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The most common bottle of crisp, white that you’ll find in any Parisian apartment isn’t a musky Muscadet from the Loire, or a Petit Chablis from Burgundy. This one comes in a plastic bottle, has a screw top with a little opening just underneath so you can squeeze out a stream as needed, and costs less than a buck. It’s le vinaigre blanc, and it’s obligatoire to keep a squeezable plastic liter bottle handy in your kitchen.

(Not to say the other kinds of whites aren’t obligatory as well. Each just help hurdle different kinds of obstacles.)

Before I moved to France, I rarely paid white vinegar a second thought. My pantry was stocked with red wine and sherry vinegar, and a little bottle of fancy balsamic. But their importance is secondary to white vinegar, which does everything from keeping your wine glasses spotless to making sure your dishwasher doesn’t seize up on you mid-load, completely clogged by the infamous calcaire, never to wash another dish again.

I arrived completely unaware of it, and in my first apartment, apparently neither did the person before me because right after I moved in, one day, my dishwasher simply ground to a permanent halt. However I was fortunate regarding the laundry machine because a friend confided in me over lunch in a café shortly after I arrived, as if it was some big unspoken secret in Paris that you can’t just wash clothes or dishes without adding a little something “extra” to the load. (And now you can stop wondering what all those French people are talking about in Parisian cafés, if you don’t speak French.)

She advised Calgon, but a well-meaning friend from California came to visit and reprimanded me for having a box, saying it was an environmental catastrophe. Apparently the word hasn’t made it six thousand miles away because I see it in almost every household I visit, tucked under the kitchen or bathroom sink. But it was then that I made the switch to 100% white vinegar.

Now I add a squirt whenever I do a load of dishes or clothes, until my other half presented me with a dire picture of what would happen if I didn’t run a full cycle in each machine with a whole bottle of white vinegar and no dishes or clothes in it. I can’t quite bring myself to do it, thinking of the waste of running an empty machine, but I suppose that’s better than the alternative of scrapping the machine in its entirety for a new one.

The other day, I found out that someone had lost it outside of my front door. But I didn’t feel singled out though, because whoever it was practiced égalité and also graced my neighbor’s entrance as well. It’s not exactly the first thing you want to see in the morning (or in the evening…or the afternoon, either) but that’s life in the big city. And I’m thinking that in addition to installing dispensers with bags to pick up doggie droppings, I guess a few sickness bags might be a good idea as well. (And ashtrays, accompanied with an enforced fine for not using them.)

It was then that I learned that white vinegar isn’t just for keeping your appliances from the scrap heap but it’ll remove some of the toughest – and most unpleasant – stains and odors known to humankind. (Although I use the word “kind” somewhat loosely.) Honestly, who knew what an important role – aside from salad dressing – that vinegar would play in my life. It’s a great cleaner and I’ve since used it fill my larder with pickles, and for making homemade lait ribot (buttermilk), adding a touch to regular milk and letting it sit.

So I stock up weekly and pick up a new bottle as often as I can, because I’m going through it faster than the stuff I’m uncorking. And not just because some folks are feeling a little quesy late at night, but because it makes me feel like a local to have a couple of bottles under my sink, and I’m finding myself squeezing for a reason morning, noon, and night. But let’s just hope in the future, most of it is confined to afternoons and evenings.



    • texmex

    White vinegar is cheap (40 cents euro per liter I think) and if you combine it with baking soda, no more harsh cleaner in your house. But baking soda tends to be expensive in France (compared to USA Arm and Hammer). Recently you can find bigger quantities and Ive stopped bringing it back from the USA!

    • Tess

    I live in the UK and it is impossible to find white vinegar here! I always used to have a big bottle of it under the sink when I lived in the US and Canada, but it seems that your friendly neighbors across The Channel do not know what they’re missing.

      • Barbara

      Tess, visit a polish shop it is there. It is called “ocet”

    • DeeDee

    For years now I have replaced fabric softener with cheapo white vinegar. The only reason clothes get “hard” is too much detergent, vinegar helps to dissolve soap residue leaving clothes naturally soft.

    Fabric softener is some petrochemical slime that coats textiles making them feel “soft”. But if you notice it also decreases the absorbency of textiles like towels you really have to rub like mad to get dry and never bone dry.

    Fill the fabric softener tray of your washing machine with vinegar 1/2 cup and your clothes and machine will last for ever.

    • Lauren

    Hi David. The ventilation vent in my bathroom was closed over by those brilliant people that clean the buildings every seven years so I’m constantly battling with mould, especially in the winter. Vinegar kills it, unlike the bleach in most cleaning products which just strips out the colour so you can no longer see it but it’s still there. I’m constantly splashing vinegar all over the house, and the smell dissipates after a few hours. Hope you’re not battling the same thing but helpful all the same! L

    • Sigrid

    It’s wonderful for removing calcaire from sinks (I let it soak a bit), and I use it for scaling the kettle.

    But I don’t have very high hopes for getting glasses clean (re the link to your other post). Someone explained to me that the etching comes from the sand that’s in all dishwasher tablets. It’s needed to clean the content of the machine but it unfortunately etches glasses permanently. The only ones that have survived for many years now are from Schott Zwiesel, who have a line where the glass is made with Tritan (no idea how they do that). These glasses not only break less easily but they have stayed brillant ever since.

    • Sachie

    I love this stuff for cleaning after my dad got some for me when I was at uni – it’s cheap and works wonders! Tess – I’m in the UK as well and I can find it in my local Tescos and Sainsburys. The only brand they always have is Sarsons with the dark red label, if that helps!

    • Danielle

    I moved to Paris 4 months ago, and there was not one, but two bottles of white vinegar awaiting me! (I didn’t know about the laundry, thanks for the secret!)

    • Debra

    I use white vinegar to clean my coffeemaker once a month. Fill the carafe half vinegar, half water and run it through the coffeemaker with a couple of paper filters. Then run it twice more with just water and clean filters. I had not thought about using it in the clothes washer, but I will try that.

    • Anna

    Where do you put the vinegar in your dishwasher? In the place for soap, or in the place for rinse agent?

    • Axelle the french cook

    I’ve got 6 bottles of white vinegar in my bathroom. At noon, we cooked grilled chicken and the floor was oily. Just pour some white vinegar on it and wash your floor !
    White vinegar is our best economic and ecologic friend ;)

    • Axelle the french cook

    PS : And if course, I use it in the clothes washer, in the place of softener. It helps too to keep the white clothes white … :)
    For Anna, yes, you can use it in the place for rinse agent. I did it for years. But, little problem, your dishes are never totally dry.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Anna: Just squeeze it into the whole chamber. I do it every time I run a load. I used to use salt, but learned that it was contributing to scratching my glasses.

    Sigrid: Yes, I used to add tablets that had the “powerball” of salt, but stopped for the above reason. I want to try liquid dishwashing detergent but I haven’t found it in France. So I just wash all the wine glasses by hand, until I do.

    Tess: Interesting you can’t find white vinegar where you are (Sachie has some grocers that sell it in the UK, in their comment) – it’s nearly impossible to find white wine vinegar here, which you’d think would be easy because there are so many vinegars in the supermarkets and so forth. But the white wine vinegar is always “flavored” with shallots or walnuts, and since they’re pretty cheap, I’m a bit suspicious about how they are flavored. (E. Fallot makes plain white wine vinegar, for those in France.)

    • phanmo

    If you mix baking soda and vinegar you get essentially water and carbon dioxide (and a little sodium acetate). Not the most effective of cleaning agents.

    @Tess and Sachie
    In the UK I always found it in the same section as paint thinner (white spirit), sort of how baking soda in France is often found with the toothpaste.

    • mabel

    This is a lifesaver! My parents are coming by tomorrow and a massive house clean is in order. I’ll definitely be using white vinegar. Also maybe now I’ll be allowed to fry in the kitchen if its degreasing abilities are as touted.

    The joys of procratinatory blog browsing. Thanks Dave and everyone who commented! This is wonderful stuff! Soft clothes, scale free applicances and non-grease!

    • Lynn

    Thanks for the tip. Who knew?

    • ClaireD

    Ah, white vinegar is the world’s best cleaner! I run it thru hubby’s coffee pot once a month to get rid of calcium. We have very hard water here in Austin. Also, white vinegar wiped with a piece of newspaper is the very best window cleaner! I never thought to use it to soften clothes. What a great idea! And it’s about 50 cents a quart here in the US.

    • Pat Machin

    We have soft water up here but I do use it in the softener dispenser of my clothes washer to get the last bit of detergent out of the clothes. I do also run a very hot wash with just vinegar in the dishwasher as well as the clothes washer.

    By the way, Malt Vinegar works fine and doesn’t stain the clothes – cheaper, too.

    • Boomer

    My Greek mother-in-law taught me a better way to de-calcify a kettle. Pop your used lemons into the kettle, fill with water, boil and leave to soak overnight. In the morning throw out the water, and give a rinse. Works like a charm, and the room, kettle and tea smell much nicer than from boiling vinegar.

    • yosnowden

    @phanmo No, I wouldn’t recommend mixing them together and trying to clean with the result. :-) But they are both pretty powerful used separately. My favorite use so far has been a little baking soda, a little water, and a little time at the bottom of my disgusting renter’s oven and voilà: A beautifully clean oven interior, with no scrubbing.

    • Yael

    I use vinegar and baking soda for clogged drains,works every time! I also make my own cleaning stuff,with vinegar and orange peels.

    • Jenny

    I live in south Texas (San Antonio) and we have a huge calcium problem here too. Using vinegar to soften clothes — what a great idea. An appliance store here told me to use in my dishwasher to help with cloudy glasses and it works great. Pkg says it is made with real fruit acids and natural fruit oils and contains no phosphates and oils. It claims to be environmentally “friendly.” I use only a tablespoon per load. Also they said don’t use the expensive dishwasher detergent brand because they contain too many fillers. They recommended the cheapest generic dish washing powder. In south Texas it is called Hill Country and to measure the powder. I use only 4 tablespoons in my dishwasher and one of those is LemiShine. No more cloudy or etched glasses and it cleaned the glasses I thought were permanently etched!

    • Jenny

    Oops meant to say LemiShine contains no phosphates or fillers…

    • Harriet Bell

    Can’t get that fishy smell out of your kitchen? Boil a cup of white vinegar and let it sit. I add some to my dishwasher for every load. I buy the huge bottles at Costco. Gosh, I feel like Heloise.

    • FrenchGirlinSeattle

    David, you crack me up. Did you absolutely HAVE to spill the beans? (probably a better alternative that what the other dude spilled right outside the door on your “paillasson,” I agree) –You did NOT have to tell all the English speakers out there that WHITE VINEGAR is the Frenchman’s absolute favorite conversation topic when he meets friends au café!!! It is best to keep them guessing… “Are they discussing this week’s strike in the Paris Métro? A new exhibit at the Grand Palais? Inès de la Fressange new “must have” clothing line at la Redoute? The government-imposed rationing on white vinegar (as a result of that “American dude” mentioning it on his blog?!” :-) — Sad weekend here in America in spite of the upcoming holidays. Thank you for making me smile… Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    • Kawa

    I use apple cider vinegar for many of the same purposes and it seems to work just as well. Is there something about white that makes it special, though? (Other than cost, I mean. I’d rather spend a little more on something I can *also* use for food than spend on two products, you know?)

    Also a tip: have a spray bottle with vinegar (or a water/vinegar mixture) and use that to clean LCD screens (televisions, computer monitors) and glass! Works like a charm and way cheaper/more efficient than the specialty stuff.

    • silvia

    Now I can stop my French lessons since I know what everyone is talking about…

    I mix half vinegar, half water in a cute spray bottle from the 100 yen store and keep it handy for cleaning the kitchen. That way if a bit gets sprayed on the apples on the counter it’s all still good.

    • patricku

    Really bad.

    Plastic Bottle!
    And not even ” BIO “—


      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, they’re just getting on the stick here about using biodegradable plastic bottles – slowly. I don’t buy water in bottles (except for my espresso machine) and bring my own bags to the supermarket and even the outdoor market (a number of vendors refuse to let me reuse them!), but there’s no avoiding the plastic bottles for the white vinegar we need to use to combat the calcium/calcaire unfortunately.

    • Nancy

    Sit out a shallow glass or ceramic dish with white vinegar to absorb cigarette smoke and other odors at parties. When dilute slightly with water, it will clean and remove pet (and human) stains from carpets. It’s an old standby for washing windows. Sometimes the cider vinegars will stain light fabrics so that’s why white vinegar is recommended. Its also great for sweat stains under arms on shirts and tons of other things. I’ve used it successfully to remove red white stains — a little salt, too. It cleans stained copper … Even better with salt. Good luck as it has tons of uses.

    • Melanie

    We use white vinegar for everything chez nous, from dishwasher rinse-aid, to cleaning and laundry. Here in Canada, we can find the “Institutional Size” box. J’adore !

    • Sarahb1313

    After Sandy dropped a tree in my son’s bedroom, and all his clothes were drenched, and no power to wash them, the mildew/moldy smell was aweful.

    A little white vinegar in the laundry did the trick!

    For cooking, though, I am in love with Trader Joe’s Balsamic White vinegar!!! Even better than my sherry vinegar!

    Happy cleaning!!

    • Merrily Beck

    so that same little bottle of vinegar and water is the BEST window cleaner too! not to be disgusting, but if you have a cat or dog that pees on washable rugs…. give the spot a good rinse in water and then soak in vinegar and water before washing… voila! no smell left!

    • Adrienne

    Add some white vinegar to water for cleaning wood floors!

    • Tags

    Tis the season for squeezin’.

    • Susan

    When I was little, my Mom used to rinse my hair with a white vinegar and water mixture. She said it got all the shampoo out and made my hair shine. I hated ithe way it smelled while she did it!
    When my kids were teens, they’d leave their nightly glass of water on their window sill until all the remaining water evaporated. White vinegar was the only way I could get the mineral residue that was cemented on the glass, off. It’s a miracle product!

    • Nathalie

    Anyone know of, or have any thoughts about, the effects of using vinegar in the wash of colour clothes (rather than white)? Also, does the smell really not linger??


      • Maria

      I use it for darks, to keep the colours and from fading.

    • misslindy

    I buy it by the gallon at Costco or HEB – local grocery chain in Texas – and could not do without it. Put some in the tank of your toilet to discourage calcium build up.

    • angela

    Where I live in Provence, the calcaire is the bane of our lives! I put 1/2 a cup of white vinegar with a few drops of lavender oil in the conditioner tray. The vinegar keeps the calcaire at bay at the lavender makes the laundry smell divine as well as keeping the moths at bay!

    • Cathy

    Here in London, I have found large containers of white vinegar at my local fishmongers.

    • sundevilpeg

    When I was in college, I learned a tried and true waitress trick for cleaning glass coffee carafes: add a couple of tablespoons of salt, about a dozen ice cubes, and a good glug of vinegar – we used cider, as that is what was doled out in the V&O carafes (!). Let sit for a few minutes, swish around vigorously, and rinse, leaving sparkling-clean carafes.

    As a heavy tea drinker, I now use the same method at home in precisely the same way for china and ceramic teapots, to remove brown tea stains; a small bottle brush dipped in the solution and inserted into the spout gets that impossible-to-clean tight space clean as a whistle, too. Good for stained mugs and cups, too!

    • Jackie Gibbins

    White vinegar is easily found in UK supermarkets. Its called Distilled Vinegar and in my local stores is next to the usual brown malt vinegar. Usually Sarsons brand.

    Hope this helps.

    • Cath

    Thanks David! Great idea re using it as a softener in your washing machine.

    I drink cider vinegar with warm water and honey (it has to be good quality though). My other half finds it weird (which it probably is) but its really refreshing, a very good blood cleanser and is meant to speed up the metabolism (not so effective if you love your food like i do though!)

    • Darla Lorber

    I put it in my pie crust and it makes the most tender pie crust. I get rave reviews on my pie crust and even one The Karo Perfect Pie Contest at our State Fair. White vinegar is sold by the gallon or so at Costco and Sams her and I always have a huge bottle, for pie making and cleaning my kitchen floor.

    • Katharine Holden

    When I was in my first apartment out of college, a thrifty living flier came in the mail that mentioned, among other things, that a dinner plate full of white vinegar will remove odors from the air. It does. It needs to be a dinner plate as opposed to a custard bowl because the larger surface area is important.

    By trial and error, I’ve learned to put the dinner plate on the back burner of the stovetop so it’s less likely to be knocked into, and, to put it there before I pour the vinegar so I don’t have to try and move a dinner plate of vinegar from the counter to the stovetop without spilling it every which way (I lasted 2/3 of a shift as a waitress, and then the manager said “Honey, I don’t think this is for you.”)

    • ddemos

    I use it in little ramekins around the house, good for doggy smell…also I am a huge fan of poached eggs, a TB of white vinegar keeps the eggs from spreading out and they come out beautifully.

    • Ginger G

    … remember using vinegar as a child to rinse my hair!

    • Folly

    I keep a gallon of generic white vinegar under sinks both upstairs and downstairs. Monthly a cup of WV gets poured down drains along with a mixture of baking soda and salt to keep the drains clear. A water/vinegar spray bottle lives near the induction cooktop to keep it sparkling. And now, thanks to folks here, I’ll be using it in the laundry and dishwasher! I really appreciate the simplicity and multiple uses of vinegar.

    • Cheryl

    Need to clean the impossible-to-reach bottom of your glass vase? Pour in a few inches of vinegar, add a tablespoon of dry rice, and let it sit for at least half an hour. Next, vigorously swirl the grains and the vinegar for a minute, and rinse with hot water. Your vase will sparkle!

    • Modaca

    I’ve read you shouldn’t use vinegar on marble. I never have. Is it true?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Acidic things, including lemon juice, can stain marble. I don’t mind stains on marble – personally, but I know people that do.

    • Patricia

    Fantastic! I’ve recently gotten into soaking my blender with baking soda overnight to remove buildup and make it shine again. I was interested in other natural cleaners and you have pointed me in just the right direction! A quick Google search has lead me to to answer a number of questions that popped into my head after reading this. Thanks!

    • Modaca

    Sprtiz plain tap water on windows and marble to clean them.

    • Pip

    I put white vinager in a jelly glass in the bottom rack of the dishwasher–everytime I run it.

    I also use it in every load laundry–both colors and whites. No lingering smell.

    • Laurie

    A local fabric artist taught me to include white vinegar in the washer the first time you wash colored items. She said it “sets” the color and she uses it on each of her painted items of clothing.
    I also use it to clean grout. Amazing!! Really works. David, who knew that this blog on WV would be so popular!?

    • suedoise

    Fascinating suggestions as for white vinegar-
    Have never used it in Paris whether washing machines or dishwashers because water is not hard.
    Never had problems.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      That’s interesting that you don’t have hard water where you live in Paris, since it’s a well-known fact about the water in Paris; that it’s hard and mineral-rich (calcium and magnesium), and leaves tartre. So much so that the city of Paris website on water offers tips on removing the tartar.

      If you live in Paris and haven’t had your hot water heater cleaned in a few years, I recommend it to avoid replacing it because in my last apartment, mine was clogged with calcium when I arrived and a plumber came and ran some highly caustic chemical through the system to clear it out because it was barely able to function.

    • Norine

    Yes, white/distilledl vinegar rules for grease, odors and decalcification :-). Borax (may be only available in the US), is the best laundry soak imaginable; additionally it can be sifted into carpets and upholstery to get rid of flea eggs and larvae – breaking that cycle. I use only liquid detergents in both my dish washer and my clothes washer. The hard water area I am in simply cannot dissolve the gritty powdered soaps/detergents.

    Rather than using “stain” removers I soak almost all my clothes overnight in a full, top- loading wsher. The Borax and the less expensive liquid detergents really can do their work when the fibres are softened and your clothes’ colors will get brighter with each wash. For that reason alone I’d never have a front loader.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve read a lot of articles about making your own laundry detergent, but they seem to require Borax, which I’ve never seen in France (although I haven’t looked too hard for it, but it might be something in a store that specialzes in cleaning supplies?) Last time I was in the state, I bought some of that Oxiclean stuff to get out stains but haven’t had a lot of luck with it … like those folks do in the tv commercials!

    • Leslie

    When my bath towels develop that sour mildew smell, I pour some vinegar in with the detergent when I launder them. The smell disappears, the vinegar smell goes away, and the color doesn’t suffer.

    • kathy

    Boy, is this a fabulous post!!! I do remember my mother rinsing our hair in vinegar for shine. And we used to clean the windows with water with vinegar and ammonia. And to clean the coffee pot. I sure am going to add some to the dishwasher and the clothes washer. Can’t wait! Thanks.

    • Alex

    Ahh! Yes, in my family, it is also a tradition to boil white vinegar in the house when someone is sick. My mother says that’s what the Chinese do to clear the nose … but all the kids think it’s too smelly :)

    • jw

    Within the past year I bought four one gallon bottles of Heinz “cleaning strength” white vinegar at Walmart for $1.50 each. They were on the mark-down shelf. I was hoping that this would be a product I would see regularly stocked somewhere, but alas, I don’t know what has happened to it. At any rate, the cleaning strength is 6% acidity and regular Heinz white is 5% acidity. Big whoop. It has been diluted to be such. Now I want to find industrial strength.

    I like to run my coffee maker with white vinegar also, and then pour it hot down the kitchen drain with baking soda. Volcanic! I still have a problem kitchen sink drain however, and have to work at it all the time. I’ve tried every home remedy and gizmo. I think I will get that $150 digital spy camera on a cable at Costco, similar to that which plumbers use.

    • Joan

    White vinegar has long been my favorite cleaning product – especially for cleaning the glass shower doors … leaves them sparklingly clean, but I never thought about using it in the laundry.

    I wonder if it will eliminate the horrible fruity/floral scents that all those French laundry detergents infuse into my clothes, sheets and towels? Definitely trying this on the next load of wash!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      When I moved here, I could not sleep in my apartment because the smell of those laundry soaps was so overpowering. Fortunately a few places now have “natural” detergents (although you have to lift the lid and smell them, because some are also very over-fragranced.) I actually brough unscented detergent back from the US a few times. Natural food stores in France do carry detergents with very subtle scents, and now, some of the supermarkets seem to do as well.

    • Sara C

    Someone was just telling me about using vinegar in the dishwasher. I’m on my way to the grocery to buy a bottle. Thanks for the tip!

    • Helen Cohen

    Just a quick tip from my June Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

    So-called Fruit Flies are really Vinegar Flies attracted to the smell of rotting fruit or vegetables.

    Place a small bowl of Vinegar on your counter and add a few drops of dish soap
    and stir to combine.

    The Vinegar smell lures the flies into the liquid and the soap breaks the surface tension
    preventing them from escaping. A terrific solution to a real pest.

    • Linda

    1. Put one quart of WV in washing machine and run on hot cycle – do once a month. You will not believe the suds you see through the window! Do same for dishwasher once a month.
    2. Clean drains with 1/2 cup each of baking soda and WV – do once a month. (Put baking soda down drain and follow with WV.)
    3. Put 1/4 cup WV in ramekin and leave overnight in a room to get rid of ANY smell, no matter how bad.
    4. Fill spray bottle with half water, half WV to use to clean anything – except granite and marble.
    5. Use 1/4 cup of WV in every laundry load.
    6. I live in San Diego and buy my WV at Costco in a two-gallon plastic container. We have recycling here, and the WV containers are happily recycled.

    • VDD

    Love cleaning with white vinegar, but hate the smell. My little dachshunds really get fussy when we clean our teak kitchen floor with it and the smell lingers for hours. Then I discovered scented vinegar which I buy online by the case from The Laundress. It may be more expensive, but the smell is divine.

    • KC

    Borax is the best ant killer ever! Works on the little sugar ants, fire ants, carpenter ants. Just sprinkle some on their trails or on the nest. Bye bye ant problem. No need to call the exterminator to bring in the nasty toxic chemicals.

    Borax is a natural mold inhibiting powder. It is used in the blown-in place recycled paper insulating materials. If you are making paper mache for an art project add a few pinches of borax so you can store it for a week or so in the refrigerator without the mold growing in it.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      In San Francisco, which is rife with ants, I used to use WD-40. It made things slippery so they couldn’t walk over it!

    • Rebecca Russell

    David, as much as I hate to mention it in case I tempt fate … they also recommend it in pharmacies here in France for the dreaded ‘lente’ – nits! Many uses indeed!

    • Dana

    White vinegar is also a staple in Latin cooking as a marinade for chicken (yum!). So the next time you make Arroz con pollo….

    • Kate

    Years ago, a sales lady in a women’s retail store gave me the tip to use white vinegar (1/2 – 1 cup) in a small load of clothes. It kept the color from fading in pretty cotton shirts (purple, pink) that I used to wear. I just used the vinegar and cold water in the washing machine – worked like a charm and there was no residual smell.

    • Jan (The Montrose, Houston, Tx)

    I’m pulling out all the old, half-used bottles of vinegar and I’m going to try some of the above suggestions! I’ve never been this excited about cleaning house!

    • Cyndy

    The water we had in Paris in the 11th was absolutely the hardest water I’ve ever experienced in my life, anywhere. There was so much mineral content in it, when an ice cube melted it left grit behind. I used Calgon in every wash load (didn’t know it is an environmental no-no) but it was very little help. And what it did to the shower door and porcelain in the bathroom was impossible to remove safely.

    Wish I’d known about vinegar for the wash. I doubt it would have helped in the bathroom, though. I’ve tried that before. We’ve resorted to a whole-house water softener here in the States.

    • Annabel

    Indeed, absolutely no problem finding it here! I use it for cleaning mirrors and taps and the glass shelf in my bathroom; it is necessary when I’m making soap to use as first-aid for accidental splashes and to help neutralise the pH of the washing-up water.

    I have also used it to make David’s ricotta cheese recipe!

    • Charles Johnson

    I use this technique here in Los Angeles, California where we have ‘le calcaire’. It works wonders.

    • Karen

    Just put a cup of white vinegar in the last rinse of your dishwasher. No need for full cycles.

    • joanne

    I rinse my hair with 1:8 vinegar to water after I shampoo to get the buildup out of my hair. Works great, just don’t get the solution in your eyes.

    • laline

    Thanks for the organic cleaning tips with white vinegar, David and to those that have commented!

    Is distilled vinegar the same as white vinegar over there? Also, how many tablespoons of vinegar do you add to milk to make buttermilk?

    • Lisa

    Thank you! I’m so happy to have this solution to scented fabric softeners, which I have found necessary to combat the hard water in Paris. I will never forget the dinner party when I served my guests lavender-scented tortillas, which I had been keeping warm in a “clean” dishtowel . . .
    For eliminating build-up in my hair, I found a great product at L’Herboristerie du Palais Royal: “Vinaigre de Toilette”. The herbs make the vinegar smell a bit easier to take in the shower.

    • parisbreakfast

    A Fr friend suggested using a spray bottle full of it to get those nasty white chalky stains off the kitchen sink etc.. Always use it as a last rince in my hair for shine
    Wonderful stuff!
    Tanks Carolg

    • Vicki N.

    So happy to see the interest in this in your column. Have used vinegar in all almost all suggested manners for years. It is also an outstanding vegetable wash. But David, please advise about a fragrance-free, completely unscented laundry detergent in France. I am desperate for one beyond using a grater on a bar of Le Chat soap.

    • Marina

    David, try a product called stain solver instead of oxyclean. Just google it. Way better and has worked wonders for us. It is food safe and is activated when mixed with really hot water.

    • Mary

    Well I live in Italy and white vinegar is very difficult to find. I have to go to the Asian food stores by the port to purchase it. On the other hand, white wine vinegar can be found in abundance. I really want to try using this on my towels which have come to resemble sandpaper.

    • Maria Brum

    Hi David, love following what you have to say, about many things, about living in the most famous city in the world. However its my first time commenting.
    I have white vinegar on every, level of the house, that means, in every kitchen, bathroom. I have grown up with it. Now I have it in the lundry room, along with the lundry soap and fabric softener. Why? To put in with the dark colours wash, especially black clothes, the vinegar keeps the colours, it keeps them from fading fast . I wear alot of black. I buy alot of white vinegar, in bulk, and in super size! lol :) Maria

    • lifecycle

    I’m just back from cleaning my kitchen floor with a whole bottle of Sarson’s (UK) vinegar. I had planned to clean the teapot overnight – but the tightly capped bottle slipped out of my hand while I tried to undo it. My ‘other half’ almost fell down the stairs upon hearing the crash of glass.
    I think I may have solved the question of plastic over glass. Vinegar must be tightly capped to prevent evaporation, I guess the French have had enough of cleaning with vinegar and shards of glass.
    Still love your blog David and can’t wait to clean my teapot one day, probably not soon though.

    P.S. please don’t confuse white spirit with vinegar…not the same. A substitution could be dangerous since white spirit is highly flammable.

    • katy

    How funny. My grandmother, now 96 years old, gave me as a present a book about the benefits of vinegar, specifically apple vinegar. It says it is really good to drink it with a little bit of honey and water to cleanse the body. Thanks again and I will try it with my laundry.

    • Marilee

    David, I had the same problem with Oxiclean as you did. I ran it through the washing machine with my load and it did nothing.

    I have difficult stains to remove — chocolate, tea, etc. Pre-treat doesn’t touch that stuff. But I finally figured it out.

    I use 1 scoop of Oxiclean per gallon of water, mix it up in a bucket, and soak the clothing for about 5 hours (sometimes 6 hours). I periodically stir the bucket when I walk by, but I don’t know if that’s necessary. Then I dump the bucket of solution and the clothing into the washing machine, turn it on, and walk away.

    It has removed old stains from several years ago and multiple washings. Obviously, you want to make sure your clothing is relatively color-fast. I usually don’t notice much — if any — color loss, but once in a while I notice a little. However, considering the alternative is a hopelessly stained garment that can’t be worn in public, I accept the risk.

    Hope this helps. ^_^

    • Deeli

    Am so very glad you shared your discovery of the beauty of white/distilled vinegar with everyone, David. Do have to say it gave me giggles though because vinegar has been used not only for cooking but also for cleaning and disenfecting since the Common Era; even both of my grandmother’s used it for even washing the floors and commode ;-)

    It’s rather sad that during the past four decades or so that the centuries old uses for it were lost to the majority of people and replaced with fancy dancy man made chemicals that cause a multitude of diseases and disorders :-( You should write a book about all of the benefits and uses of good old fashioned vinegar; there is a lot of even medically backed up information regarding it.

    • Jan (The Montrose, Houston, Tx)

    OMG OMG OMG!!! I tried the baking soda and vinegar cure for a slow-draining kitchen sink. IT WORKED!!!!!!!! It’s a miracle! I let it sit for a couple of hours and then ran hot tap water. It started gurgling and churning and voila, it all flushed away and not a drop of backup now!

    • Gavrielle

    In New Zealand we store the Christmas ham in a cotton bag which you soak and wring out every couple of days in water and white vinegar. Works a charm to maintain a ham’s dewy freshness.

    • jspecht

    I use it to clean and shine my very tired linoleum kitchen floors. It is the only cleaning product I use that is not sticky when it drys and leaves no residue.

    • JudyMac

    How interesting your subject choice for this post ….. and it is right on target. I discovered white vinegar recently as a cleaning option when I Googled looking for a way to clean rust from my white (cast iron) kitchen sink and also rid the sink of a light scum which accumulates on the coated wire rack which sits in the bottom of the sink to prevent scratches. I do not lift out and scrub the rack every day, but after a few days a pale orange coating appears on the rack where it comes in contact with the moisture standing in the bottom of the sink. I’ve concluded there is some type of chemical in our water which causes this because it also occurs in the bath tub if a bit of water remains standing around the drain. But ….. I have started pouring maybe one-fourth of a cup of vinegar around the bottom of the sink, particularly where the rack touches the sink surface and the sink is staying much cleaner for a longer period of time. I’m going to try to take time to read all of the other comments to see what other good tips I might pick up.

    • Shvetha

    What an eye-opener! My neighbour routinely sprays a diluted vinegar solution outside our front gates to keep the cats from peeing all over the landing. It works! I’m excited to give the other cleaning tips a whirl. Thanks for this post!

    • Linda

    I used to work in the operating room in the States where they had a sterilizing system using vinegar. It turns out that vinegar is a natural antibiotic-not that it will cure a cold or the flu, but it does kill many bacteria. Who knew?

    • maria-jose

    I use vinegar to clean windows and mirrors at home. I just squirt some vinegar over the mirror and rub it with a newspaper (jus a sheet). It’s wonderful, no marks, and crystal clear windows and mirrors.

    • Elayne

    Just to add to the many great uses already listed, here is my favorite.

    To keep berries of all kinds fresh longer with no mold formation, as soon as you get them home swirl in a bath of 1part WV to 10 parts water. Drain and refrigerate. Even strawberries, no soft moldy berries. I do this with fresh wild berries that I can’t get to right away to make jam. There is no flavor on the fresh fruit from the vinegar. And always some in the water for poached eggs.

    Soak your dryer’s filter in vinegar to remove build up you can’t see.

    • coffeygirl


    I LOVED this post! White vinager became my best friend whilst living in France. Everything from descaling the kettle “naturally” to removing the most attrocious odours. I used to spary it on the glass shower doors and voi-la, streak and calcium free! Way better than any product you could ever buy in the cleaning isles and also non-toxic.

    And would you believe, now living in London where the scale appears to be 10 times worse, one cannot find plain, white vinegar to save one’s life?? It’s all about malt vinegar here which actually makes things stickier and smellier. I stock up when in Paris and lug back on the Eurostar.

      • Cathy

      I live in London and you can find plain white vinegar at fishmongers in large sizes, also at Asian/Indian supermarkets. In the supermarkets there are usually small bottle of white Sarson’s; although my local Morrison’s does not have it. Try Sainsburys or Waitrose. What part of London are you in?

    • Ilke

    I guess it is time to learn some cleaning tricks as well… I use it to clean the coffee maker once in a while but did not think about the glasses/laundry. I love it when simple (and cheap) things have a million different uses :)

    • Sue from New Braunfels, Texas

    Oh, yes, I am a White Vinegar user but like I forgot!!
    so I am now running a coffee pot of WV
    and will go and do my washing machine and then my bathroom.
    Thanks David for all your wonderful recipes and Tips.
    and yes, I have a potted Myer Lemon Tree which produced 7 lemons
    this year. I have made 3 batches of Myer Lemon curd. Love it!
    Sue from New Braunfels, Texas

    • stanlynn

    Great post! I live in the intermountain west of the US and have a fair bit of mineral in my well water (which, happily, is wonderfully delicious). Years ago I worked for a company that sold hard cheeses and learned that a cloth dipped in a half teaspoon of white vinegar in a cup of water can be rubbed on a cheese that got lost in the back of the fridge with a bit of mold. No residue of vinegar or mold taste.

    • justincase

    Hi David, I finally have a potentially useful comment to offer you, in return for all the helpful, amusing, informative and charming comments, articles, books and more you offer all the time. (*Many* thanks!) Re Oxyclean: it needs hot water, the hottest possible, to be its most effective. I add it to a whites (ie a hot water) wash with the soap, or, for items that need lower temperatures, I spot-treat the stains (making a paste in pyrex cup or the like and applying it to, say, the woolens) before putting them in the machine as normal. I have successfully used it this way to spot-treat upholstery and rugs, too. For the machine, I find it quite sudsy, so I am slightly more conservative in my dosages than the packet instructions advise. (So it lasts longer!) I also use it to clean the bottoms of decanters etc, when wonderful WV/WV+soda doesn’t do it. Hope this helps!

    • BelleD

    I switched to white vinegar 2 years ago and I haven’t looked back. Now it’s 1/2 cup for fabric softening, and then about 2 tbs for dishwasher rinse. Nothing gets pet odors out like vinegar. People seem to worry about the smell of vinegar, but it doesn’t linger, even when put in the final rinse. Seriously, I would rather smell like vinegar than mildew and cat urine.

    Now I’ll use it and baking soda for my drains. I always have 2 gallon jugs in my house at all times. I run through it very quickly since I’ve been using it for cleaning more and more often.

    For those with hard water, a cup of baking soda in the wash will help soften the water and make your detergent clean better.

    • Sissy

    A friend in San Antonio gave me organic lemons from her lemon tree and I made your whole lemon bars this morning and they were wonderful! Thank you so much for such a great tasting and easy recipe. I loved the tip where you said to mold the foil to the pan and then line the pan with the foil to bake the lemon squares.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you like those – I like them a lot as well. And now that it’s lemon season, I think it’s time I make a batch, too!

    • Kat

    Well, David, I’ve loved your blog for years, but this post has improved even that. Your stories about Paris (and the French) are a delight, your recipes are perfection, and your photos are gorgeous. And now you’ve written an Ode to White Vinegar! Fantastique! I live in the USA (la floride), and I use white vinegar for nearly all of my cleaning needs. It’s great for clothes, and dishes, and cat boxes, and mirrors, and sinks. I even keep some in a spray bottle and clean the counters with it. It’s my all-purpose cleaner. My house might smell a little vinegar-y, but that’s okay. My other go-to: hydrogen peroxide. Pour it on the moldy bits in the shower, or around your sink, let it sit and bubble away the nastiness. It’s like a tiny miracle.

    • irina

    Also works great as a hardwood floor cleaner. Just dissolve 1/2 cup in about 2 gallons of water and mop away. Makes the wood shiny and squeaky clean. White vinegar is also great at preventing ear infections during the swimming season, especially in kids who never leave the pool. One drop of equal part vinegar and water solution in each ear once a week and you almost guaranteed not to get an ear infection….

    • Jennifer

    I use white vinegar as a fabric softener. Fabric softeners whether liquid or those dryer sheets are environmental nightmares like Calgon! Vinegar works just as well and loads cheaper! All those home made cleaners are so much cheaper and work better than anything you can buy.

      • Cyndy

      Okay. I loaded clothes into the washer, then poured a half cup of vinegar into the fabric softener tray. To my surprise, the vinegar poured out into the washer, onto the clothes. I have one of those front-loader, no-agitator machines. Wonder if something’s different about those.

    • Ruthy @ omeletta

    I love this: and Ode to Vinegar! I honestly don’t know what I would do without the stuff- it cleans nearly everything in my kitchen as well as my bathroom, and goes into so many recipes. I mean, the pickle thing alone. No other reason needed!

    • hng23

    Mix vinegar & baking soda together; when it stops bubbling up you will have a thick paste that is excellent for cleaning shower tiles & the bathtub without scratching. I keep it in a spray bottle in the kitchen for rinsing cutting boards & counters; in the spring we use it for cleaning the windows. Cheap & eco-friendly!

    • Maureen

    Vinegar cleans out tea and coffee pots, Google uses for vinegar – and there is a forever long list from taking care of mildew, polish stainless to unclogging sinks. I use it routinely for my sink maintenance – put down as much baking soda as possible, follow it with vinegar (fizzes and foams). Then pour as much boiling water as my 12 qt pasta pot holds. I now do this as a monthly maintenace and have not had a problem for several years. Cheaper than the plumber.

    • Maureen

    to Kat about hydrogen peroxide – it is also good for blood stains. Pour some on the clothes and then wash. Comes out beautifully.

    • Zac

    And if anyone has a pet, they should know the importance of white vinegar, not only for cleaning accidents, but from preventing “marking” (neutering also helps!) I keep a dilution of 1:4 vinegar to water in a spray bottle for any pet accidents (which are few and far between now, thankfully!) so that my rugs and floor are kept clean and fresh. Plus if you have ‘real’ rugs like we do, the vinegar won’t damage the handmade rugs, and only help ‘set’ the dyes more permanently while removing any unwanted pet mistake. I’ve been using white vinegar to ‘make’ buttermilk for years – you never know when you might need to make a pancake or a cheddar cheese biscuit to go with shrimp and grits! So nice to hear that it’s almost universally recognized as a staple for cleaning and cooking. Sometimes the old ways are still the best ways.

    • Cath

    Take one of those bottles of vinegar and put any old citrus rinds you have around into it and leave for a week or two. Then you will have that super expensive citrus cleaner that works at keeping your house clean and fresh smelling too!

    • Claire

    I live in the UK and buy white vinegar every other week and never had any problem finding it in. Available in every supermarket I’ve been in, in 5 litre bottles if you can get to places like Macro or Bookers, and probably in most hardware shops. Impossible not!! Perhaps you could try asking for it?

    • Gregory Whitfield

    Chinese Style Pickled Vegetables.

    It took me a long time to finally find a recipe which works, and it used white (distilled) vinegar. (Did you know know it’s made from 100% alcohol?). I got the recipe from a Chinese woman named Betsy at a San Francisco flea market. It was exactly what I was hoping for in a quick pickled veg. BEtsy got it from an old Japanese woman, but this type of pickling is found throughout Asia.

    The brine is 1 part white vinegar, 1 part water, 1/2 part white sugar and pinch of salt. Amount depends on how many vegies you make. I usually make about a quart. You want the vegies to be covered in brine when you cook them.

    Vegies can include sliced carrots (I cut them on the bias like in Chinese prep), daikon, cauliflower. Always included as much sliced ginger as you care for, and the dried red chilis you get in spicy Chinese food. A Chinese friend whose family comes from Canton ALWAYS include shallots, and they are very very good.

    Bring brine to the boil. Add all ingredients and bring it back to a boil and boil for ONE MINUTE. Drain vegies into colander set in a bowl so you can collect the brine. Let vegies cool off by themselves. Once the brine is cooled down (can be warm) combine everything in a (preferably) glass container which will go into the fridge for 24 hours, at which point they are done.

    You can leave the vegies in the brine or drain them. Keep refrigerated.They will keep at least a week in the brine; a few days drained. You can re-use the brine (but I usually make a fresh batch because it’s so cheap).

    The pickles come out colorful and crisp. It’s a nutritious snack to have available in the fridge. Good item for an appetizer table at a party.

    White vinegar is our friend!

    • garlic pig

    I too use vinegar for cleaning my house from top to bottom. A spray bottle filled with half vinegar, half water, 1 tablespoon of liquid soap, 1 tablespoon of citra-sole (citrus cleaner) and a few drops of essential oil just for kicks. BUT, I must say that a shot of plain old white vinegar is also the secret weapon in my great aunt Mabel’s sugar cookies. I feel funny dipping into my cleaning cabinet when I make them, but the vinegar knocks them out of the park. Recipe here:

    • Sissy

    David, I gave some of the lemon squares to my friend who gave me the organic lemons and she said she is closely guarding them to make sure no one eats more than their share — she and her family loves them! Also gave what was left to another friend who also raved about them. I found organic lemons at Central Market so making another batch this weekend for my family — they only got a few from the first batch. Thank you again for posting such a tasty (and easy) recipe. You’re adorable!

    • Sissy

    Oh yes, and tried cleaning calcium out of my tea kettle with diluted vinegar and orange and lemon rinds. Worked like a charm — I can’t believe I didn’t know this — all these years wondering how to clean the calcium out of my teapot!

    • Deepa

    I live in the UK and can find it in most supermarkets, probably the bigger ones rather than a corner shop or express.
    Amongst all the cleaning uses it is also great for getting the soot from silver after you’ve soldered it! If you warm it with coarse salt and add the silver in it will come out sparkling! Also good if you have tarnished silver chains :)

    • Y

    I love white vinegar! Yes, mostly as a cleaner, rather than an ingredient in salad dressing. Have never thought to add it to my laundry though.

    • Nancy

    I keep a spray bottle of vinegar for washing produce and general kitchen cleaning. Citric acid is also a super dishwasher de-gunker. I buy the generic Kool-Aid packets (without sugar) at 8 for $1. Yet another fine American product to hoard when you come Stateside!

    • jo

    Best window cleaner around. No streaks. Also safe for cleaning mirrors as ammonia based cleaners can damage them.

    • Pamela

    thank you for this tip! we just moved to paris and my dishwasher has not been cleaning well! i finally figured out that i have to add salt..and now i’ll be adding vinegar. i wanted to make biscuits for thanksgiving..could not find buttermilk. i’ll be making my own now. merci!!

    • fishsticksforme

    Sorry for the silly question, but does it leave a vinegary smell when you clean with it?

    • Maureen

    On Oxyclean, I also agree that it works very well with hot water. I use bleach along with it. It bubbles furiously when the two are combined. I own a small hotel and staining on white towels is a major problem. I leave them soak overnight. I’d say 8 out of 10 come clean.

    • Carol D

    Does anyone know if vinegar removes white rings on tables where hot liquid has come in contact with wood?

    • Jean | Delightful Repast

    David, we live in an area with extremely hard water, do not own a water softener, and got our first dishwasher just a few years ago. It was a disaster until we decided to try white vinegar. First we ran a cycle, dishwasher empty, adding a couple cups of vinegar after it had been running for 20 minutes. Then we began setting a cup filled with vinegar on the top rack in each load. Worked wonders – keeps our dishwasher clean and gets all the hard water deposits off the dishes and glasses and silverware. Then we tried cutting back to half a cup of vinegar. Worked beautifully. Right now we’re experimenting with just 1/3 cup.

    I chuckled at your cute little bottle. We buy four huge gallon, or even gallon and a half, jugs of the stuff at a time. Wouldn’t be without it.

    • Kiki

    was somewhere out of David-range when you uploaded this article but now I’ve found it when going through the Ginger Crunch….. and boy, this IS a find! I also have a bottle white vinegar but only used very little of it for boiling eggs and cleaning windows – now a whole NEW range of marvellous uses is unfolding before my unbelieving eyes, what a treasure chest this blog is!
    Thank you – with a bit of a delay – for making my days every so often and for
    – telling us off
    – handing out great news,
    – educate us in so many ways (how to behave – it seems this is quite necessary)
    – giving us a chuckle and much mirth
    – spoiling your readers with absolutely wonderful photos
    – and finally writing some of the best prosa possible in these times
    Happy New Year and may we all live better, long, happy, and be more content

      • Jan (The Montrose, Houston, Tx)

      I bought a gallon jug of distilled white vinegar at my local Kroger, fondly nicknamed Disco Kroger due to its location. I’ve so far cleared up a slow-draining kitchen sink, cleaned my wood floors (they sparkle now!), cleaned out my dishwasher, softened my jeans and t-shirts, and last night I cleaned my ceramic-top range. It hasn’t shined like that since I bought it.

        • Sue from New Braunfels, Texas

        I used to make vinegar pie. Will have to make one again! thanks for the prompt.

          • Jan (The Montrose, Houston, Tx)

          I remember the vinegar pies from Thanksgiving dinners in the ’50s (yep, I’m REALLY old). The pecan pies were for the adults and the vinegar pies were for the kids.

    • Kiki

    David; with regards to the very hard water in Paris, I’ve an addendum: We HAVE bought and installed a water softening device for all the waters used in the house and we have noticed a very distinctive bettering (English?) of performance (dish washer, laundry, kettles, cooking).
    Have also new dish washer which takes about an eternity to wash (2h48 I think) but with the use of the right product (and only THAT one!) we had the cleanest glasses EVER.
    A costly investment but we find it well worth having it.
    I have copied all comments and shall read through this when I’ve more time. Thank you once more.

    • Marti

    On behalf of all my glass and dishware, laundry, whites and others, thank you so much.

    • Peggy

    I buy it by the gallon and use it for everything . . . really!

    • AdriBarr

    And don’t forget the coffee pot!

      • Jan (The Montrose, Houston, Tx)

      Has anyone tried the Vinegar Pie recipe yet? I swear it’s good.

    • Maxine weingarden

    Thanks so much. I cleaned my drain for the first time with vinegar and hot water

    • jw

    Probably someone’s already mentioned this but if you spill milk on the way home from the market or anything to which milk has been added, such as a cup of coffee, on your car’s upholstery (which we all know can happen easily while you are driving) or carpeting, cleaning with a solution of white vinegar and water goes a long way toward removing the very sour, unpleasant odor that can worsen over time.
    Ehh! Other people’s cars smell bad. Have you noticed?


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