Using vinegar for cleaning (and when NOT to use it in a chemical toilet)

Using vinegar for cleaning

I’ve been using vinegar for cleaning for years. As a cleaning agent it’s safe, non-toxic and anti-bacterial – and cheap. It tackles mould and limescale and can be excellent at removing stains. While I’ve used all different kinds of vinegar for my cleaning – including cider vinegar, white malt vinegar and plain white vinegar (maybe not balsamic vinegar) – it’s not necessarily ideal for all your cleaning purposes.

I found that out when I used it on my Thetford chemical toilet (which contraption is the subject of a whole-other-post). I’d bought a toilet ‘fresh-up kit’ which included a new seat, a waste-holding cassette (no mix-tapes, sadly) and some bottles of scary chemicals. Chemicals? Not for me. I thought it would be a better idea to pour a load of white vinegar into the bowl and allow it to sit there, killing germs and dissolving limescale.

Unfortunately, it also damaged the seal on the cartridge, meaning that when I took the cartridge out and turned it upright, poo-soup poured out all over my feet.

When I took the cartridge out and turned it upright, poo-soup poured out all over my feet.

A wee drop of vinegar

Neat white vinegar is excellent for removing all kinds of stains, including burn and scorch marks from irons. It also neutralises the smell of urine, so you could use it in a toilet cassette as long as you don’t pour it on top of the opening where the seal is (duh), but it really comes into its own for users of separating compost toilets – adding vinegar to the urine bottle neutralises the odour of wee. Furthermore, say you’ve been caught short and haven’t emptied your urine bottle or cartridge, and somehow or other your nice fresh urine has to go down the plughole – or in a bucket? These things happen; I don’t judge. Vinegar down the plughole or in the bucket/washing up bowl /footspa will make sure your whole boat doesn’t smell like a urinal.

Some of you may have a cat who likes to urinate in the bath or shower. I am not naming names but this has at times been an issue for me (GEOFF does it). He is trying to be clean – he aims to get it down the plughole – but of course baths in a boat don’t drain in the normal way, because the plughole is lower than the water level outside. So until I turn the water pump on, that pungent yellow brew just sits there, a puddle over the plughole. Once the wee has spurted out into the unsuspecting waterway, you might want to give the bath/shower a little squirt around with the vinegar spray.

Some of you may have a cat who likes to urinate in the bath or shower.

Vinegar spray for days

That’s right – the vinegar spray. I’m always going on about my vinegar spray. Vinegar spray this, vinegar spray that. Why don’t vinegar spray and you get /married/? I hear you sneer. As well you might. But what’s in it, this magical concoction? Well it’s pretty easy, so let me break it down for you.

This is what you need:

Good old-fashioned water
An old, empty spray bottle (those squirters are non-recyclable so re-use them wherever possible)
Some essential oils – lemon, lavender, citronella and tea tree are all good for cleaning and have varying amounts of antimicrobial action – citronella and tea tree the most powerful.
White vinegar (or white malt vinegar)
Some washing-up liquid, shampoo or liquid soap

This is how you do:

Depending on how aggressive you want your spray to be, combine water and vinegar in your spray bottle using a ratio of anywhere between 1:1 and 3:1. Using less vinegar means the spray doesn’t smell so obnoxiously vinegary – white vinegar can be quite eye-watering.

Add a few drops of your chosen essential oils. I don’t like the smell of Tea Tree so I don’t use it around the home unless for a very specific purpose, but citronella and lavender smell fresh and pleasant, as well as being antimicrobial.

Since oil doesn’t mix with water or vinegar, we need to add a tiny squirt of washing up liquid or shampoo to help the substances to emulsify (blend, in other words). So do that and then shake up your bottle to mix – you will need to put the lid on first, ideally…

Oui, c’est fini

That’s it! You’re done. Use this spray anywhere around the home for general cleaning. And urine smells.

Geoff’s Top Tip: If you have cider vinegar in your cupboard, don’t use it in a spray bottle if it has the ‘mother’ in it. The ‘mother’ is the starter culture that enables the vinegarisation process – a sort of mucky cloudy mucus that floats in the vinegar and will clog up the spray and render it unusable. The ‘mother’ is actually very good for you if you consume it. Obviously cats don’t like it.

By the way, since I’m here talking about stain removal and urine, and rather than chuck it down the sink or at passers-by, have you ever thought of using your unwanted urine to combat stains? Apparently you can. But that will be the subject of a whole-other-post.

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I'm Victoria. Hi.

I'm afraid I write most of the nonsense on this site, apart from the stuff written by Geoff. (Geoff is the cat in orange.)

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