It costs hardly anything ($2 a gallon or less on sale); it's available in every grocery store in the universe; and it's so useful around your home you are going to have a hard time believing it. That's the power of vinegar. Yep, plain, cheap, 5 percent acidity white vinegar.
1. Instead of fabric softener or dryer sheets, add 1/2 to 1 cup vinegar to the last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which causes fabrics to stiffen.
2. Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to 1 quart of very warm water to make a good window cleaner. Wipe with crumpled newspaper, and your windows will sparkle.
3. Vinegar will dissolve hard-water marks like those on shower doors and faucets, and in vases. If the vinegar is hot (heat in the microwave), it works even faster.
4. Instead of pricey commercial rinse agents, fill that little reservoir in your dishwasher with white vinegar. Your dishes will sparkle. Refill often. If your dishwasher does not have this feature, simple add 1/2 to 1 cup (depending on the hardness of your water) into the last rinse.
5. Wash your windshield with vinegar to help keep ice and frost at bay.
6. When diluted 50-50 with water, vinegar will take pet odors out of carpets. Find the offending area, and saturate it well (you want to use more liquid than the amount the pet contributed). Let it set for a while, and then blot all you can with a clean white towel. Don't scrub — blot! Stand on that towel to bring the liquid into the towel.
7. Vinegar makes a great wallpaper remover. First, remove all the wallpaper you can by simply pulling it off. You'll probably only get the top layer of the paper, but that's OK. Then, spray full-strength vinegar on what remains. This will begin to dissolve the glue. Once softened you'll be able to remove the rest without harsh chemicals.
8. Use the acidity of vinegar to tenderize meat. I add several tablespoons to pot roast, soups and stews. If you have balsamic vinegar, it will add a wonderful flavor, but white vinegar tenderizes just as well. Your guests will think you are serving them filet mignon.
9. You can clean copper-bottom pots with a paste made of salt and vinegar. Caution: Do not use this on decorative copper that has a lacquer coating.
10. Wash your vinyl and ceramic tile floors with a mixture of hot water and white vinegar (1 cup per gallon of water). No need to rinse. You will never have that nasty film that plain water leaves behind. And wow! Your floor will shine line a new penny.
11. White vinegar will take the sting out of sunburn. Just soak a towel and apply to the burn. The smell is far more tolerable that the pain of a sunburn. Caution: Never self-treat a severe burn. Contact your health professional immediately if you have any doubt.
12. Clean your steam iron from the inside out. Fill the steam reservoir with white vinegar, and heat to the hottest setting. It's going to steam vinegar, so get prepared for a strong smell. You will see all kinds of hard-water deposits come out of the steam holes. Empty remaining vinegar; fill reservoir with water; and allow it to steam well to remove all traces of vinegar. Repeat as necessary.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.