Kitchen Hints: Uses for vinegar

by Catherine Haug, Sept 28, 2012

To see all kitchen hints on this site, see: Kitchen Hints. If you’d like to submit a kitchen hint, send it to me and I’ll publish it. Note that if you don’t want your name used, just let me know. See ESP Contact for my email address.

As I write this, so far, we’ve gotten only 2 kitchen hints submitted, and they have to do with using vinegar and baking soda. In this post, I address other uses for vinegar, and next up, I’ll write a post on other uses for baking soda (link will be added when post is available).

What vinegar to use when

Vinegar comes in different types: distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar with the mother*, pasteurized apple cider vinegar (no mother*), malt vinegar, sugar vinegar, wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.

* The mother is a thickened area of the liquid in the bottle where the lacto-fermentation bugs multiply, and is the ‘source of life’ for the culture, also called the ‘starter’. When the vinegar is not pasteurized, the mother remains in the bottle to keep it fresh. When pasteurized, the mother dies and is removed after filtration.

How do you know which to use? Here’s my rules of thumb:

  • For medicinal use, choose apple cider vinegar with or without the mother. Balsamic vinegar can also be used when mixed in water for drinking, but is not as effective;
  • For cosmetic use on skin, hair or scalp, use apple cider vinegar, with or without the mother;
  • For ingestion, use any but distilled white vinegar; however, I recommend distilled white vinegar as a veggie wash.
  • For household cleaning chores or use in the yard/garden, use the least expensive, which is distilled white vinegar.

Highlighted uses for vinegar

First I’d like to highlight 2 major uses for vinegar; the first uses apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar; the second uses distilled white vinegar.

Medicine for blood insulin/blood sugar/metabolic syndrome

Perhaps one of the most important uses for apple cider vinegar, is as a medicine for type-2 diabetics, hypoglycemics and those diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (includes high blood pressure, arthritis, clogged arteries/heart disease, elevated blood insulin, and elevated blood sugar). Add 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to 10-oz glass of water. Sweeten with stevia or honey. Or you can use balsamic vinegar which is sweeter so you don’t need to add sweetener.

  • In 2004, a well-designed study cited in the American Diabetes Foundation’s publication Diabetes Care found that taking vinegar before meals significantly increased insulin sensitivity and dramatically reduced the insulin and glucose spikes that occur after meals.
  • A follow-up study (reported in Science News geared at testing vinegar’s long-term effects yielded an unexpected but pleasant side effect: moderate weight loss.
  • In 2007, another study cited by WebMD involving people with type 2 diabetes found taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered fasting glucose levels in the morning by 4 to 6 percent.

Distilled white vinegar as pesticide or herbicide

Vinegar can be used as an herbicide and/or pesticide. See Country Farm Lifestyles: Gardening with vinegar (5) for lots of great ideas.

PesticideeHow (6) tells how to use vinegar as a pesticide. Use the following ingredients:

  • “10 – 15 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup mineral oil *
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • water”

* Cat’s note: I don’t consider mineral oil, which is derived from petroleum, as ‘organic’ but I don’t know of a substitute. it’s possible that vegetable oil will work.

Here’s the method:

  1. “Begin your organic pesticide by adding 10-15 cloves of garlic to a blender or food processor. Process the garlic until chopped fine. Add the garlic to a glass canning jar and cover it with 1/4 cup mineral oil. Let the garlic infuse the oil for at least 8-10 hours. This is the base for your organic pesticide.
  2. “Pour garlic and oil back into the blender and add 3 cups of water. Process until the oil and water emulsify (blend together). Garlic makes a great organic pesticide because it kills harmful insects, but does not kill pests which are beneficial to your garden.”
  3. “Add one whole jalapeno pepper to the garlic mixture in blender and process until liquefied. Jalapenos make a great organic pesticide because they discourage animals from eating your plants, and deter many insects.”
  4. “Add 1/4 cup vinegar to the mixture and process until blended in. Vinegar works as an organic pesticide by making the soil and plant surfaces slightly acidic so pests don’t lay eggs where it’s sprayed. It also kills several variety of small pests. You can use vinegar alone as an organic pesticide in a pinch.”
  5. “Fill a clean spray bottle half way with water and half way with your organic pesticide. Shake well and spray on plants and soil in the garden. Apply the organic pesticide once or twice week, or as needed.”

Herbicide: The following recipe and instructions for an herbicide is from Mercola, originally from Howard Garrett (1).


    • 1 gallon of 10 percent (100 grain) vinegar
    • Add 1 ounce orange oil or d-limonene
    • Add 1 tablespoon molasses (optional – some say it doesn’t help)
    • 1 teaspoon liquid soap or other surfactant (I use Bio Wash)
    • Do not add water”

“Shake well before each spraying and spot spray weeds. Keep the spray off desirable plants. This spray will injure any plant it touches. This natural spray works best on warm to hot days. Vinegar sprayed on the bases of trees and other woody plants will not hurt the plant at all. This technique was first learned about by spraying the suckers and weeds growing around the bases of grapevines.

If your water is alkaline, add 1 tablespoon of 50-grain (5 percent) natural apple cider vinegar to each gallon of water to improve the quality of the water for potted plants and bedding. This doesn’t have to be done with every watering, though it wouldn’t hurt. This technique is especially helpful when trying to grow acid-loving plants such as gardenias, azaleas, and dogwoods. A tablespoon of vinegar per gallon added to the sprayer when foliar feeding lawns, shrubs, flowers, and trees is also highly beneficial, especially where soil or water is alkaline. The other horticultural use for vinegar is in the watering can.”

Other Uses for Vinegars

These uses have been divided into the following categories:

  • Yard & Garden
  • Around the House
  • In the Kitchen
  • Personal Care & Health Remedies
  • Pets & Farm Animals

Yard & Garden 

  • Herbicide: Vinegar should be used full strength.  In all cases, the products to buy in this category are true vinegars made by distilling grain alcohol. For the purists, there is organic white vinegar made from corn.(1) See Highlighted Issues, above, for more detail on using vinegar as an herbicide.
  • Pesticide: see Highlighted Issues, above, for one recipe, or you can use vinegar alone. It works as an organic pesticide by making the soil and plant surfaces slightly acidic so pests don’t lay eggs where it’s sprayed. It also kills several variety of small pests. (6)

Around the house

  • Cookware, dish and glassware stains: Remove stains from stainless steel and chrome with a vinegar-dampened cloth. Boil vinegar and water in pots to remove stains. Rinse glasses and dishes in water and vinegar to remove spots and film. To remove lime coating on your tea kettle; add vinegar to the water and let stand overnight. Clean jars with vinegar and water to remove odor. (4)
  • Cleaning surfaces: sprinkle white vinegar atop a dusting of baking soda  for cleaning sinks, tubs, tile floors and other surfaces. For cleaning, it can be diluted with water as much as 50-50. (1) Kitchen counters and other surfaces, cutting boards and utensils: Rinse with white vinegar diluted with water or with hydrogen peroxide in a 1:1 ratio. (1)
  • Surface disinfectant: White vinegar can also be mixed with household bleach for an even stronger disinfectant (2) [Cat’s note: Bleach is probably not one of the best chemicals to have around the house. And remember: DO NOT MIX BLEACH WTIH AMMONIA: This combo make hydrogen cyanide, a deadly poison.]
  • Grease issues: Prevent grease build-up in your oven by frequently wiping it with vinegar. Add vinegar to your deep fryer to eliminate a greasy taste. (4)
  • An excellent all-purpose cleaner: vinegar mixed with salt. Cleans copper, bronze, brass, dishes, pots, pans, skillets, glasses, windows. Rinse well. (4)
  • Prevent mold and mildew: Wipe jars of preserves and canned food with vinegar to prevent mold-producing bacteria. To eliminate mildew, dust and odors, wipe down walls with vinegar-soaked cloth. Clean breadbox and food containers with vinegar-dampened cloth to keep fresh-smelling and clean.
  • Clean windows with vinegar and water. (4)
  • Unclog and clean drains: Pour boiling vinegar down the drain. (4)
  • Clean fireplace bricks with undiluted vinegar.(4)
  • Reduce mineral deposits in pipes, radiators, kettles and tanks by adding vinegar into the system.(4)
  • Laundry: Add vinegar to laundry rinse water: removes all soap and prevents yellowing.(4)
  • Sterilize baby pacifiers: after cleaning well with hot soapy water, then rinsing with hot water, you can “Prevent fungus from growing on and inside the bulb by soaking pacifiers in a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar.” (3)

In the Kitchen 

  • Veggie wash: a solution of 10 percent vinegar to 90 percent water as a bath to briefly soak produce. Just place your veggies or fruit in the solution, swish it around, and rinse thoroughly.  (1) NOTE: we use this method to wash apples for the Community Cider Press event.
  • Fruit wash: For fragile fruits like berries, put fruit in a strainer and slowly pour the vinegar solution over, then gently rinse. See Kitchen hint: Prevent fresh berries from molding for more info. Jostling fragile fruits in a bath could damage them, or they could soak up too much vinegar through their porous skins (1).
  • Food preservation: keep cheese fresh longer by wrapping it in a vinegar-soaked cloth and keeping it in a sealed container. Rub vinegar on the cut end of uncooked ham to prevent mold. (4) [Cat’s note: A related use is to wipe homemade sausages and other cured meats with vinegar, to remove the penicillium mold. The mold protects the meat during storage, but the meat will taste better if you wipe the mold away before eating. See my related post Curing Meats at Home.]
  • Cooking eggs: When boiling eggs, add some vinegar to the water to prevent egg white from leaking out of a cracked egg. When poaching eggs, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water to prevent separation.(4)
  • Cooking, marinating meat: When boiling meat, add a spoonful of vinegar to the water to make it more tender. Marinate tough meat in vinegar overnight to tenderize. (4) [Cat’s note: vinaigrette salad dressings make good tenderizers. Balsamic and wine vinegars are also good for this use.]
  • Disinfect meat and produce: Research has shown that vinegar’s disinfectant ability is strengthened by mixing white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide. This combination effectively kills all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. Coli bacteria present on heavily contaminated food and food preparation surfaces. (2)
  • Improve flavor of certain foods: To give canned fish and shrimp a fresh-caught taste, soak in a mixture of sherry and 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking for a tender, sweeter taste. Add vinegar to boiling ham to improve flavor and cut salty taste. Add a spoonful of vinegar when cooking fruit to improve the flavor. Improve the flavor of desserts by adding a touch of vinegar. Use vinegar instead of lemon on fried and broiled foods (The English use malt vinegar for this – such as on fish & chips). Add 1 tsp. vinegar to cooking water for fluffier rice.  Avoid cabbage odor by adding vinegar to the cooking water. (4)
  • Salad dressings: Use any vinegar except distilled white vinegar to make great salad dressings. The use of vinegar  combined with oil in dressings helps you to absorb some of the nutrients in the salad greens – especially the minerals – as well as adding flavor.
  • Pastry, bread & meringue: Add a bit to pastry (before baking) to improve flavor and flakiness.For a shiny crust on homemade bread and rolls: just before they have finished baking, take them out, brush crusts with vinegar, return to oven to finish baking. For fluffy meringue: beat 3 egg whites with a teaspoon of vinegar. (4)

Personal Care & Health Remedies

  • Insulin/blood sugar issues: see “Highlighted issues” above
  • Arthritis tonic and treatment: 2 spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water several times daily.(4) [Cat’s note: if you don’t sweeten it at all, or sweeten with stevia instead of honey, this is also good for diabetics and hypoglycemics by improving insulin sensitivity. Or you can use balsamic vinegar without adding a sweetener].
  • Cure-all: Apple cider vinegar and honey can be used  to prevent apathy, obesity, hay fever, asthma, rashes, food poisoning, heartburn, sore throat, bad eyesight, dandruff, brittle nails and bad breath.(4) Mercola (1) also lists: allergies (including pet, food and environmental), sinus infections, acne, high cholesterol, flu, chronic fatigue, Candida, acid reflux, sore throats, contact dermatitis, arthritis, gout.
  • Skin burns: apply ice cold vinegar right away for fast relief. Will prevent burn blisters.(4)
  • To clear up respiratory congestion, inhale a vapor mist from steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of vinegar.(4)
  • Soothe a sore throat: from Mercola (1),  mix 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tbsp. of honey and 16 oz. water; warm to sipping temperature and sip. Adding juice from chopped ginger can be used for more power.
  • Skin & scalp care: Apply vinegar to chapped, cracked skin for quick healing. (4) [Cat’s note: this also works for chapped skin and ‘dishwater hands.’] Vinegar promotes skin health: rub on tired, sore or swollen areas. Cold vinegar relieves sunburn.
  • After-shampoo hair rinse: 1 ounce apple cider vinegar in 1 quart of distilled water. (4) [Cat’s note: I started doing this by adding 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to 1 quart water. But with time, my scalp got healthier and this much vinegar made my hair too oily, so I cut it down to 1 tsp per quart water, and later to just 1/2 tsp per quart water.]
  • To make a good liniment: beat 1 whole egg, add 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup turpentine. Blend.(4)

Pets and farm animals

  • Poultry water: Add vinegar to increase egg production and to produce tender meat. (4)
  • Pet water: Add vinegar to pet’s drinking water to eliminate odor and encourage shiny fur. (4)  Mercola (1) also adds: “Apple cider vinegar is also wonderful for animals, including dogs, cats and horses. It helps with arthritic conditions, controls fleas, repels flies, and gives a beautiful shine to their coats.”
  • Worming for horses. This comes from Edd: “Some equine owners have used apple vinegar as a ‘worming’ treatment for their animals.  (A couple of tablespoons mixed with oats)” 


  1. Mercola (quoting tips from Howard Garrett, aka ‘The Dirt Doctor”): Simple Trick Removes Pesticides from Your Vegetables & Fruits
  2. Yahoo Answers: Vinegar as a natural disinfectant
  3. LiveStrong: How to sterilize baby pacifiers
  4. 60 Things You Can Do With Vinegar!!!
  5. Country Farm Lifestyles: Gardening with vinegar
  6. eHow: How to make organic pesticide


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