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Vanquish with Vinegar!

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Keeping within the spirit of natural cleaning products that I have been discussing over the past few columns, it would be almost irresponsible of me not to dedicate an entire column to the most magic natural cleaning product of all – good old white spirit vinegar.

Apart from its cleaning powers, it is also kinder to the owner’s pocket, which in turn makes us look good and earns us a few brownie points with the captain.

Mildly acidic white vinegar dissolves dirt, soap scum, and hard water deposits from smooth surfaces, yet is gentle enough to use in solution to clean wooden flooring.

White vinegar is a natural deodorizer, absorbing odours instead of covering them up - and no, your yacht won't smell like a salad. Any vinegar aroma disappears when dry. With no colouring agents, white vinegar won't stain grout on tiled or varnished surfaces. Because it cuts detergent residue, white vinegar makes a great fabric softener substitute for families with sensitive skin.


Here are some well-known (and a few lesser known) facts about vinegar as a cleaning agent. Gone are the days that when vinegar was only used at your corner fish and chips shop as a Friday afternoon treat. 

Wipe away mildew 
Use undiluted vinegar to wipe away heavy mildew stains.  Mix it with water to clean light mildew stains. Just be careful, it might damage some delicate fabrics and do not use on marble or granite.

Clean chrome and stainless steel

To clean chrome and stainless steel fixtures around the interior of the yacht, apply a light misting of undiluted white vinegar from a spray bottle. Buff with a soft cloth to bring out the brightness.

Unglue stickers, decals, and price tags

Don’t you hate it when you peel a sticker off a glass/plate and it is still sticky from the glue? Worry no more! Use full-strength white vinegar and gently scrape it off with an old credit card. You can also use this solution removet glue from glass, plastic and walls. Of course, the best product to use for this situation would still be GooGone ©.

Remove carpet stains
You can lift off many stains from your carpet with vinegar: 
For light stains, mix 2 tablespoons salt with ½ cup white vinegar. Rub into the stain, let dry and vacuum.

For tough, ground-in dirt and other stains, make a paste of 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon corn starch, and rub it into the stain using a dry cloth. Let it sit for two days, then vacuum.

Keep bathroom mirrors frost-free
Vinegar is a great way to keep frost from forming on glass doors and mirrors. Spray the glass with a mixture of 3 parts white vinegar to 1 part water and polish away.

Refresh your refrigerator
Fridge smells of mildew? You can freshen up your fridge with a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. You can use the solution to wash the interior and exterior of the fridge.

Steam-clean your microwave
Fill a bowl with 1 cup water and ¼ cup vinegar. Set the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 5 minutes. Once the bowl cools down, use the solution to wipe the walls of the microwave.


Disinfect cutting boards in the Stew pantry and galley
Use full-strength white vinegar to clean wood cutting boards or butcher block counter-tops. This is a great alternative to dishwasher detergent that can weaken surfaces and wood fiber. It disinfects against E.coli, salmonella and staphylococcus.

Clean china, crystal, and glassware
Soap spots and dingy spots on your dishes? Polish it away with undiluted vinegar.

Stop reds from running
Unless you or your guests have a fondness for pink-tinted clothing, take one simple precaution to prevent red washable clothes from ruining your wash loads. Soak new clothes in a few cups of undiluted white vinegar for 10-15 minutes before their first washing. You’ll never have to worry about running colours again! This also works with other bright colours that you worry might run. However - REMEMBER THE RULE - COLOURS AND WHITES NEVER GET WASHED TOGETHER!!! 

Weekly clean - all toilets on board

Put 2 handfuls ice and a cup of vinegar in each toilet on board and immediately flush the toilet. This will break down any calcification or build-up in the toilet pipes and system.

Calcium breakdown in your kettles and irons
Put 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water into the iron - heat up the iron and steam out onto an old drop sheet - this will get rid of any calcium build-up in the iron. Remember to rinse out the reservoir and only use distilled water in your irons. 
Put 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water into  the kettle - boil as normal and rinse out the kettle afterwards. 


When using vinegar around the yacht as a general cleaner, remember that vinegar is VERY damaging to marble and granite surfaces and should never be used on or around these surfaces.

Try these recipes to harness the cleaning power of white vinegar:

Homemade Spray Cleaner Recipe:

Mix in a sprayer bottle:
1/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup water

In the crew mess and galley, use vinegar-and-water spray to clean counter tops, lightly soiled range surfaces and backsplash areas. 

In the heads, use vinegar spray cleaner to clean counter tops, floors, and exterior surfaces of the toilet. NEVER USE VINEGAR ON MARBLE AND GRANITE!

For really tough head surfaces such as shower walls, pump up the cleaning power by removing the sprayer element and heating the solution in the microwave until barely hot. Add some baking soda to the mix for a wonderful fizzy cleaning agent (but do not use on a marble shower!!)

Generously spray the shower walls with the warmed vinegar, allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. The heat helps soften stubborn soap scum and loosens hard water deposits. 

spray bottle

Undiluted White Vinegar

Undiluted white vinegar - straight from the bottle - makes quick work of tougher cleaning problems involving hard water deposits or soap scum.

Use undiluted white vinegar to scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. Before you begin, dump a bucket of warm water into the toilet to fill the bowl and allow access to the sides. Pour undiluted white vinegar around the bowl and add some baking soda and scrub with a toilet brush to remove stains and odour. Use a harder brush to remove any remaining hard water rings.

Clean shower heads that have been clogged with mineral deposits with undiluted white vinegar. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar in a plastic Ziploc bag, and secure the bag to the shower head with a rubber band. Let stand between 2 hours and overnight, then rinse and buff the fixture to a shiny finish. ONLY USE THIS TRICK ON STAINLESS SHOWER HEADS, NOT GOLD FIXTURES!!

shower head

Baking Soda, vinegar’s best friend

Baking soda's mild abrasive action and natural deodorizing properties make it a powerful replacement for harsh commercial scouring powders. It works great in combination with vinegar and creates a lovely fizzy cleaning agent.

Add 75ml of undiluted white vinegar and 75ml baking soda to the laundry instead of commercial fabric softener. White vinegar softens clothes and cuts detergent residue - a plus for crew and guests with sensitive skin.

For a natural toilet cleaner, harmless to the environment, combine ½ cup baking soda, ½ cup vinegar and ½ cup lemon juice in your toilet bowl and give it a good scrub with the toilet brush.

baking soda and vinegar

Images courtesy of PopsugarLifehackerPixabay , Flickr

About the Author:

After working in the super yacht industry as a stewardess, chief stew and purser for 10 years, Isobel Odendaal moved back to her home country, South Africa, and co-started a training school for super yacht steward/esses, Super Yachting South Africa, where she continues to learn and teach every day. 

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