Does vinegar kill germs?

White vinegar bottle

Note: Although vinegar has disinfectant properties, it is not effective against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Acetic acid (a.k.a. white vinegar) can act as a disinfectant that can destroy some bacteria and viruses.

There is no scientific evidence or studies that show vinegar kills a virus like COVID-19.

Studies confirming vinegar’s antibacterial properties:

  • Household natural sanitizers like lemon juice and vinegar reduced the number of pathogens to undetectable levels.
  • Vinegar can inhibit growth of and kill some food-borne pathogenic bacteria. Plus, vinegar’s bactericidal activity increased with heat! (Salt helped, too.) “The combined use of vinegar and sodium chloride, with use of an appropriate treatment temperature, was found to be markedly effective for the prevention of bacterial food poisoning.”
  • Household disinfectants — vinegar and baking soda used on their own — were highly effective against potential bacterial pathogens but less effective than commercial household disinfectants.

Note: Health Canada states, “Products such as tea tree oil, baking soda, vinegar, electrolyzed water, microfibre cloths, ozone, and silver compounds are not registered disinfectants for food premises, according to the Health Canada definition.”

Note: Health Canada provides ways to clean and disinfect public spaces — communal residence, workplaces, schools, etc. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a thorough guide on how to clean and disinfect for Covid-19. And check recommendations from your regional public health agency.

Where to buy it?

White vinegar found on most store shelves is a five per cent concentration of acetic acid. Look for stronger concentrations (seven to 12 per cent) at eco-friendly stores with refill stations. Some brands label the stronger stuff “cleaning vinegar.”

Five ways to clean with vinegar


To clean a wood (or plastic) cutting board, pour vinegar onto a clean rag and wipe down. (Eco-friendly oxygen bleach is even more effective.)


To deodorize your toilet, pour 125 millilitres of white vinegar into the bowl. Let sit 15 minutes. Flush.


To remove hard water deposits on your tub/glass shower doors, heat 250 millilitres of white vinegar in a pot. Spray onto surface. Let sit 15 minutes and wipe clean.


Soak rusty tools in a pail of white vinegar and brush to clean.

Home cleaners in reusable containers


Don’t use vinegar on natural stone, waxed wood, cast iron or aluminum. It’s believed to be problematic for rubber components of your dishwasher or washing machine (or check the manuals).

Make more of your own cleaners to combat the usual household grime and dirt: all-purpose cleaners and dish soap. Check out the benefits of cleaning with eco-friendly oxygen bleach. And shop smarter for home cleaners.

Avoid this common DIY mistake:

Mixing an acid (e.g., vinegar) with a base (e.g., castile soap) creates a (not dangerous) acid-base neutralization reaction. So adding vinegar to castile soap takes back its original oils. Looks like white curdling! It’s a common mistake.

Instead, after cleaning with all-purpose cleaners or soap, spray surfaces — counters, tubs, tile and sinks — with vinegar. Use full strength for tough cleaning jobs or dilute 50:50 with water.