Lately, I’m all about using vinegar in every way possible. I blame Pinterest. Why am I grooving on vinegar? It’s cheap, non-toxic, and really versatile. When I’m talking about vinegar, I mean plain old white vinegar, otherwise known as “distilled vinegar.” Vinegar is composed mostly of acetic acid and water. It’s one of the mildest acids, and is produced when bacteria act on ethanol during a fermentation process. Don’t try to substitute other kinds of vinegar for these applications – stick with the basic white vinegar. (Did you know that apple cider vinegar is often sold unpasteurized? That’s probably why it’s used in so many health remedies, but also why it’s not something that pregnant women want to consume a lot of).
Here are my favorite baby-friendly vinegar uses:
- Fabric Softener/Dryer Sheets. I stopped using dryer sheets a few months ago. They’re loaded with chemicals and leave behind a waxy residue. They might make your towels softer, but they decrease absorbency. Companies like Seventh Generation make much healthier versions, but the most affordable alternative is vinegar. I dump about 3/4 of a cup of vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser of my washing machine (that’s about what it takes to get to the “max fill” line), and find that it does a great job softening our clothes. As an added benefit, it works as a rinsing agent, helping to remove soap from clothing. I was worried everything would smell like vinegar, but it totally doesn’t. I’m hooked. I know I’ll keep using it to wash Bambino’s blankets, sheets, towels, etc.
- Laminate Floor Cleaner. We just ripped out all our carpets and installed laminate wood floors. I wasn’t sure how to clean them, but my neighbor, whose adorable baby is about to crawl, found a great non-toxic recipe on Pinterest. I’ve been mixing up this solution: 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol and 2-3 drops of dish soap. Granted, when you mop with this, it’s going to smell like vinegar. To hide that a little bit, you can mix in 10-15 drops of essential oils – I used tangerine, because that’s what I had on hand, but if you want to bump up the vinegar’s antimicrobial properties, you can add lavender essential oil, which also helps fight germs. At my neighbor’s suggestion, I bought a Libman Freedom mop— you can dump in your own cleaning solution, the spray trigger doesn’t require batteries, and it comes with a washable microfiber pad – score. I’ll be sticking with this recipe when I’ve got a baby spending tons of time on the floor.
- Thrush Remedy. I have yet to experience the joys of thrush, but vinegar is a great remedy. Thrush can be treated with a solution of 1 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Swab each nipple with a clean cotton ball dipped in the solution after every feeding. You need to treat the yeast in every place it inhabits simultaneously, so you can use the same solution on your baby’s butt after each diaper change, swabbing the area with a cotton ball and then allowing it to air dry.
- Solving Cloth Diaper Problems. Vinegar is the perfect solution for a wide variety of cloth diapering woes. It reduces ammonia odors, works as a rinsing agent, and keeps stains from setting and colors from running. Your best bet is to slowly add it to your washing routine, starting with about a ½ cup in the rinse cycle. If you have hard water, skip the vinegar, as it can make your diapers stinky when they interact with urine.
- Bath Toy Cleaner. Bath toys are prone to mold and bacteria growth because they live in a warm, moist environment. To keep them clean, soak toys in a solution of 1 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of water for ten minutes, and then wipe them down with a sponge. Rinse the toys, and allow to air dry. Vinegar’s anti-bacterial properties at their best!
- Baby Acne. Babies are usually afflicted with acne in the first month or so after delivery. Baby acne develops because some of the mother’s hormones make it through the placenta. Although it usually clears on its own, it can be treated with a solution of 10 parts water mixed with 1 part vinegar. You’ll want to gently dab it on baby’s face, but go slowly to make sure it doesn’t irritate sensitive skin – probably a good idea to double check with your doctor, too.
- Diaper Rash Remedy. Diaper rash looks miserable! One method for treating it (if it’s the kind caused by a fungus) is to soak your baby in a vinegar and tea tree oil mixture. Fill an “adult” bathtub with two or three inches of water (enough to submerge the affected areas), and add 1 cup of vinegar and ¼ Tablespoon of tea tree oil. Let your baby soak for ten or twenty minutes, then rinse with clean water and allow to air dry well.
- Fruit Wash. Pregnant women and babies are both better off staying away from funky bacteria like the kind that some fruits and veggies harbor. Cooks Illustrated magazine tested four different methods and found that a spray of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, followed by a clean water rinse, effectively removed 98% of bacteria from smooth skinned fruit. Such a cheap solution to a potentially nasty problem!
Have you used vinegar in any of these ways? How do you use vinegar at home?