: I have separate gloves for cleaning my kitchen and bathrooms, in case there was a question)

Cleaning  reusable stainless steel water bottles – a squirt inside the bottle,  a couple of squirts in & on the top to get it clean and fresh, rinse, done. That was easy!

There are so many uses for vinegar that there are whole websites devoted to the vinegar love and filled with more tips than I can mention here for use everywhere in the home & garden.  If you don’t like the smell, there are recipes all over the internet that add essential oils to make it less pickle-y experience.  Just be sure not to use these recipes in the same bottle of vinegar you would use to wash your produce.

I used to worry about that vinegar scent, but it disappears quickly.  I was asking friends and family members for their honest opinion about the smell in my home, and no one ever said they could smell it unless I had just used it.  I mentioned it to a friend of mine who is a green cleaner, too, that I had started using it, and she said she had been using vinegar to clean for quite sometime. I had never smelled it in her house, so I felt better about the whole thing.  My kids and husband noticed at first, now they don’t.

You know what else loves vinegar? My septic system! Less chemicals and more natural cleaning products like vinegar, borax, and baking soda create a healthier environment in your septic system, meaning less possibilities of  septic issues down the line from clogged systems that cannot effectively break down, ahem, solids.

Once you start cleaning with vinegar, and you see how effective it is, you are one  step closer to greening your household.  This may seem like a small step, because it’s an easy one to make, but it is HUGE!  Your health, the health of your children, husband, pets – will definitely benefit by not being exposed to harsh, harmful cleaning chemicals any further.

Until next time when we continue the summer of green!


  1. 1

    Hello! Found you on Cloth Diaper Bloggers.

    Great tips. Love your blog set up.

  2. 2
    Valerie K. says:

    Thank you so very much!

  3. 3
    Petunia GreenBeans says:

    YAY! You have opened my eyes to the magic of vinegar!! Now I can kiss the last of my chemical holdouts (dishwasher detergent) GOODBYE!!! Thanks Helga!!

  4. 4

    Good idea for washing out stainless steel bottles! I am always trying to figure out what works well!

  5. 5

    I had no idea you could use vinegar to clean fruits and veggies. Doesn’t make them taste vinegary?

  6. 6
    Valerie says:

    Nope, not all all. Of course you rinse them!


  1. […] So if you missed it the first time I was jumping up & down about it, you can catch it again right here! This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 at 10:29 am and is filed under Cleaning, […]

Speak Your Mind