5 Things You Should Never Clean with Vinegar

Plus, how to clean them properly.

Bottle of Vinegar on Counter
Photo: Getty Images

Vinegar is a wonder product, serving our households in a myriad of ways. This pungent liquid is an incredible, nontoxic cleaning agent that can get everything from the inside of your microwave to the bathtub sparkling clean while also being the star of tangy barbecue sauce and giving rise to your grandmother's cake recipe. Plus, it's great for brightening up all your summer whites, from eyelet dresses to linen pants.

"The reason vinegar is excellent for cleaning is because it's super acidic," says Hailey Becnel, cleaning expert and founder of @thecleaningchannel. "This means, you're able to break down most build-ups like soap scum, hard water stains, and dirt. It's also non-toxic, so it doesn't leave any lingering chemicals in your home."

However, mighty as it is, Becnel says that vinegar does have its limitations when it comes to cleaning, and the ingredient can actually be pretty damaging to certain items in your home. Its high acidic content is a blessing for cleaning up some messes while having the power to hurt other materials. Below, we're sharing five items to always avoid cleaning with vinegar, plus what to use instead.

1. Countertops

"The acid in vinegar can be damaging to use on certain surfaces, and you don't want to use it to clean most types of stone such as marble, granite, or limestone," says Becnel. She says the acid in vinegar has the power to both dull the stone and break down any sealant overtime, which can lead to more stains and messes.

The proper method for cleaning countertops depends on the type of material you have in the kitchen. Merry Maids offers an excellent guide to cleaning various types of countertops, most of which can become sparkling clean in seconds with a bit of soap and water. Becnel has granite countertops and says Weiman's Granite & Stone Cleaner is great for disinfecting, conditioning, and maintaining your stone.

2. Electronic Devices

While a quick spritz of disinfecting vinegar across a laptop screen or tablet may sound like a simple method to kill germs on your tech devices, it can actually be damaging to the coating on the screens. Instead, wipe down your gadgets with products specially formulated for them (we love these lens wipes) or use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to refresh a screen.

3. Hardwood Floors

Certain types of flooring also can't tolerate vinegar's high acidity level, and it's public enemy #1 for hardwoods. Becnel says cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar is a mistake she often sees, which can be a major issue over time, as it can destroy both the sealant and the wood itself over time.

The good news is, there are plenty of cleaning products out there designed specifically for hardwood floors, so it won't take long to find the perfect product for your needs. Becnel prefers using a 1:4 ratio of Mr. Clean Multi-Purpose Cleaner in the Summer Citrus scent and warm water, which she says is safe on most hardwood floors.

4. Waxed Furniture

Similarly to hardwoods, using a highly acidic product like vinegar on waxed furniture is a big no-no. Not only will vinegar erode the wax sealant over time, but it can also damage your prized heirloom desk or the nightstands you collected while at a favorite antiques fair. Simply use furniture polish or, with materials like wicker, use a mix of soap and water to have your favorite pieces looking good-as-new in no time.

5. Aluminum and Cast-Iron Pans

Keep any vinegar-based cleaning products away from aluminum and cast-iron pans. The high acid content will react poorly with these two materials, causing the aluminum and protective coating on cast iron to be eaten away, making them more prone to rust and rendered ineffective. For aluminum cookware, a simple mix of dish soap and water should be enough to get your pans squeaky-clean. Follow our guide to cleaning cast-iron skillets to keep your prized Lodge or Smithey in pristine condition to ensure delectable desserts and perfect burgers every time.

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