Greener Vail: Sour grapes over cleaning? |

Greener Vail: Sour grapes over cleaning?

Cassie Pence
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –As owner of a green cleaning business in Colorado’s Vail Valley, I am constantly asked about what I like to clean with, what natural cleaner actually works. My answer is always the same: vinegar.

Vinegar is the world’s oldest disinfectants. According to the “The Vinegar Book,” by Emily Thacker, in 400 BC, Hippocrates (considered the father of medicine) used vinegar to treat his patients. This naturally occuring germ killer was one of the very first medicines. Vinegar is also credited, according to the book, with saving the lives of thousands of soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. It was routinely used to clean wounds.

Vinegar is made from the oxidation of ethanol in an alcohol-containing liquid, such as wine, fermented fruit juice, or beer. Its uses – enough to fill a book – are still as relevant as they were when the country was divided between North and South. Vinegar is linked to a numerous homeopathic remedies – from relieving a sore throat to easing the hiccups and even helping to banish arthritis.

At Organic Housekeepers, we use it to dust, clean glass and polish fixtures. We also use it on countertops in kitchens, as vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of molds, and 80 percent of germs (viruses), according to Annie Bond, author of “Clean and Green.” Unlike bleach, vinegar kills the nastys without creating the super-bug.

The only thing we don’t use vinegar on is natural stone, as the acid can “etch” materials like granite and marble or discolor stone floors. Other than that, when it’s mixed with a little water in a spray bottle, it’s a perfect all-purpose cleaner.

In addition to cleaning surfaces and making mirrors sparkle, here are five other ways to clean with vinegar.

1. Laundry booster.

Add 1/4 cup vinegar to a load of laundry, along with your regular detergent, to brighten whites and colors. Vinegar also acts as a fabric softener and inhibits mold and fungus growth. It kills athlete’s foot germs on socks, too.

2. Brass buster.

Combine equal parts lemon juice and vinegar to create a brass and copper cleaner. Wipe it on with a rag and then polish with a soft dry cloth.

3. Drain maintenance.

Keep drains clean by pouring in 1/2 cup baking soda, followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. In about 10 minutes, run hot water down the drain. Keep drains odor-free by pouring 1/2 cup vinegar down them once a week.

4. Glue be gone.

Any old glue, from something light like leftover price tags to the hold-it-all glues, can be scraped away easily if first soaked in vinegar.

5. Wave odors bye-bye.

Clean and freshen the microwave by boiling water and vinegar in it. Mix 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 cup water in small bowl and then heat it in the microwave for 5 minutes. This will remove lingering odors and soften baked-on food spatters.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at

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