White vinegar aka alcohol vinegar, cleaning vinegar— it’s the talk of the town, but is it really what it’s chalked up to be? What about the risks faced by users?
A vinegar by any other name?
The common household vinegar is known as white vinegar, but also alcohol vinegar, cleaning vinegar, spirit vinegar and crystal vinegar. There are no differences between these trade names.
Don’t forget, however, that vinegar’s original claim to fame is as a food product.
Okay, white vinegar is food product: so, what?
Regulations written for food labelling are not the same as those for cleaning agents. The same product- this very same cleaning vinegar– could very well be labelled corrosive and hazardous to breath when used for cleaning and not labelled at all when it is sold as food.
Same product. Different rules. That’s just the way it is…
What does white vinegar actually do?
White vinegar / cleaning vinegar is « used » as a cleaner, lime scale remover, and disinfectant. Considering its price per gallon, it sure sounds like a miracle product, but what truths backs these claims? Simply put: not much. It contains acetic acid (which varies 5 % to 14 % depending on the brand) and that does make it a lime scale remover— in fact, the higher the acetic acid concentration, the more effective the descaling action is, – but that’s it. The action stops there.
Why doesn’t cleaning vinegar actually clean?
The fact is the acidity of cleaning vinegar removes limescale. It dissolves limescale, but what’s left of the rest of the dirt such as fat deposits, soap, sebum, and who knows what else- ? Without surfactants to clean up the mess, all you’re doing with that microfiber cloth, is spreading the dirt around.
In fact, with white vinegar like with water, only mechanical force can get rid of dirt.
For that, you’d need a ton of elbow grease.
So why not just add surfactants to white vinegar?
Lacking proper knowledge of regulations, some professionals do add surfactants directly into cleaning vinegar, dish washing soap for exemple to shine the windows…
VERY Bad idea! Mixing different cleaning products is strictly forbidden. It can be extremely dangerous:
- Mixing bleach and white vinegar releases a toxic gas which if inhaled over time can be deadly.
- Mixing white vinegar and baking soda crystals? You’ve made a double disaster:
- The chemical reaction triggers splashes of eye-irritating solution.
- The reaction nullifies the beneficial properties of both products.
Q.E.D: it’s harmful and it’s useless.
Real pros don’t play wizard’s apprentice and above all, above all, they do not take risks when it comes to user heath.
Why isn’t white vinegar a disinfectant?
You know that biocide regulations are draconian. They require for particular information to be labelled on all professional products such as disinfection type, contact time, dosage, biocidal action type (bactericide, kills virus, kills yeast)
However, none of this information appears on cleaning vinegar labels destined for food. Therefore, it’s impossible to know the dilution or contact time needed to potentially disinfect a surface.
How about users’ health?
As food products are not put under CLP labelling regulations, how can anyone know what risks they pose to users, especially risks with acid products (with low pH)? If there is an accident on site: there’s no SDS… What can you report to the doctor?
Cleaning vinegar irritates skin: mightn’t wearing gloves then be recommended ?
And what about that pesky respiratory irritant factor?
Yes, but cleaning vinegar is “all-natural”
True, white vinegar is natural but so are poisonous mushrooms and hemlock.
Let’s take a moment to revisit the term “natural” : white vinegar is made via industrial means mainly by diluting acetic acid in water. Acetic acid is a hazardous product*: H226 (flammable liquids and vapors) and H314 (causes serious skin burns and eye lesions). Does that sound at all “natural”?
It is entirely understandable that pros like you are making more eco-friendly choices. But let’s keep it real: there are a large number of effective and green products present on the market which clean, descale and disinfect without putting users in harm’s way.
Questions? Want to learn more?
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