When You Shouldn’t Use Vinegar to Clean

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Vinegar has plenty of uses around the home, but there are certain things you should never clean with it. You could be doing more damage than you think!

Vinegar is like a jack of all trades. It can leave windows clean and streak-free, it’ll remove shampoo buildup in your hair, it can dissolve mineral buildup, and even kill pesky weeds growing through the sidewalk.

Oh, and it makes collard greens extra tasty.

So, is there anything vinegar can’t do? Well, as it turns out, yes. There are some things that are better left without it. After all, vinegar is an acidic liquid. It’s great at dissolving stains, but that means it’s also great at dissolving other things — things you don’t want it to dissolve.

Let’s go over when not to use vinegar. Because, let’s be honest — that list is probably a lot shorter than when you can use it.

Certain Kinds of Flooring

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Put down the mop! Vinegar is not for certain kinds of flooring. In fact, flooring manufacturers often warn against it.

The biggest no-no is vinegar on hardwood floors because it dissolves the finish protecting the wood itself. Over time, it’ll leave your floors looking cloudy, dull, or scratched. Vinegar will also etch and dull stone tile.

Vinegar is a good cleaner for most vinyl flooring, just make sure you don’t have “no wax” vinyl. This stuff has a clear finish on top that vinegar will damage, too.

Wood Surfaces

Similar to wood flooring, you don’t want to use vinegar to clean other wood surfaces. Never put vinegar on wood furniture, cabinets, or butcher block.

Eventually, you’ll scrub off the protective finish and wind up with dull-looking wood surfaces that stain a lot easier — which is the opposite of what you want.

Stone Countertops

Stone countertops are not cheap, so let’s not ruin them by trying to clean them with vinegar.

The acid in vinegar etches and dulls natural stone, like marble, soapstone, and granite. After a while, your countertops will lose their shine, and vinegar can also cause pitting or scarring.

Dishwashers

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There are countless blogs out there telling you to run the dishwasher with a bowl of vinegar to get rid of lingering smells or hard water film. Take that advice with a grain of salt! 

You’re better off using specially formulated dishwasher cleaners instead. Even dishwasher manufacturers themselves warn that the acetic acid in vinegar can eat away at the rubber parts in dishwashers.

Washing Machines

Ignore any advice about using vinegar in a washing machine, too. I know it’s easy to throw vinegar in the wash as a fabric softener or stain remover, but it’s no good for the washing machine. Just like in dishwashers, it’ll damage rubber seals and hoses, causing leaks or other damage.

Not all rubber is created equal, and some kinds react with vinegar while others don’t. You won’t find out which kind is inside your appliance until the vinegar eats away at it.

Small Appliances

Just like your washing machine and dishwasher, small appliances can also have rubber seals, hoses, and other parts — and vinegar will slowly eat away at it all. Obviously, you can use vinegar to clean any plastic and glass surfaces of your small appliances, but it’s clearly best to avoid any rubber parts.

These appliances could also have metal that vinegar can corrode with long-term exposure, like stainless steel. That’s right! Vinegar can even corrode stainless steel. Like plenty of other things, there are different grades of stainless steel. The lower-quality ones are what’s often used in small appliances, and it’s even more susceptible to vinegar.

Electronic Screens

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Vinegar is a no-go for cleaning screens. That includes your phone, tablets, computer screens, TVs, and more.

Vinegar will damage a screen’s anti-glare properties. And on devices with touch screens, vinegar can make them less responsive.

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