• Intro
  • How Does Vinegar Clean
  • So What Does Vinegar Kill?
  • Vinegar and Covid-19
  • My Two Cents
  • Sources


If you have been researching going green with your cleaning products, you probably have read that vinegar is a great all natural way to clean your house. I was like you in that when I first started researching alternative methods to cleaning my house, without using toxic commercial cleaners, I was drawn to the safer,  and much cheaper, vinegar. However, I honestly can say that for the first few months of using it to clean my apartment, I didn’t actually look into the research showing how effective, if at all, vinegar was at cleaning my toilets, floors, sinks, and counters. I blindly trusted the many bloggers who touted their vinegar-based recipes as all-purpose and effective at cleaning all types of bacteria. I know…NOT my proudest moment!

That being said, I did come around and realized I needed to understand how vinegar truly kills the bacteria I did NOT want in my house. (I am a slight germaphobe after all!) So I did a Google search to find the research I was looking for. This wasn’t an easy task since I had to weed through all the blog posts. Not that I don’t love reading other people’s writing, but I wanted to find out the truth firsthand from the source of the study.

How Does Vinegar Clean?

Vinegar is made up of acetic acid and water. In the United States and Venezuela, traditional white vinegar consists of about 5% acetic acid. Whereas in France, vinegar contains 8% acetic acid. The acid in the vinegar causes “disruption of the envelope by either lipid attack (causing disintegration)  or protein denaturation (preventing fusion to host cells),” effectively inhibiting transmission to a new host or bacterial growth.

Although vinegar has the capability of breaking down bacteria and viruses, it does not mean it is strong enough to kill ALL bacteria and viruses. Many studies have tested to see which major bacteria and viruses vinegar kills.

So What Does Vinegar Kill?

One study performed in 2009 tested common household products to determine if they were effective at killing the Listeriosis, E. Coli and Salmonella bacterias. Of the 5 products tested, bleach was the only one capable of killing all three strains within a minute. Undiluted vinegar however, was capable of reducing the amount of salmonella bacteria, but was unable to fully disinfect against the pathogen.

Another study tested three common household product’s ability to kill the Influenza Virus (specifically the A/H1N1 strain). The results concluded that bleach, at a 1% dilution, and  malt vinegar, at a 10% dilution, was “effective at rapidly reducing viable viruses below the limit of detection.” Both bleach and vinegar were capable of disrupting the viral envelope proteins, thus reducing the ability of the virus to infect a host. The study did also look at a dilution rate of 5% acetic acid, which was also capable of inactivating the A/H7N2 strain of the virus.

An additional study I reviewed tested the efficacy vinegar had on killing several strains of bacteria. Although the vinegar did have a noticeable impact of reducing E. Coli, M. smegmatis. and M. tuberculosis colonies, the bacteria levels were tested after 20 minutes of exposure to acetic acid. Unfortunately, vinegar is not the most effective disinfectant since it takes 20-30 minutes for the acid to break down some viruses and bacteria to “obtain optimal killing.”  Many commercial disinfectants work within 5 minutes. However, keep in mind, we often over-clean our homes by using chemical cleaners that are much more powerful than we need.

Professor Peter Collignon from Australian National University stated “We over-use chemicals. Instead of using one unit, we use 1000 units, and the benefits are marginal.” Instead he suggests washing the surface down with hot water and soap in order to wash away a large portion of the bacteria and viruses. Then if you still feel there is a need for further cleaning, then use vinegar to deal with the remaining pathogens.

Vinegar and Covid-19

How does vinegar stand up against the Covid Virus? According to the CDC and the EPA, there is no evidence that acetic acid (vinegar) is capable of killing off the virus. However, bleach, hydrogen peroxide and citric acid are capable of killing off Covid. They also propose first washing the surface with hot water and soap, the same recommendation Professor Collignon suggests.  

My Two Cents

I have been using vinegar solutions to clean my house for several years now and have had no issue with becoming sick due to not using a stronger cleaner. If I feel a part of my house, such as my bathtub after washing my cats, or my floors, need a deeper clean I use diluted bleach to take care of bacteria, viruses, and my germaphobe anxiety! Although vinegar is not as strong as commercial cleaners, I can rest assured that my house is still clean without having to worry about the toxic chemicals present in most commercially sold cleaners.

If you are not comfortable using a vinegar solution to help clean your home, there are other, more natural products available on the market for purchase. Unfortunately, they tend to be more expensive than their chemical-filled counterparts.

Other natural cleaners people like to use in their house are hydrogen peroxide, liquid castile soap, lemon, borax, and washing soda. Just make sure to research what chemicals can be safely mixed together when cleaning! Vinegar and bleach mixed together is highly toxic and lets off fumes!



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