Incomes have been pretty much stagnant for years. Meanwhile the price of just about everything goes up around us. Is it any wonder we’re all looking for ways to rein in unnecessary expenditure. Take household cleaners as an example…

Generic white vinegar costs $0.25 cents per litre. In comparison, Earth Choice brand multi-purpose cleaner is $3.52 for 600 ml. That makes Earth Choice around 24 times more expensive than vinegar! Dettol brand anti-bacterial multi-purpose cleaner is about 35 times more expensive! But are we comparing apples and oranges or, more literally, cleansers with old wives tales?

Is vinegar really effective as a cleaning agent and disinfectant?
Is vinegar really effective as a cleaning agent and disinfectant?

We all know someone who swears by vinegar. They use it in the kitchen. In the bathroom. In the wash. Even on cuts and grazes. I’ve even read of people who swear it’s the perfect weed killer. But what are the facts?

Vinegar is cheap, totally non-toxic and completely biodegradable. It’s apparently been used as a common disinfectant for thousands of years. But what about efficacy? Does vinegar really kill ‘germs’?

While not as effective as expensive commercial cleaners, vinegar of all types and colours is a useful – and extremely safe – disinfectant. So can vinegar replace expensive cleaners in your home? Probably…

How does vinegar work?
Vinegar is between 5% and 8% per cent acetic acid. The other 92% is mostly plain old water. But it’s that acid we’re interested in. The acetic acid really does kill bacteria and viruses. It does it by chemically changing the organism’s proteins and fats. That change results in the rapid destruction of the germ’s cell structure. No harsh chemicals, same result! Neat?

Household products you could cut to help the environment
Do you know that plain old vinegar kills the flu virus? It does. As part of research aimed at preparing us for a flu pandemic, UK researchers found that malt vinegar – in common with bleach and washing up liquid, quickly destroys the flu virus.

And when US researchers tested commercial cleaning products against alternatives like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, they discovered that neat vinegar killed a whole range of household pathogens. And unlike most commercial products, there is absolutely no harmful residue left to affect your environment.

In another interesting development, US researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that vinegar efficiently killed Mycobacterium tuberculosis — the bacteria that causes tuberculosis — after 30 mins of exposure to a six per cent acetic solution.

The mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is incredibly resistant to treatment yet vinegar kills it!
The mycobacterium tuberculosis infection is incredibly resistant to treatment yet vinegar kills it!

You might balk at that 30 minute exposure but the TB virus is incredibly resilient and has become resistant to most treatments. The fact that vinegar can and does kill it suggests that most other bacteria will also be killed when exposed to vinegar.

The bottom line is that your bottom line can look a lot better is you switch from expensive commercial cleaners to plain old, $0.25 per litre vinegar! Vinegar is an effective disinfectant when used appropriately.

We have been using vinegar as a cleaning and disinfecting agent for years. We’re convinced. Are you? Let us know in the comments below 🙂

BTW, as an avid gardener, I can report that vinegar does not kill weeds… at least not the ones that grow in my corner of the world!