Vinegar is magic. Also: A frugal Swiffer hack.

Still visiting my daughter and drinking the weird water of Phoenix. She and my son-in-law cope by using a reverse osmosis system to turn the hard H20 into something approaching potable agua.

Probably I’d get used to it if I lived here; for now, I cope by turning it into iced tea.

What I really resent, though, is the weirdly random stains the mineral-saturated water makes in the toilet bowls. I made it my mission to eliminate them.

And, as Abby noted in “The beauty of a clean toilet,” I succeeded. That’s because I had a secret weapon.

Oh, vinegar: Is there anything you can’t do?


Not according to those who write frugality and homemaking blogs. Vinegar cleans windows, counters, stovetops and refrigerators. Mixed half-and-half with blue Dawn dish liquid in a spray bottle, it works the same way as Scrubbing Bubbles products (and the smell does go away).

Vinegar makes a good fabric softener and also a good post-shampoo rinse. It kills germs, weeds, nits, athlete’s foot fungus and pet-accident odors on the rug. And on and on and on.

When I searched for “remove hard water stains toilets,” I learned that this is another example of vinegar’s superpowers. Pour it in, let it sit a few minutes and start scrubbing with what my mom used to call “the johnny mop.”

Seeing the stains disappear filled me with satisfaction. Yes, I need more to do.


A frugal floor hack

Last time I was here the Swiffer Wet Jet bottle was almost empty. When I found out how much the refills cost I got really irritated. Then I remembered having read about a way to remove the cap and refill the bottle at home.

An online search yielded this article from Lifehacker, with simple instructions: Stand the bottle briefly in boiling water, twist off the cap, use a nail clipper to snip away the locking tabs and refill the bottle with the cleaning solution of your choice.

To my delight, it worked. The only trouble was that I didn’t have a big enough nail clipper to snip off the tabs. I filled the bottle with water plus a teeny squirt of Murphy’s Oil Soap, replaced the cap and mopped to my heart’s content.

This time around I brought an industrial-strength nail clipper with me. When the bottle was almost empty I removed the cap and snipped off the tabs. More water, a squirt of soap, cap back on – and I just saved anywhere from $9 to $14, depending which Amazon price you believe.

(You could also use water and bleach, water and your favorite cleaning product or – you guessed it – water and vinegar.)

I’m not sure how long the bottle will last, but it’s a pretty sturdy plastic. Knowing that each bottle refill means decent savings makes me very happy. I really do need more to do.

Readers: Do you use vinegar for non-food purposes? And if you have a Swiffer Wet Jet, will you go the DIY refill route?


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  1. Practical Parsimony

    I use two gallons of vinegar each month! It goes in laundry, in commode, to wash sinks, and many other things. I use blue Dawn with it except in the wash.

    I wear black pants in the winter and grey in the summer. I don’t dig ditches, so I just rinse my load of black or grey pants. Only the crotch might need freshening and the stretch is unattractive. My load of black pants, or gray, gets a rinse with a half cup of vinegar.

    My friend who visits and HATES bug spray carries around a spray bottle of full strength vinegar to keep the mosquitoes off him. He does have to reapply often but prefers that to bug spray.

    I use it full strength to wash my car windows inside and out. Some people, I hear, just use water and vinegar.

    Although I am allergic/sensitive to vinegar taken internally, but I use it all the time.

  2. My two main non food uses for vinegar are for the floor and for homemade windex. Works great

  3. I use a refillable Libman mop

  4. Thanks for the tip on the “Swiffer”…$14…that’s crazy. I will share you can perform the same procedure on those containers of pepper that come with a grinder. Stick the plastic end of the grinder in hot water for a bit and then pop off the lid. I then refill the “grinder” with bulk purchased peppercorns. Those “throw away” pepper grinders around here go for around $3 and don’t hold 2 ounces. Thanks You Tube! The internet is truly a wonderful thing…

    • UPDATE : Went to the local “full service” grocery store this morning…The McCormick “grinder peppercorns” container now has been reduced to a 1 ounce container…for $2.49 OR $39.84 per pound! Thanks once more for sharing the tip!

  5. We use it in our dishwasher as the rinse. Also back when we used the scuba, we used vinegar for that as well. And of course descaling things.

    • How do you use it in your dishwasher?

      • As the rinse. Not the detergent, but the thing that’s supposed to keep the spots off your glassware. It works better than the creepy blue stuff you’re supposed to use.

        • Kate Nelson

          WOW! That icky blue stuff also costs a fortune. I’m trying the vinegar! Does the smell go away?

  6. Tina in NJ

    I’ve used vinegar and hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant in the bathroom. Does mix them; spray them consecutively. And keep the hydrogen peroxide in an opaque container. Apparently light destabilizes it or something. But the combination of the two is supposed to kill germs well. Also, as a brunette, I’ve used apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse for years. Not recommended for treated (colored/permed) hair, though.

  7. Vinegar is my best frugal friend 🙂 Here is Florida we have notoriously hard water, vinegar is the only product that will remove hard water stains on everything from toilet to pet bowls! I mop with it, have a spray bottle (50% water/vinegar) to spot clean with it, and fabric soften with it! People look at me strangely when I tell
    Them about its fabric softening abilities, and always ask “don’t your clothes come out smelling like vinegar?”, to which I respond, “No-they smell naturally fresh, so much fresher than your overpriced flowered up chemical brand”
    Good Mom Karma on you for being so helpful while you’re spending time with the kids!!

  8. I don’t bother with the bottle that came with the Swiffer; I spray a mix of vinegar and water on the floor and mop it up with the Swiffer. I also recycle old washcloths and towels by attaching them to the Swiffer instead of the Swiffer cloths. Has been working well for me for about 10 years now.

    • Donna Freedman

      I’d heard you could use microfiber cloths from the dollar store on the Swiffer dry mop. When you use cloth on the wet mop, how do you make the cloth adhere? Does it just stick to the two strips of whatever-that-is on the mop head, or do you use rubber bands or something?

      New territory to me, because I use a regular mop and bucket when I mop at home.

      • For the wet mop, I make the pads out of old washcloths that I clothespin on. I cut an X where the spray head releases the liquid so that it still arcs out onto the floor. Then I drop the dirty ones in a hot water wash to reuse. I’ve never bought the sticky pads that you’re ‘supposed to’. 🙂

      • I do this all the time. They work MUCH better than the flimsy paper things that come with Swiffer, and they can be washed. NOTHING picks up dog hair better or faster! 😀

        My dry mop Swiffer thingie is an old one: it has little holes with plastic clips that used to hold the Swiffer papers. I just poke the microfiber cloth into those, leaving a little length on one end which acts as extra mopping power. If they’ve done away with those, try using clothes pins to hold the rags on.

        Failing that, if the top of the head is flat, run a strip of stick-on Velcro along the “front” and the “back” ends. It should cling to the microfiber’s weave.

  9. I use vinegar for eeeeeeverything. We use it to sanitize our butcher block, mop the floor, and wipe down tables. It’s cheap and just as effective as store bought cleaners. It’s less irritating to my asthma, too.

  10. Vinegar in a spray bottle makes a great weed killer too, especially for hard to weed spots like our brick patio. I add some salt water to it so that the weed killing power is enhanced a bit.

    Instead of buying those expensive washer cleaning tablets for our front-load washer, I put a cup of extra strength bleach and two cups of white vinegar on it and run it on a cleaning cycle. It comes out way cleaner than the tablets. (For those worried about any chemical reaction, we are all fine. This seems to be harmless in a tightly sealed washer.)

    Also, I once had a gallon jug of milk fall over in the car and leak onto the carpet. The stench was beyond foul, but a soaking with straight white vinegar killed it when nothing else would.

    • That reminds me– when we were both working full-time with a newborn (didn’t qualify for FMLA), we once left a load of laundry in the washer with the door closed long enough it got icky (mildew?). Washing it again in detergent didn’t get all the smell out, but washing a second time with vinegar did.

      • Practical Parsimony

        In the humid and torrid South, mustiness is a scourge, especially when I don’t remove clothes from the washer soon enough. I never wash again; I just use a vinegar rinse.

        • Another one for Southerners: When I was a kid and used to make money picking blackberries to sell, I found that rubbing apple cider vinegar on my arms and legs kept chiggers from biting me.

    • Thanks for the weed-killer idea! I hate the idea of Roundup or its knock-off cousins and have been looking for something that won’t poison the soil. Do you have an approx. amount of salt/water?

      • I just make the water salty to taste. It will kill your grass as well as weeds, but it’s pet safe. It takes more than one application for tougher weeds, but it does work.

  11. Cathy in NJ

    I use white vinegar in the laundry for every load. The acid neutralizes the PH in the water. The detergent works better and I don’t get mineral deposits. I use vinegar in the bathroom to clean mineral deposits. Vinegar is used diluted 50/50 with water to clean the floors. Vinegar is the best.

    I also put a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in my tea to combat reflux. I will say it is an acquired taste, but if I add honey the tea tastes pretty decent. The expensive OTC tablets caused my ankles to swell. Its an unpleasant side effect. So with apple cider vinegar I save money and have no nasty side effects.

  12. I put on dab of vinegar on mosquito bites…it takes the itch away.

  13. Lake Livin'

    I use it as a rinse agent in the dishwasher but will definitely try it on the toilets. We have hard water, too.

  14. I love vinegar, but for cleaning discolored toilets, Pumie is the ticket. This pumice stone seems to be sold at every dollar store, so I always keep several on hand.

    Last year, DSD bought a condo in Aspen. As a wedding gift (They took our advice and eloped, yay!), we traveled there and did a complete makeover prior to their move-in. The toilet was seriously stained and full of calcium deposits. No one had much hope but me. They all thought it needed to be replaced. The bathroom had a cool vintage vibe, so I didn’t want to pull the toilet. I found my trusty Pumie at the local Ace Hardware. I damn near died that it was five bucks, but, Aspen. It took two full stones to make that crapper sparkle, but sparkle it did and it was ten dollars well spent.

    • Donna Freedman

      I read about pumice but decided against it because it can scratch the porcelain, and give a place for the stains to re-establish themselves.

      • When the toilet is so discolored that replacing it seems the only option, I think a Pumie is worth any perceived risk. I say perceived because a lot would depend on how much pressure one applies when scrubbing. Since the stone dissolves in water, I’m not sure how much pressure my 58-year-old , tired from doing other projects, arms could apply. In this case any risk was rewarded by the result. As to stains re-establishing themselves, the proud new owner is not going to neglect it the way the previous owners did, so no worries there. I also used it on the cool vintage Kohler sink which kind of resembles a baby bath (which is good, because they have a new one of those), complete with spray nozzle. It looks sparkling new, too. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if newer models have thinner porcelain coatings than older fixtures. I wouldn’t use it for everyday cleaning as I would vinegar, but it’s a good tool for the frugal scrubber’s arsenal.

        • One way to amp up the use of the pumice stone without applying more pressure is to use it in conjunction with a paste of cream of tartar and water. Tartaric acid with a touch of the pumice scratchy (esp if you empty the toile w/water supply turned off so the paste can sit awhile) is a miracle-worker. I’m in Delaware and well water here is mineral city!

  15. I buy white vinegar in bulk at Costco. Cleaning, final wash rinse, windows and hey, putting up pickled vegetables!

  16. Kate Nelson

    So all of you folks are using *white* vinegar as opposed to cider vinegar? Just want to be clear — sorry for the pun. I definitely plan to try some of these tips!

    • I use white vinegar for cleaning. Apple cider vinegar is used for final hair rinse. Leaves hair so smooth and shiny! I also use cider vinegar for cooking. In either case the smell goes away when it dries.

  17. teinegurl

    I’m actually out of vinegar and needs some more for cooking and for windows. I haven’t tried it but I will try it on my boyfriends feet for the athlete’s foot, I also look up it helps with dermatitis so anyone with rashes. I dabbed in a cotton ball and put on affected areas.

  18. I developed some kind of rash/nasty on my ankle (I think it started as poison ivy and I made it worse w/scratching) and I’ve been alternating the cider vinegar dabs with essential oil Helichrysum immortelle. No self-respecting rash can stand up to that!

  19. We actually used vinegar for fever rather than a plain water. This way it can absorb the heat from your body easily compared to water.

  20. Vinegar is the business! You can get it in gigantic bottles at the beloved Costco, BTW. I tried it as a weed-killer: works a heckuva lot better than the boiling water trick. Matter of fact, I’d say it’s almost as effective as Roundup.


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