The natural cleaner can actually do some serious damage to appliances and other household items. Google how to clean basically anything, and you’ll likely get results that suggest using distilled white vinegar. Diluted with water to about 5 percent acidity, distilled white vinegar is hailed as a natural non-toxic cleaning marvel, killing bacteria, dissolving hard-water deposits, and cutting through grime at a fraction of the cost of brand-name cleaning products. However, don’t believe all the hype. “There is a common perception that vinegar can clean everything, but it isn’t the catchall ingredient that you might think it is,” says Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of communications at the American Cleaning Institute.
Distilled white vinegar is good at descaling your coffee maker and leaving windows streak-free because “the acid reacts with the organic chemicals in stains and dissolves them away,” explains Joe Glajch, a chemist and owner of JLG AP Consulting in Nashua, N.H. “But just as it eats away at coffee stains, imagine it doing the same thing to other surfaces in your home.” Here are nine instances where you should skip the vinegar and grab a different cleaning agent for the job.
Using vinegar to clean the inside of your iron can corrode the heating element and permanently damage the inside of the appliance. Most steam irons have a protective coating inside the chamber, but the acid can gnaw away at that lining, and then the metal parts are next. The best way to clean an iron really depends on the model you have. We spoke to Rowenta, the largest manufacturer of irons, and were told there’s no universal method. Your best bet is to read your iron’s manual and follow the cleaning recommendations.
If you want to keep your stone countertops looking beautiful, don’t reach for vinegar. The acid etches and dulls natural stone such as granite, marble, and soapstone. It can make them lose their shine and cause pitting or scarring. Instead, we recommend wiping down these types of countertops with a sponge or dish towel dipped in mild detergent. Use only plastic scrub pads to remove stubborn spots.