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  • Writer's pictureTy Bailey

Cleaning Your Home with Vinegar and Essential Oils

Looking for chemical-free ways to freshen and clean your home without using common commercial products? Using a mixture of vinegar and essential oils may be the answer for you.

In this house, we have a lot of dirt and germs making their way onto every single surface thanks to having four people and a large dog running around under the same roof. I will swear by Lysol and Clorox until the day that I die, but I know plenty of fellow parents—and even non-parents and pet parents—that have concerns about how some of these harsh chemicals may be affecting their health, the health of their children or pets, or even potentially causing damage to the surfaces in their home.

These are all legitimate worries, and I'm here to let you in on a long-used alternative to harsh cleaning agents: vinegar and essential oils. Everyone knows vinegar is useful for cleaning a wide variety of surfaces and items, but I'm including essential oils into the equation because oh my goodness, vinegar smells so bad!

Here is how vinegar works to safely clean your home, as well as some good essential oils to include in your vinegar/water mixture to help improve the smell and add some additional benefits to your home.

How Vinegar Works to Clean Your Home

Anyone that has smelled it knows that vinegar is highly acidic. This high level of acidity is what helps it clean items and surfaces in the home so well, but it also means it often needs to be diluted to avoid causing any damage.

When cleaning your home with vinegar, the best way to do this is by mixing together even parts of water and vinegar—or even just a bit more water just to be safe. Using a spray bottle allows you to evenly distribute the mixture for a variety of cleaning purposes.

Vinegar is ideal for cleaning bathrooms, windows, and many hard surfaces. Some people even swear by using vinegar on their floors (one of my grandparents is an avid mop-all-the-floors-with-vinegar fan), but there have been quite a few claims of vinegar stripping or wearing down certain types of wood flooring and stone tile, so be sure to use caution in these circumstances.

From personal experience, I know that using a few cups of vinegar to do a cleaning rinse on both a washer and dishwasher is highly effective at taking off some of the residues that build up over time. It also helps fantastically with persistent odors, and the unpleasant vinegar scent itself fades rather quickly after cleaning.

My personal favorite when it comes time to clean things—filmy teapots, burnt-on remains in pots or on pans, or simply cleaning out the sink disposal—is the super safe but super satisfying combination of baking soda and vinegar.

I've always loved seeing those science project volcanos erupt, and getting to do this multiple times over "for the sake of cleaning" as an adult in my own home is just wonderful. It's also incredibly effective at getting off the intense grime and other mess that cleaning products, Dawn dish soap, and tons of scrubbing combined otherwise can't touch.

When Vinegar Should Not Be Used

Being highly acidic means that vinegar can also be highly damaging on certain surfaces. We live chaotically in our household, so I've used it on a number of these surfaces without noticing any issues myself, but here are some of the common "no-no" areas and items that may show damage if you choose to clean them with vinegar.

  • Natural stone (often used on countertops or certain tile flooring)

  • Hardwood floors (debatable, but be cautious when using vinegar to clean them)

  • Waxed floors/furniture/etc.

  • Anything with rubber seals, grout, or other similar types of seals

  • Electronic devices

  • Pet accidents (vinegar will reinforce their need to re-mark the same spot)

Most importantly, NEVER MIX VINEGAR WITH ANY OTHER CLEANING OR HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS. Mixing it with bleach can trigger a chemical reaction releasing chlorine gas, which can be fatal. Even mixing vinegar with something mild like hydrogen peroxide will cause chemical changes resulting in peracetic acid, which is corrosive and can cause damage to the human body. Always be sure to thoroughly research mixing vinegar—or any other household or cleaning products—to ensure safety when trying different things to clean around the home.

Essential Oils That Mix Well with Vinegar When Cleaning

Now that you're aware of some of the dos and don'ts of cleaning with vinegar, we can get to the fun part: adding essential oils to your vinegar mixtures to make your home smell amazing! Keep in mind that vinegar has a strong smell on its own, so using a lighter-scented oil isn't going to be very effective.

However, there are quite a few stronger scented essential oils out there that mix well with vinegar to give your home (and especially your bathroom) a fresh and delightful fragrance.

  • Lemon

  • Orange

  • Peppermint

  • Eucalyptus

  • Cinnamon

  • Lime

  • Rosemary

  • Lavender

  • Grapefruit

  • Other citrus oils

These will not cause damage to the surfaces you're cleaning, and the citrus oils seriously just smell amazing. I'm personally quite a big fan of cinnamon and the minty-scented oils, although my spouse prefers rosemary and basil. I listed those that I commonly include (whether for cleaning or other household purposes), but there are still plenty more options out there.

I usually focus a bit more on what makes my nose happy, but Thieves oil is another essential oil that can be used in cleaning the home thanks to its antibacterial properties. It also works well for cleaning the air in the home when used with a diffuser, so cleaning the surfaces of your home with this added into your cleaning spray is a huge plus.

Be sure to check reliable sources before mixing any unlisted essential oils with your vinegar/water combo to ensure there are no risks, although there very likely won't be. (It's always wise to exercise caution when trying new things!)

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