To bleach or to vinegar, that is the question…

by Jeremy Strickland

sciencecat

There are white hairs infiltrating my beard, so like many of my middle-aged peers, I’m thinking more and more about getting and staying healthy. Being a practical(ish) guy, I know I should just eat fewer tacos and spend more time on my bike, but how can I resist the promise of an expedient solution to my excess pounds? Hence my regular journeys down the internet rabbit hole, questing for a magic bullet, some bit of wisdom that will change the game and help me shed my pounds with little to no effort on my part.

Online buzz abounds about the benefits of a daily shot of Apple Cider Vinegar for weight loss, digestion, balancing PH, and more. Do a Google search on the topic, and you’ll find proponents and skeptics alike. There seems to be a few proven benefits, but based on what I’ve read, the benefits of apple cider vinegar are small, grounded more in a historical belief in the benefits rather than scientific study and peer review. It’s a fascinating topic, nonetheless, and there’s no disagreement that vinegar’s benefits go well beyond Bold Italian salad dressing.

For instance, did you know that vinegar kills about 80% of the viruses and 90% of the bacteria as household bleach? You may use it to disinfect your microwave or coffee maker as well as to kill some surface mold (neither bleach or vinegar will kill mold inside of porous materials like wood). You can also mix hydrogen peroxide with your vinegar mixture to clean and disinfect your cutting boards or use this process for cleaning dog poop out of your carpet. Tis true, my friend, and because vinegar is less abrasive than bleach, biodegradable, and non-toxic, vinegar’s a fine general disinfectant.

However, you have to keep in mind that vinegar isn’t the best for cleaning dirt (neither is bleach, for that matter), it’s most effective as a rinse, diluted 50/50 with hot water. It’s not going to kill some dangerous bacteria like staphylococcus, so if someone in your house is sick, has a weakened immune system, or if you have a good deal of dirt to clean away, you’ll want to add some soap to your hot water and vinegar solution. Some folks may encourage you to use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning your oven, but don’t bother with that. The bubbling, foaming chemical reaction which makes your Junior High School Science Project Volcano so cool is caused by the vinegar (an acid) cancelling the baking soda (a base). Combining vinegar and baking soda in your oven just makes more of a mess for you to clean up.

DO NOT mix vinegar or any other chemicals with bleach. The fumes from household bleach can be harsh enough, but mixed with the wrong chemical, will literally create a chemical weapon.

1200px-sodium-hypochlorite

Bleach is the disinfecting equivalent of a nuclear warhead, your final option. You may be asking,  “Why bother with bleach at all if vinegar has such amazing natural disinfecting abilities without being one part chlorine gas?” Well, to be fair, while vinegar and peroxide do have germ killing powers, there is some question as to whether or not they perform any better than soap and hot water. Bleach, though it may ruin your shirt and burn your nasal cavity, kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, including the aforementioned staphylococcus. That’s as thorough as it gets, and bleach is biodegradable too. Otherwise known as sodium hypochlorite, bleach is made from sodium chloride (aka table salt), so it begins it’s life as salt water and essentially goes back to being salt water when it breaks down. Mix it one cup to a gallon of warm water if you decide to use it (avoid hot water, this may release chlorine gas). Wear a mask and gloves to protect yourself.

No mask needed for vinegar, though. The jury’s still out on whether or not apple cider vinegar should be taken medicinally, but vinegar should definitely be kept with your cleaning supplies. With 80% – 90% effectiveness and no soapy residues left behind, the bottom line is that vinegar is great for daily household use in your kitchen, bathroom, and dining room, but keep bleach on hand for the tough jobs, eat fewer tacos, and spend more time on your bike. There’s no magic bullet, after all.

Further reading:

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One thought on “To bleach or to vinegar, that is the question…

  1. Pingback: Viktor’s Law (OR: How to know if you can clean a spot or if you should call in a pro) | Randy's Carpet Care

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