The Best Vinegar for Cleaning: 7 Types of Vinegar Every DIYer Should Know
Learn more about which types of vinegar are best for cleaning nearly everything from the kitchen sink to the bathroom floors.
While it isn’t an all-purpose cleaner, vinegar can be used for a wide range of cleaning tasks around the house, and its cleaning power can even be boosted by mixing it with baking soda for some tasks. When cleaning with vinegar instead of scented chemical cleaners, it’s important to choose a variety that’s good for household usage.
Learn more about the best vinegar for cleaning and how various types can help replace other household cleaning products below.
Types of Vinegar
Before getting into the best types of vinegar for cleaning, it is important to understand more about this substance. What is vinegar, and why does it work so well for cleaning? The process of making vinegar involves fermenting alcohol with acetic acid bacteria. That acetic acid and vinegar’s acidity level are what makes it able to dissolve and remove grease, grime, and other gunk from surfaces. Vinegar has some natural disinfectant properties and can kill some types of bacteria, such as salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes. However, as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) shares, vinegar is not as effective as bleach and other disinfectants at killing viruses and bacteria, so you can’t clean everything with vinegar.
There are several different types of vinegar, many of which could be in your pantry or cleaning closet right now. You may already know the best type of vinegar to use when making your favorite recipes, but do you know which bottle you should grab to tackle household cleaning tasks?
1. White Vinegar
White vinegar is a nontoxic clear liquid that can be produced through sugar cane extract fermentation. As it ferments, the liquid’s acidity level increases. White vinegar may also be made by adding acetic acid to water. While its acidity level can vary, undiluted white vinegar is a stronger variety with an acidity level of anywhere from 5 to 20 percent.
You likely know distilled white vinegar best, which is different from undiluted white vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is made by distilling ethanol, during which process the liquid is separated from the rest of the mixture to produce a clear liquid with an acidity level ranging between 5 and 8 percent.
While you can use both distilled and undiluted white vinegar for cleaning, distilled white vinegar is more commonly recommended. Its lower acidity level is comparable to many household cleaning products, and it’s quite effective at removing grease and grime from a variety of surfaces, especially when mixed with baking soda.
Best For: Cleaning a variety of surfaces throughout the home
Our Recommendation: Lucy’s All Natural Distilled White Vinegar at Amazon for $16.99.
Use this distilled white vinegar with 5 percent acidity for nontoxic cleaning, odor removal, and cooking.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Unsurprisingly, apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple juice. Once fermented, the vinegar is diluted with water, leaving it with an acidity level of about 5 percent. Apple cider vinegar is used in many recipes and often touted for its health benefits, but can you clean with apple cider vinegar, too? Absolutely!
Combining 5-percent apple cider vinegar with some water (approximately 2 cups of water for every cup of vinegar) creates a cleaning solution for windows, cutting boards, and other home surfaces. You can also pour some apple cider vinegar directly into a toilet bowl, let it sit for a few minutes, and scrub the inside clean. Apple cider vinegar is not clear like distilled white vinegar, however, so it could potentially stain surfaces. Before cleaning with it, always test it in an inconspicuous spot first.
Best For: Cleaning toilets
Our Recommendation: Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar at Target for $7.29.
This apple cider vinegar is made using all-natural apples, filtered, and diluted to a 5 percent acidity level.
3. Balsamic Vinegar
Made from grape must, balsamic vinegar has a similar acidity level to distilled white vinegar, meaning it can still be an effective cleaner. However, balsamic vinegar’s dark color may leave stains behind on some items and surfaces it cleans. Balsamic vinegar is also more expensive than white vinegar and some other varieties, so it may not be the best option to buy with the intention of cleaning. Using balsamic vinegar for cleaning can be good in a pinch, though, especially if it’s the only type of vinegar you have in the house. Just be sure to dilute it to minimize staining.
Best For: Cleaning surfaces that won’t stain
Our Recommendation: Pompeian Gourmet Balsamic Vinegar at Amazon for $3.84.
This balsamic vinegar can be used for a range of cooking and cleaning needs.
4. White and Red Wine Vinegar
White and red wine vinegar can also be helpful when cleaning the house. Made by fermenting white or red wine, these types of vinegar are typically slightly less acidic than white vinegar. This makes them a good option for a more gentle cleaning to certain surfaces, and their lower acidity levels can make them less likely to irritate your skin. Additionally, if you’re sensitive to white vinegar’s harsher odor, you may find these alternatives more appealing. When picking between red and white wine vinegar, choose white wine vinegar for most cleaning tasks, since red wine vinegar is darker and risks stains.
Best For: Cleaning delicate surfaces
Our Recommendation: Pompeian Gourmet White Wine Vinegar at Target for $2.49.
This white wine vinegar is non-allergenic, gluten-free, and suitable to use for both cooking and cleaning needs.
RELATED: Solved! Does Vinegar Kill Weeds?
5. Rice Vinegar
Made from fermented rice, rice vinegar (or rice wine vinegar) is another one of the types of vinegar that you can use for cleaning as well as cooking. To clean with rice wine vinegar, make a diluted solution with equal parts water and vinegar. Add it to a spray bottle or dip a microfiber cloth in it to wipe surfaces.
Because rice vinegar is usually less acidic than white vinegar, it may not be quite as effective at removing gunk and grime. Moreover, rice wine vinegar may also leave behind a slight residue because of its higher sugar content, so you might want to use it sparingly to clean if you don’t have other options available.
Best For: Cleaning smooth surfaces that can be wiped down with water to remove any residue
Our Recommendation: Marukan Genuine Brewed Rice Vinegar (2 pack) at Amazon for $47.99.
This rice vinegar is brewed using centuries-old techniques and can be used for a range of cooking and cleaning tasks.
6. Cleaning Vinegar
As you might guess, cleaning vinegar is formulated specifically for cleaning surfaces. Cleaning vinegar has a typical acidity level of about 6 percent. While this might not seem like that much more than distilled white vinegar’s usual 5 percent, that extra percentage makes a big difference in strength. Cleaning vinegar is approximately 20 percent stronger than white vinegar, making it a far more effective cleaner and mold killer.
However, with its increased acidity, it may be too abrasive for many surfaces and damage them, not to mention your skin. Cleaning vinegar’s smell is also more potent, which may not make it the best option for everyone.
Best For: Heavy-duty cleaning
Our Recommendation: Aunt Fannie’s Cleaning Vinegar at Amazon for $11.99.
This cleaning vinegar spray can be used to break up grime and get rid of odor on several surfaces throughout the home.
7. Industrial Vinegar
Industrial vinegar has the highest concentration of vinegar among the varieties listed here. It varies between brands and products, but a bottle of industrial vinegar may contain as much as 75 percent vinegar—making it up to 15 times more concentrated than distilled white vinegar. That means that industrial vinegar is extremely potent, and (as its name suggests) it is designed for commercial applications. Therefore, it’s too strong for most household cleaning tasks.
Best For: Commercial applications
Our Recommendation: Belle Chemical 75% Vinegar Concentrated Industrial Strength at Amazon for $14.49.
The high concentration of this industrial vinegar makes it a good stand-in for more harmful chemicals in the landscaping, automotive, and commercial cleaning industries.
Why Distilled White Vinegar Is the Best Vinegar for Cleaning
Back to the question at hand: What vinegar is best for cleaning? Simply put, distilled white vinegar is the clear winner.
Unlike balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar, distilled white vinegar is clear and doesn’t pose the risk of leaving stains behind on surfaces in the home. When comparing industrial or cleaning vinegar vs. white vinegar, distilled white vinegar is still the best choice. It’s less potent, making it much safer to use in a household setting—stronger isn’t always better if it poses a greater risk to your stuff, health, or safety.
From cleaning countertops and floors, removing stains from cutting boards and plasticware, cleaning toilets, getting streak-free windows, cleaning appliances, and more, using distilled white vinegar for cleaning can be a very effective solution. Plus, distilled white vinegar uses extend into the kitchen, where it can also double as a common cooking ingredient. That’s certainly not the case with industrial or cleaning vinegar.
The prices listed here are accurate as of publication on 3/28/23.