Is white vinegar safe for all surfaces? What NOT to clean


Vinegar is apparently some sort of miracle substance among cleaning fanatics. Many people claim it can clean basically anything; from your laundry and your windows to floors, bathrooms, mirrors, and more. All that said, it’s not as though vinegar is a magic cure-all.

Is white vinegar safe on all surfaces?

Much like its useful DIY friend – baking soda – there are plenty of items that should not be scrubbed with vinegar.

That’s because even plain white vinegar is a pretty strong acid that corrodes or reacts with many common materials.

There are dozens of items you should hold off using white vinegar on including hardwood floors, cast iron cookware – and some even say washing machines.

Read on to find out what not to clean with vinegar.


It turns out that smartphones, tablets, and similar devices actually have a coating on their touchscreens that is fingerprint-resistant.

Cleaning the screen with vinegar can strip this coating off. Instead, just use water and a microfibre cloth to polish it.

Hardwood floors

Most hardwood flooring manufacturers say that cleaning the wood with vinegar will damage its protective and beautifying finish.

You might as well just scrub it with sandpaper! Use an approved flooring cleaner instead.

Tough carpet stains

Vinegar can remove light stains from carpet.

Tougher ones, like those caused by grass, ink, and blood will need a stronger cleaner, however.


When bleach and vinegar mix, they react and create chlorine gas. Not only is the gas poisonous, it creates hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids when it mixes with water.

These can ruin clothing or other materials they come in contact with.

Stone surfaces

Stone countertops and similar surfaces seem practically indestructible.

However, the acid in vinegar is strong enough to cause stains or even eat away the stone surface over time.


Vinegar reacts with aluminium, giving it spots and blotches.

Waxed wood

Many cabinets and some other wood surfaces (including some floors) have waxed-based finishes.

Keep vinegar away from these to avoid eating at the wood over time

Washing machines

The jury’s out on this one. Many people suggest that vinegar is great for cleaning clothes, and can also clean and disinfect a washing machine itself.

On the other hand, others say that the vinegar can damage the rubber hoses that connect the washer to plumbing.

Check with your machine’s manufacturer if you want to be sure.

Cast iron cookware

Many cast-iron-cookware-users talk with pride about the “seasoning” that develops on the iron overtime. It’s actually a layer of oil that keeps the cookware nonstick.

Soap is a no-no for cleaning cast iron since it will strip this seasoning right off. And vinegar has the same effect.

Not only that, the acid in vinegar will react with the iron itself, causing it to rust.

So you definitely do not want to use vinegar to clean your cast iron! Instead, try gently scrubbing the cookware clean with water, a little kosher salt, and a towel.


If vinegar reacts with the iron in cast iron cookware, then it stands to reason that it will also react with iron in …. irons. As in the kind you press your clothes with.

Some cleaning blogs have suggested pouring vinegar into an iron’s water reservoir to clean it, but this can damage the metal parts.

If you’re worried about deposits building up inside your iron, use distilled instead of tap water.

Egg stains

If you spill egg on something, clothing or otherwise, don’t reach for vinegar.

The acid can cause the egg to coagulate, making it harder to remove.

Carbon steel knives

Vinegar can cause carbon steel to darken and/or become blotchy.

Some people like the look of a “patina” on their knives, but if you want to keep yours shiny and new, avoid cleaning them with vinegar.

Unsealed grout

Vinegar can be great at cleaning tiled surfaces, but not if the grout between the tiles is unsealed.

Without a protective coating, the grout will become damaged.


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