Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Humble, powerful vinegar

I can't believe that my first post on this blog is about vinegar. Paul (the co-author of this blog) and I ruthlessly mocked our grandmother's penchant for the sour stuff. Then again, she claimed to drink a glass of it every day. (I'm not ruling that out just yet - she is proving to be a posthumous visionary ahead of her time with her wisdom about organic gardening and warnings about high fructose corn syrup, but I'm not quite ready to down a glass of vinegar unless it's already been embibed by a cucumber.) My love for vinegar is centered more on household uses than health benefits.

Shortly before my son was born 15 months ago, my husband and I moved into our first-ever house with wood and tile floors. I wanted an effective way to clean the floors that would be safe for our two dogs as well as the (eventual) baby. Vinegar, water, and some essential oils did the trick, and I never looked back. Not only did vinegar fit our new budget (reduced by one full-time income) better than commercial floor cleaners, it worked. I'm the clean freak of the family, and I needed to have clean floors. When my nesting instinct kicked in, the bottle of vinegar was my powerful ally against dirt, dog hair, and dust. I began cleaning our kitchen counters with a vinegar and water solution, and discovered that a baking soda and vinegar mixture in the kitchen sink drain not only cleans the drain effectively, but it makes an impressive foam show that any preschooler would love to see. I use the vinegar and water solution to sanitize and rinse plastic toys, and for a several-times-per-week shower of the high chair. I began to use vinegar instead of fabric softener in the laundry, when we discovered that the baby had sensitive skin. Vinegar in the laundry helps rinse the detergent away without adding extra perfumes and dyes that can irritate sensitive skin. (Again, it's cheaper than the commercial alternative.) Vinegar is a powerful antiseptic, which was important for me - I'm often lured in by claims of antibacterial properties on commercial cleaners, even though I know that they're not always best for our health or the environment. Vinegar is easy on the environment, and safe for sewer and septic systems.

A word about the odor: I have a keen sense of smell. My husband has called it a superpower, I think of it more as a super-liability. The smell of vinegar used to bother me, but diluted with water (and often with some essential oils added in), the smell no longer bothers me. Also, the smell dissipates when it dries. I've actually found that vinegar can eliminate smells. If we've had fish for dinner, for example, a bowl of vinegar placed on the kitchen counter will virtually eat the odor of dinner. That has to be healthier (for us, and for the earth) than commercial air fresheners. (We also like to open a window for the same effect, but of course that's not always possible in Minnesota and Alaska!)

Here are some more interesting uses of vinegar:


  1. Vinegar freak. I like my vinegar best upon some salty chips . . . we too use it in the laundry - perhaps it is used elsewhere in the house, I'm not entirely sure.

    Either way, you can be sure we're not getting kick-backs from the vinegar industry, it truly is an effective elixir.

    Any takers on the direct consumption should definitely post a comment!

  2. I had no idea you can use vinegar in the laundry! Paul, I'm going to sniff your kids and if they don't smell like kosher dills, I'll give it a try. Thanks for the tip.

  3. I take no responsibility for how my lovely niece and nephew smell, but my dog nose can't detect a hint of vinegar on our laundry. In fact, I smell commercial detergents and softeners on other people's clothes so much more now - the absence of smell is that noticeable on our clothes. But don't take it from me - try it! Plain white vinegar is what we use.