Can you use vinegar as a disinfectant
The uses for vinegar really are endless. Not only does it taste great in salads, drinks, stews and snacks, it’s quite handy when it comes to cleaning as well. In fact, many people use it in anything from washing laundry to keeping cutlery at their shiny best.
Cleaning with vinegar is cost effective, natural ( a definite plus if you’re trying to avoid chemicals) and it’s easy to use.
But wait! Before you swap all your detergents for vinegar, you should know what the experts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have to say.
Here we answer questions like; Does vinegar kill mold? Can you use vinegar as a disinfectant? Does Vinegar disinfect laundry? So you’ll know when to bring out the vinegar and when to put it away.
Can you use vinegar to disinfect?
Yes. Does vinegar kill germs? Again, the answer would be – yes. But, perhaps the more important question would be, how effective is it in completely stamping out bacteria and viruses? This is what Alan Taege, MD, infectious disease specialist at Cleveland Clinic had to say:
“Vinegar is acetic acid, which has the ability to destroy bacteria and viruses.”
But, Taege goes on to say, “many commercial disinfectants would probably be more effective.”
Experts are cautious when it comes to advocating vinegar as a general cleaner. And while studies confirm that vinegar does have antibacterial properties, evidence as to it’s ability to deal all kinds of germs and viruses is still thin on the ground.
But if you’re thinking about washing fruit and vegetables in vinegar, then science has got your back.
Washing vegetables in vinegar
- Studies have even proven that washing vegetables (and fruits) in vinegar lowers the presence of bacteria, like Salmonella, to undetectable levels. This is due to the acetic acid in Vinegar that acts as a natural detergent.
- Furthermore the bactericidal activity of the vinegar is enhanced with heat! So boiling vinegar and letting it cool, before washing your fruit or vegetables, makes it even more effective.
- When used in conjunction to sodium chloride (salt), vinegar was found to be effective in preventing bacterial food poisoning.
Read also: 17 Unexpected uses of vicks vaporub
How fast can vinegar kill germs
It’s worth noting, that germs need at least half an hour exposure to vinegar for it to act as a disinfectant. For example, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, it was found that in 30 minutes, vinegar with 6% acetic acid could kill M. tuberculosis bacteria. Malt vinegar is particularly potent when destroying influenza, according to a 2010 article.
Although encouraging, it’s important to be aware that vinegar is not on the EPA certified disinfectant list. In short, it’s best to use vinegar when it comes to food preparation. In the case of cleaning germs from surfaces or, for example, cleaning wounds – vinegar is definitely not advised.
But why, particularly when it can be used with food to kill germs and other bacteria? That’s what will explore.
But does Vinegar kill all viruses?
As mentioned, vinegar is not an EPA registered sanitizer or disinfectant. In a nut shell, that means you can’t rely on vinegar to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.
Some of vinegar’s limitations are that it doesn’t disinfect STAPH, MRSA and other nasty germs that might make you and your family ill.
Vinegar, and other DIY cleaners, may leave as much as 20% of dangerous germs behind. That’s because they are not strong enough to destroy all of them.
Take the rhinovirus, (a collection of viruses that are behind more than half of all colds). The only way to really reduce the chance of this virus from taking hold – and ending up with a nasty flu or cold – is to choose a sanitizer and disinfectant that kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.
Research from the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology studied natural disinfectants, such as vinegar, against commercial disinfectants like Lysol, Mr Clean and Clorox. And looked at how they performed against various pathogens, including bacteria and viruses.
The results revealed that vinegar was “less effective” than commercial disinfectants when it came to killing bacterial pathogen.
So what about using vinegar against the coronavirus?
This is what Amesh Adalija M.D at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security had to say;
“[Vinegar] does have acid in it and it has the capacity to damage bacteria and viruses, but it’s not something I would recommend using to prevent the spread of coronavirus,”
Vinegar as a disinfectant: what type of vinegar for cleaning?
So if you do decide to use vinegar for cleaning, which one is better? This is what Dr Taege has to say;
“White vinegar would be the most commonly used form, this is because it’s the most acidic. White vinegar tends to be between 4 to 7 percent acetic acid, while cider and wine vinegar’s are usually closer to acetic acid of 5 to 6 per cent. But that doesn’t render other vinegar’s completely useless.
According to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), if you want to create your own disinfectant solution (again experts suggest following the chemical route, if possible), combine vinegar with water in a 1:1 solution. Vinegar can also be used on glass surfaces, windows, walls, cabinets, floors, sinks, cooktops, coffee makers, etc. However, it should not be used on surfaces like natural stone, waxed wood, cast iron or aluminium.
Furthermore, using vinegar to clean is not advised for surfaces with a high risk of contamination, such as cutting boards and shelves. For these, NSF suggests using a bleach solution. They also points out that you should never* ever* mix vinegar with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, as these can create toxic fumes.
Does vinegar kill mold?
First off, before we discuss vinegar, let’s set the record straight; it’s a myth that bleach kills mold. The truth is, bleach can only kill surface mold, but not the membrane lurking underneath the black, fuzzy growth. It’s the mold membrane that’s at the center of the problem. If you reach for the bleach to kill mold, it will surely return with vengeance.
But this is where vinegar comes into it’s own. While bleach does little to tackle mold, vinegar can be a powerful tool. White vinegar is able to kill about 82% of mold species, it even stops future mold outbreaks.
Use white vinegar when you want to halt small outbreaks of mold by following these easy steps:
- Ensure you wear a mask, goggles and gloves, to safeguard yourself from direct mold exposure.
- Place the white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle. Since the mold is such a resistant force, it is better not to dilute the vinegar.
- Directly spray the vinegar onto the mold leave it to sit for at least an hour without rinsing or wiping so that the vinegar fully soaks into the mold.~
- In the case where scrubbing is needed, mix teaspoon of baking soda with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Then, shake and spray on the mold. This should easily remove it.
- Spray the baking soda solution directly onto the mold and scrub it vigorously
There are occasions when the mold growing in your home is widespread and too dangerous. In which case, it’s time to get professional help.
Does vinegar disinfect laundry?
Although not a EPA registered disinfectant, vinegar does help to disinfect laundry. This cleaning solution is also perfect if you decide to give your laundry a cleaning boost.
- Put 1 cup of vinegar (white) in with the rinse cycle. Vinegar is quite effective at killing bacteria and will also help to disinfect and deodorize laundry. Along with this, white vinegar is an efficient fabric softener, helping to maintain bright colors.
- Never replace white vinegar with other vinegar’s, such as apple cider or wine vinegar, since their pH is not as high and this may leave stains behind
What disinfectants should I use instead of vinegar?
As mentioned, vinegar is* not* on the list of disinfectants approved by EPA. While there’s evidence that vinegar is an eco friendly ally in the war against grime, if you want to err on the side of caution, it is best to use vinegar as a disinfectant for food alone.
According to the reports, it’s safer to use commercial disinfectants and ethanol (also called alcohol).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also say that diluted solutions of household bleach, and alcoholic solutions of at least 70 percent alcohol, are very effective in the battle against viruses.