Uses for vinegar: From killing weeds to soothing sunburn

Don’t just save it for fish and chips… From killing weeds to soothing sunburn, there’s nothing that a splash of vinegar can’t fix, as TV’s clean queen Aggie Mackenzie and Emma Marsden explain.

uses for vinegar
May Van Milligen

Uses for vinegar: Cleaning

All-round grime buster

Vinegar cuts through soap scum and limescale on shower glass, grease on cooker tops and strips a wax build-up from a wooden floor. There’s almost no end to what the different varieties can conquer – just don’t use on marble because it will mark.

Limescale on taps

For chrome taps (not ones with special finishes) soak a few sheets of kitchen paper with any type of vinegar, wrap it around the taps and cover them using a plastic bag secured with an elastic band so that the vinegar stays in contact with the taps. Leave overnight. The scale should lift easily the next morning but if it is thick and annoyingly stubborn, repeat the process.

De scale your kettle

Do this about once a month by filling it half full with water and the rest clear vinegar. Bring it to the boil, switch off, then leave overnight. Please note – you must use clear vinegar; the brown malt variety will expand inside the kettle and erupt over the floor. In the morning, empty the kettle then refill and boil it a couple of times until every trace of vinegariness has gone.

Put the sparkle back into your shower

Is your chrome shower head caked with limescale and the water flow really poor? Unscrew it and steep it overnight in a bowl filled with equal quantities of clear vinegar and water. By morning, the scale will have miraculously softened and can be peeled off.

Uses for vinegar
May Van Milligen

Take the grot out of your grout

Grouting lines between tiles are absorbent so latch on to scum and mildew – not a great look! Scrub them clean with a damp toothbrush dipped in a paste made from bicarbonate of soda with a few drops of any vinegar and bleach, then rinse and buff dry.

Uses for vinegar: Laundry

Clean your machine

If your washing machine isn’t taking all the powder from the detergent drawer, first check you’re storing it properly. If the detergent isn’t damp, it may be that the drawer’s water jets are blocked with limescale. Mix equal parts of clear vinegar and water. Remove the drawer and scrub the solution on to the roof of the empty compartment. Then add the maximum dosage of detergent and run a wash with the drum empty at the hottest programme.

Uses for vinegar
May Van Milligen

It’s the pits

If the armpits of your favourite shirt turn yellow from sweat, and washing doesn’t remove it, soak the stained area overnight in a solution of half clear vinegar, half water, then machine wash as normal.

Back to black

When a black item turns an unappealing shade of grey, the chances are this is because of a build-up of detergent left in the fabric, rather than the loss of black dye. Soak the item for a few hours in a sink filled with warm water with a little clear vinegar. Rinse thoroughly then machine wash as normal.

Uses for vinegar: Beauty

Knock spots off bad skin

Acne and boils can be treated with apple cider vinegar which should reduce the pain and inflammation. Dab a little on to the affected area with a cotton-wool pad – it may sting but that’s a sign that the antiseptic elements are active and fighting the bacteria.

Soothe your sunburn

If you’ve overdone it in the sun, soak a flannel with diluted clear malt vinegar and gently dab it on to the affected area. This is particularly effective if the vinegar has been chilled. It will help prevent itchiness, reduce blistering and subsequent skin peeling.

Clear congestion

Fill a bowl with boiling water and add three tablespoons of cider vinegar. Pop your head over the bowl and cover yourself with a towel to keep the steam in. Close your eyes and inhale the vapour for a few minutes. Cider vinegar breaks up phlegm and clears the throat. Repeat twice daily until the phlegm has gone.

Aid aching muscles

When you exercise, your body uses oxygen to break down glucose for energy. During intense exercise there may not be enough oxygen available to do this; in which case lactic acid is produced. If that builds up, it can cause pain in the muscles. Cider vinegar helps to draw out lactic acid, so mix a few tablespoons into a cup of warm water, wet a flannel in this and plaster it on to any sore area for around 20 minutes. It will have a soothing effect.

Other clever uses for vinegar

Blocked sink?

Before you call out an emergency plumber or spend a small fortune on environmentally unfriendly products, mix together 200g coarse salt and 100g bicarbonate of soda then pour it down the drain. Follow this with a cup of any type of vinegar plus a kettle full of boiling water. You’ll witness a mini-explosion in your sink but this is good – it’ll help clear the blockage.

For mucky mutts

Has your dog left a naughty wee on your living room carpet? Get rid of the smell with a solution of three parts soda water and one part clear vinegar. Because of the vinegar, your dog won’t recognise the smell as ‘theirs’ and will go somewhere else next time – hopefully outdoors.

Don’t be weedy

Those annoying weeds in paving cracks take for ever to pull out individually. Crush them all in one swoop with vinegar diluted 50:50 with hot water. Pour this into a small watering can or spray bottle and douse the lot. After a few hours they’ll shrivel up and die.

Uses for vinegar
May Van Milligen

This is an edited extract from The Miracle of Vinegar by Aggie Mackenzie and Emma Marsden, which will be published by HQ on Thursday, priced £9.99. To order a copy for £7.99 until 20 January, go to or call 0844 571 0640; free p&p on orders over £15.