There’s nothing I love more than a good deal, especially when it comes to cleaning. Instead of spending unnecessary money on brand-name products, I rely on two common, low-cost household items for disinfection and scrubbing away tough, caked-on bits: white vinegar and baking soda. Affordable, effective, planet-friendly, and child- and pet-safe, it’s a win-win situation for you and your kitchen. Here are a few of my favorite ways to employ these hardworking items.
My kitchen sink has seen some things, to say the least, so to disinfect it after a week of hand washing, oily dishes, and grimy rags, I scrub down the walls and bottom of the sink with a sponge and baking soda—a great degreaser—and rinse it off. Then, I spray on undiluted white vinegar and let that sit for about 10 minutes and rinse it off again.
But how does it work? Microbiologist Tim Call, known for his bacteria time-lapse TikTok account @whatmightgrow, recently did an experiment that involved cleaning a sink. He swabbed the sink for bacteria before and after applying vinegar to see how effective of a disinfectant it was. After spraying down the area with a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and water, then leaving it for five minutes, the results showed over a 50 percent reduction in bacteria—demonstrating that this pantry staple makes for a very effective disinfectant.
“Vinegar’s effectiveness comes from overwhelming a bacterium with the properties found in [its acetic] acid,” Call says, adding that this ultimately leads to the bacterium’s death. “Vinegar is considered safe for cleaning and cooking, and [it’s] even [safe for using] around children because the acetic acid within it is not concentrated and is too weak.”
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Baking soda and vinegar also team up as an effective grime-fighting duo. Caked on cooking oil, overflowed pasta water, mishaps when transferring soup to storage containers—this kitchen area almost warrants a hazard sign. I sprinkle baking soda on the tough spots, and then spray with vinegar to cover the area. The concoction will begin to bubble, a reaction that creates carbon dioxide, which acts like a soap detergent loosening up the grime, Call explains. Once the bubbles have formed, I immediately scrub with a sponge and the stains practically melt away.
Do you have old sauce splatters dotting the inside of the microwave? We’ve all been there (probably thanks to last week’s takeout). In a microwave-safe bowl, mix a few tablespoons of white vinegar with one cup of warm water. Place the bowl in the microwave on high for about 4 to 7 minutes until it comes to a gentle boil. Basically, let it roll until the door looks steamed up. Wait for a few minutes for things to cool down and remove the bowl. Wipe down the interior with a sponge or microfiber cloth—tough stains will come off with ease thanks to the spa treatment loosening up those annoying dry bits.
You can also descale your kettle or coffee maker with vinegar. Descaling is the process of removing limescale buildup, which comes from minerals found in our water. For a kettle, start by boiling equal parts vinegar and water in the kettle, dumping that out, scrubbing any leftover bits, and then boiling another round of water after. Tea time has never been so satisfying. For a coffee maker, fill your coffee pot with equal parts vinegar and water, then follow the instructions for descaling that are in your user manual (there should be a descale button or combo of buttons). Run another brew cycle with plain water after the descaling is done, then your maker is as good as new.
From the sink to your microwave, vinegar and baking soda are an effective power duo ready to take on tasks small and big. And with many months’ worth of cleaning supplies under $5, who can resist?