Friday, January 26, 2024

Let's Have Fun With Vinegar: A Cleaning Success Story

Friends, we're here today to talk dirty.

Or clean depending on your point of view.  This is the story of how our master bathroom went from looking shabby to spiffy thanks to a $3.79 investment in a gallon of distilled vinegar.

Warning: Vinegar is not appropriate for use on all surfaces.  Please research your own particular bathroom surface materials before having your own fun with vinegar.

I'm a simple gal with a simple mind who likes to save a buck, so naturally I'm drawn to very basic cleaning products.  Why throw money down the drain when you can throw baking soda and vinegar down there instead?

After years of experimentation, these have become my go-to products.

  • Homemade all purpose counter cleaner: combine 2 cups of hot water, 1/2 teaspoon of washing soda, and a squirt of dishwashing soap - the purpose of the hot water is to dissolve the washing soda and soap, you mix it up once and you can continue to use it indefinitely like any other spray cleaner .  I got this recipe from a blog called The Simple Dollar that apparently doesn't exist anymore:-(
  • SoftScrub for sinks and tubs
  • Cinch glass cleaner
  • Folex carpet cleaner
I've heard so many times that the only cleaning products that anyone ever needs are vinegar and baking soda, but my experiences have been mixed.  In a pinch I'll use a paste of baking soda if I'm out of SoftScrub, but overall I feel that keeping a clean house requires something more than these products plus elbow grease.

However lately our master bathroom wasn't looking so great.  There was a large stain near the drain that formed over the course of a few years and in recent months the scuff marks joined the party.  We had a host of other "sins" in the form of water stains on the glass shower door and rings around all of our bathroom sinks.

Thanks for asking, yes I clean the bathrooms every week, and until recently I had a good track record of them not looking like this.  Either my scrubbing skills have deteriorated or the formula for SoftScrub has changed - I report, you decide.

If there's one thing that I can't stand, it's putting effort into something and getting negative results.  Slaving away at cleaning our shower only to have it look like I hadn't cleaned the shower is not my style.  Guys, I was <this close> to (gasp!) paying someone to clean our bathrooms.  This is a story of how a crazy tip on the internet turned things around.

Past Successes with Vinegar

Vinegar is a rock star at removing hard water stains.  I don't know why anyone would use anything else to clean their shower head.  Here's the procedure:

Step 1: take a good look at your shower head and recoil in utter disgust.

Step 2: remove the shower head and soak it in a mixture of 50% vinegar and 50% water overnight.

Step 3: pull a sparkling clean shower head out of the solution and carry on with your life.

It's really that easy.  But the limitation of vinegar is that you can't soak your entire shower in it.  Take it from me, if you spray vinegar on your shower all that will happen is that it will drip off, accomplishing nothing.

Things That Haven't Worked

Over the years I've tried many bathroom cleaners that have not delivered.  Sometimes I use a homemade shower cleaner that is as mediocre as anything that I can buy.

One miracle that I've seen touted many times is to combine vinegar and Dawn soap in a spray bottle.  A few months ago I finally got around to trying the miracle.  The results:

  1. It did diddly squat to improve the appearance of our shower.
  2. It was not pleasant to work with.  Everyone is all "vinegar is natural" but if you put it in a spray bottle and let lose with it in an enclosed space like a bathroom, you're going to get hit with a waft of vinegar fumes.

A Crazy Google Result

I did a last ditch google search for miracle shower cleaners.  After I clicked past all of the "dawn and vinegar" results I saw something new: a crazy statement that water stains on ceramic tiles can be removed by applying a paper towel soaked with vinegar and letting it sit for a few hours.  Easy enough but if it works why have I never heard about this technique in my 48 years on this earth?

I knew it wouldn't work but since it didn't cost me anything to try I took a shot at it.  I covered the offending areas of the shower floor with paper towels and poured vinegar over them.

I kind of remembered that the tip said to leave the paper towels on for an hour, so about an hour later I came back.  I could see the stains through the paper towels mocking me.  Yep, I fell for another useless tip on the internet - what else is new?

I walked away for another hour.  When I came back I was befuddled that I didn't see the scuff marks anymore.  Huh...

Sure enough the scuff marks were gone.  The marks around the drain were still present, but I could see patches where the stain was coming off.  I scrubbed at it for a bit, applied fresh paper towels and vinegar, and walked away again for a few more hours.

End result:

In full transparency, there is still a very faint water mark at the edge of the stain that was around the drain.  But it's so faint as to be almost non-existent.

Over the course of the next few days I had more fun with vinegar.  Here is our bathroom sink before:

Here is a picture of a paper towel soaked in vinegar left to sit on the drain for a few hours:

And here is the "after".  There are some tiny patches of the stain remaining, but you can't see them when the drain stopper is in place so I've left them for now.  I'll get 'em next time.

Now let's check out the shower door before:

Here's the after on that.  The results are only partially due to vinegar.  I used a few vinegar soaked paper towels on the worst of the build up, but lining the entire glass surface was too labor intensive.  While I was doing my research I came across this product and decided to sink $10 into it.  After that I gave everything a good shine with Cinch.  Here is the end result:

IRL there is still the ghost of a water stain, but the worst of it is gone.

Any rate, that's what I've been doing for fun and excitement lately.  I've repeated the procedure on our other sinks and if the stains come back I'll know how to deal with them.

Any vinegar success stories to share?  What are your favorite cleaning products?  I'm still in search of  a product for our shower walls.




  1. Quelle difference! I also use vinegar a lot. Did you know you can use it on weeds instead of round up, it works great as a glass cleaner instead of Windex (aka your shower, but I also use it on regular windows) and also you can even use apple cider vinegar if you are out of distilled (for some things).

    I have tried using baking soda, as it is supposed to be good for cleaning grease of pans, stoves, ovens etc. but to me it has done diddly squat. Do you have any solutions for cleaning those things?

    1. Ooh I have used it for weeds! Also boiling water which was very satisfying. I always get streaks when I've tried to use it for mirrors.

      On the baking soda front I've tried and failed to clean my oven with it., and I've never been motivated to try to clean pans with it. It works really well to get tea stains out of cups though.

  2. I have tried the vinegar and dawn and it has worked for me moderately well, but agreed that the fumes are AWFUL!!!

    I bought my husband a set of drill brushes (as in, they have a bit on one end so fit into his electric screwdriver) for Christmas for cleaning vehicle stuff and I plan to try those on the bathtub next. Why scrub if an electric screwdriver attachment can do all the work for me?! I'll report back on how it goes...

  3. Okay, the shower in our master bathroom is disgusting. I will try your trick and report back!!! (I do use vinegar and baking soda for most of my cleaning... which could explain why the shower is now looking disgusting.)

    1. Have fun! I really don't see how vinegar and baking soda are supposed to do anything in the normal wipe on/wipe off cleaning time. Though I could say the same thing about a lot of other products that I've tried.

  4. Oh YAY! These before and after photos are extremely satisfying. And I love it when a hot tip from the internet actually works.

    I have done the vinegar and papertowel thing with stained cookie sheets to some moderate results. I need to try it for more things! And this is a great reminder that I need to vinegar our faucets.

    1. Oooh I would not have thought to try it on cookie sheets. Now I've got my next project!

  5. Testing... from Suzanne's comments section. I saw I might be able to comment now? Yay!!! Testing for now...

    1. Here's the scoop...back in the days when the only comments that I got were spam I turned on the setting that only accepts comments from Google accounts. It made sense at the time but it doesn't now that Real People who leave Real Comments ready my blog. I turned that setting off after I read your comment over at Suzanne's. That was a few days ago and so far I've been able to keep up with deleting the one (1) spam comment that I've gotten since then.

    2. Oh, thank you for being willing to turn the setting off and see how it goes! I hope that it doesn't cause you headaches/more work!

      I used to clean a lot with vinegar and baking soda...or lemon with baking soda...and a squirt of Dr. Bonner soap. It worked well on some and not on others. Lately, I've been bad and have resorted to diluted bleach because it works so well in areas I need to clean. :-(

      We used to have someone clean the house....but Covid hit and we said goodbye; we are still cleaning on our own...and it's challenging, even though my husband promised me he'd do the big jobs (and he does/would -- I just have to remind him - LOL). My biggest challenge in bathrooms are hard water stains/buildup. I retired in August last year -- so I should have all the time for scrubbing, right??? LOL Anyway, I'm going to try that product you linked to. I have never heard of baking wash!! Have you tried it for cleaning tiles/sinks?

  6. I wish I had seen this post this morning when no one was home, I would have laid down some vinegar and paper towels before running my errands. I suspect it will need to wait until Monday when they're gone again. I feel the need to clean in private, I don't want anyone fussing with my vinegar paper towels!

    1. Ditto! For a variety of reasons, I did this when the boys were out of the house, and only had one area out of the house out of commission at one time for my husband's convenience. If I'd had the house to myself I would have done one test project and then done everything else at the same time so that I could have just been done with it. Oh well.

  7. I need to try that paper towel trick in my bathroom sink! Heck, my kitchen sink could use a little TLC as well...

  8. Ooooh, how cool! I love the befor and after pictures! I'm going to try the paper towel trick!

  9. We have super hard water and I'm incredibly embarrassed by our entire bathroom situation. I'll have to try this trick. I'll report back!

    1. Exactly - it's just a build up of water minerals and soap scum. There's no way to just scrub that off - that I know of any way.

    2. Wisconsin water sucks. I know it's literally the way the ground (and rock) are, but it's so frustrating.

  10. I am a HUGE fan of cleaning with vinegar and loved reading this! Now I want to go soak our shower heads LOL!

  11. I've used vinegar solutions for all kinds of things, but yes, the shower head cleaning is the obvious one. So easy!

    1. I only found out about the shower head trick a few years ago. Before that I was seeing "clean with vinegar and baking soda" but I wasn't seeing *how* to do it so I wasn't getting good results.

  12. I am currently using this stuff:
    But according to their site (i.e. not Amazon), they only have laundry detergent anymore? Very odd. Anyway! I use diluted vinegar to clean my bathroom floors. I actually like the smell?
    And, I put a bit of vinegar in the wash water for my towel/sheet load every week. It makes them slightly softer and they smell amazing (but not vinegary! I swear!). Thanks for sharing your tips - I haven't tried soaking cloths on and putting them in my sink but I might try that now. :)

    1. It's been a long time since I've done this, but I used to wash gym clothes and towels in a combo of baking soda and vinegar when they needed a little extra "help" in the de-smelling department. I forget the exact sequence but it worked really well.