Vinegar isn’t just great on chips – it’s in plenty of cleaning products, too.

And it’s no secret. Just look at the ingredients list on the back of a window or shower cleaner, for example. You’re sure to find vinegar as a component.

For some cleaning jobs around the office, you just can’t beat it. We talk about it a lot in our cleaning blog, because it’s just so useful!

But what exactly makes this stuff the miracle liquid of choice for home and office cleaners – and is it better than chemical-based cleaning products?

How vinegar gets its cleaning power

The active ingredient in white vinegar is acetic acid.

Pure, undiluted acetic acid (called glacial acetic acid) is very potent and powerful – pretty nasty stuff – but it’s rarely found in this form outside of laboratories and industrial use. The stuff you’ll encounter is normally 5-10% acid, mixed with water.

Acetic acid is what gives white vinegar that razor-sharp taste, makes it great for pickling foods for long-term storage – and kills weeds, when in a high enough concentration. This acid is produced naturally during fermentation (the alcohol-making process).

In fact, you can make vinegar out of anything that has alcohol in it.

Balsamic vinegar comes from red wine, cider vinegar comes from cider – and white vinegar comes from a spirit distilled from grain, much like vodka.

To make vinegar, a special type of bacteria, called Acetobacter, is introduced to the beverage in question.

These bacteria are special because, while most microbes cannot tolerate the acidic conditions of vinegar, these little beasts thrive in it. Actually they make the acid. Acetobacter eats the alcohol and sugars in these liquids, and they produce acetic acid as a byproduct – and the liquid the bacteria is living in becomes vinegar.

The bacteria die off once all the alcohol is gone (they live fast). But their byproduct remains useful for lots of things – and in cleaning, the acid dissolves limescale and water stains, leaves glass surfaces and windows streak-free, cleans toilets, lino and tile floor, office kitchen appliances… The list goes on and on.

The benefits of white vinegar for cleaning

Using white vinegar for cleaning has some amazing advantages.

It comes in at a fraction of the cost of brand-name (or even own-brand) cleaning products. It’s natural, non-toxic, mostly antibacterial, and it can dissolve limescale. It leaves a streak-free shine – and can be mixed with salt to form a mild abrasive cleaner.

It’ll even descale the office kettle, leaving it good as new.

It can also be used with bicarbonate of soda, which creates a fizzy, lightly abrasive cleaning solution that can scrub out tough stains.

But even with all these advantages, it’s not perfect.

The downsides…

Vinegar has some downsides.

It is acid, after all – and even though it’s quite a weak acid when diluted to 5-10%, it can still eat away at the sealants used on stonework, decorative steel and the protective film on some devices’ screens.

Plus, it can damage hardwood floors and eat away at rubber seals – so you’ve really got to know where and when to use it.

Also, it smells really vinegary.

It might seem obvious to state it, but vinegar doesn’t exactly have the freshest of smells in the world – and on a hot day in the office, the smell can get pretty oppressive until it dissipates.

Most vinegar-based cleaning products are loaded with perfumes to mask the odour, but when using it dilute, there’s nowhere to hide from the chip shop scent!

So… Is white vinegar as good as cleaning products?

Yes, for the things it works on. However, for hardwood floors, stone, metalwork and oleophobic screens (like the one on your mobile phone), specialist cleaning products (like the ones our professional office cleaners use) are the best bet.

We know what vinegar works on, and when to use it. Most of the time though, household and commercial cleaning products are better for the job – the better smell alone is reason enough to use them!

But like we said, for some cleaning jobs around the office, you just can’t beat vinegar. Cleaning the insides of office windows, for example, will always be done with vinegar or a vinegar-based cleaner – and if we encounter any instances of water staining or limescale, vinegar is our go-to cleaning tool.

For delicate and specialist surfaces, we’ll use the appropriate cleaning product for the job, and make sure everything’s perfectly clean – just the way our customers like it!

Get the perfect finish, with professional office cleaners

The Abbey Cleaning Service is a professional team of office cleaners in Cardiff, with specialist cleaning knowledge and experience.

Call 029 2067 9323 today – and find out how we can conduct a thorough clean at your office, without disrupting your business.