10 Things You Should Never Clean with Vinegar

This versatile cleaning staple has limits and should not be used to clean some common household items.

Distilled white vinegar is a versatile cleaning staple that can be used for a variety of jobs, from washing windows to removing salt stains from shoes. But multi-purpose does not equal all-purpose, and when it comes to cleaning, there are some common household items and materials that can be damaged when exposed to vinegar. In addition, when mixed with other cleaning agents, notably chlorine bleach, the acid in vinegar can create toxic chemical reactions.

While vinegar is an inexpensive, non-toxic, and readily available cleaning agent, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution to every cleaning problem. Ahead, discover 10 things that should not be cleaned with vinegar to avoid potential damage. 

vinegar bottle with cleaning supplies and scrub brush

Getty Images / Petra Olteanu

1. Anything That Contains Chlorine Bleach

When chlorine bleach is mixed with vinegar, it results in a chemical reaction that creates toxic chlorine gas. While this first rule of what not to clean with vinegar is a bit of an outlier, it is the most important one—which is why we're putting it first. Never mix chlorine bleach, or products that contain chlorine bleach, with vinegar, ever, under any circumstances.

2. Marble, Granite, and Other Natural Stone Surfaces

Marble, granite, and other natural stones, like slate, whether used as home finishes, such as countertops, floors, and shower walls, or household goods like tabletops or serving pieces, should not be cleaned with vinegar. The acid in vinegar can cause pitting in natural stone.

3. Grout

Unsealed or damaged grout should not be cleaned with vinegar, which can etch or wear grout away over time, causing it to deteriorate. Sealed grout can be cleaned with vinegar, but it's best to avoid it in favor of non-acidic cleaners to avoid weakening it. 

4. Stainless Steel

When it comes to cleaning stainless steel knives, cookware, and household appliances, it's best to skip vinegar in favor of a non-acidic cleaner. Prolonged exposure, in particular, to the acids in vinegar can cause pitting on stainless steel.

5. Waxed or Unfinished Wood

Cleaning waxed or unfinished wood with full-strength cleaning vinegar can cause discoloration and should be avoided. Instead, use diluted vinegar, or opt for a non-acidic cleaning agent that is safe to use on wood. 

6. Cast Iron

Vinegar can eat away at the protective layer of seasoning that gives cast iron cookware its non-stick surface. With prolonged exposure, distilled white vinegar can cause pitting in the cast iron itself.

7. Electronics

The screens on televisions, mobile phones, computer monitors, and other electronics should never be cleaned with vinegar or with cleaning agents that contain vinegar, as it will damage the anti-glare coating. 

8. Rubber Gaskets and Hoses

Prolonged or repeated exposure to vinegar can cause rubber parts like gaskets and hoses to disintegrate. Check the manufacturer's instructions before cleaning household appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, or dishwashers with vinegar to be sure that the type of rubber used in those machines can be safely exposed to vinegar.

9. Clothes Iron

A clothes iron is another example of a household item that may or may not be safe to clean with vinegar, depending on its fabrication. Before using vinegar to descale an iron, check the user's manual to be sure it will not cause irreparable damage to the metal components.

10. Pet Messes

Vinegar is not ideal for cleaning up pet messes, especially on soft surfaces like carpeting, upholstered furniture, or mattresses. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the use of vinegar on pet messes is not recommended because "strong chemical odors may encourage your pet to reinforce the urine scent mark in that area." Instead, use an enzyme-based cleaning agent to address pet messes.

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