Interested in natural cleaners and green living? Learn how to make scented vinegar for cleaning. It’s an affordable and easy way to update your cleaning routine.
This post uses affiliate links. They don’t cost you a thing and help us bring you green cleaning tutorials. Read more in Policies & Disclosures.
When I was a child I was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Remember her? The pioneer girl whose classic books were made into the Little House on the Prairie series? I would channel my inner Laura and pretend to be a pioneer girl trying to church butter, grind corn meal, or make maple syrup candy.
Even as an adult I love homemaking project that make me feel like a total pioneer goddess. Come on, admit it… harvesting those homegrown tomatoes makes you feel a little like a frontier woman providing for your family.
Infused vinegar is that kind of project for me. I love filling jars with cedar needles or leftover citrus peels and turning out jars upon jars of naturally scented cleaner. It feels like I am making something useful out of (almost) nothing.
Honestly, it’s becoming a bit of an addiction.
Last month my pantry shelves and kitchen cabinets were so full of scented vinegar I had to go on a cleaning spree to use it all up.
Why I Love Making Scented Vinegar
Here’s what I love so much about the project:
- It’s easy. Seriously, it takes about 2 seconds.
- It uses up leftover fruit peels or herbs that would otherwise go to waste.
- It encourages me to clean with all natural products.
Whatever the reason, scented vinegar has a hold on me. It’s here to stay!
Scented Vinegar Varieties
I make several versions of scent vinegar including evergreen scented vinegar and orange scented vinegar. Recently I started making a new variety… citrus infused vinegar with herbs!
I made the discovery one weekend when my vegetable crisper was stuffed with a bunch of leftover herbs that were on the verge of going bad. It’s the perfect cleaner to make in summer when fresh herbs are plentiful or in winter when you have fresh herbs leftover from holiday recipes and citrus is cheap .
How to Make Scented Vinegar for Cleaning
- Wash and dry large glass jars. I use quart canning jars.
- Fill the jar ½ full with citrus peels and herbs. I’ve tried lime with mint, lemon with sage, and orange with basil.
- Heat white vinegar to nearly boiling. I microwave mine in a large Pyrex measuring cup. (Glass does not react with the acetic acid in vinegar. Do not use an aluminum pan to heat vinegar!)
- Pour the vinegar over the herbs, seal and place the jars in a cool dark place.
- Check the mixture after 24 hours, it should be ready use. (Allow it to sit longer if you want to smell to deepen.)
- Strain the peels and herb out of the mixture and discard. (You can also freezer the peels and herbs into cubes to clean your in-sink disposal.)
- Store the scented vinegar in a cool dark location.
How to Clean with Scented Vinegar
Make a simple homemade cleaner with vinegar by combining 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water. This DIY cleaner is non-toxic, cuts through grime with ease, and naturally deodorizes. I use it for almost every cleaning job. (Add 1/4 tsp of hand washing detergent for a great multipurpose cleaner that does not need rinsing and cuts grease!)
Warning – Use caution when cleaning with vinegar. Vinegar is a acidic cleaner that can damage some delicate surfaces. Learn more in the Ultimate Guide to Cleaning with Vinegar.
Here are some more DIY cleaners with vinegar you can add to your cleaning routine:
- Microwave Cleaning – Combine 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture for a few minutes and let the steam collect on the inside of the microwave. Carefully remove the bowl and wipe down your microwave.
- Refrigerator Cleaning – Clean and deodorize the fridge by wiping it down with equal parts water and vinegar.
- Window Washing – Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle, wipe down with a lint free cloth.
- Pest Control – Place ¼ cup of vinegar in a small jar. Cover with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Poke a few holes in the wrap with a toothpick. Fruit flies will be attracted to the vinegar and get caught in the jar.
- Fabric Softener – Add ½-1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle to help remove detergent build-up, soften fabrics, and deodorize laundry. You can use a Downy ball to release the vinegar at the correct time.
- Toilet Deep Cleaner – Turn off your tank and flush until the bowl is nearly empty. Fill with vinegar. Soak paper towels in vinegar and place over the water jets. Allow to soak overnight. Remove paper towel and scrub, turn on water then flush.
- All-Purpose Cleaner – Fill a spray bottle, with 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water. Use it to clean household surfaces. (Do not use on stone floors, marble or granite the porous surfaces can be damaged by vinegar.)
- Rinse Aid – Place a small dish with ½ cup of vinegar in the top rack of the dishwasher as a rinse aid that helps prevent hard water spots and removes detergent residue.
- Washing Machine Refresher: Fill all compartments with vinegar and run your washing machine on the cleaning cycle.
- Pet Odor Remover– Clean pet stains and then spray with a mixture of 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water to deodorize.
- Hard Water Spot Remover: Scrub shower heads, faucets, shower doors and bathtubs with vinegar to remove hard water spots and mineral buildup. Add 1 cup of water to your sink and fill with water, soak cloudy glasses to remove mineral build up.
- Carpet Cleaner: Use vinegar in the carpet cleaner to deodorize and freshen carpet. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the detergent compartment and then fill with water. Clean carpets as directed. Do not store vinegar in the machine reservoirs.
- Hard Floor Cleaner: Use a mixture of 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 water to mop floors. Refill Swifter cleaner bottles with this solution and never have to buy refills again. (Do not use on stone floors, marble or granite the porous surfaces can be damaged by vinegar.)
- Refresh Hardwood Floor Finish – See this tutorial for deep cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar.
- Coffee Pot Cleaner – Fill water reservoir with vinegar and run brew cycle. Scrub pot clean and then run 2 cycles of fresh water through the machine.
- Kill Weeds Naturally– Spray weeds and areas where you do not want plants to grow with vinegar.
- Clean Coffee and Tea Stains – Fill mugs with vinegar and let sit overnight. Scrub and rinse.
- Eliminate Food Odors – Rinse storage containers and water bottles in a sink filled with 2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar. Let sit overnight if necessary.
- Freshen Garbage Disposal – Freeze vinegar into cubes, store in a freezer bag, grind a few cubes in the garbage disposal once a week.
- Clean and Deodorize Garbage Cans – See this tutorial for cleaning garbage cans with vinegar.
4 Tips for Making Scented Vinegar
- Use a glass container to heat vinegar – Glass does not react with the acetic acid in vinegar. Aluminum and cast iron pans are reactive surfaces. If you want to use a saucepan to heat your vinegar use stainless steel. If you’re not sure what your pans are made of, stick with a glass container in the microwave!
- Skip the heating step and use the slow steep method to make scented vinegar – 1) Fill your glass container with citrus peels and/or herbs. 2) Pour in white vinegar to cover the peels. 3) Close container tightly and place in dark place for 2-4 weeks. 4) Remove from cupboard, strain out the peels, and use for cleaning.
- Use recycled glass jars to make scented vinegar – Don’t buy special Mason jars to make scented vinegar, any glass jar with a lid will work. Make sure to thoroughly wash the container to remove any smells/residue before making the cleaner.
- Use a glass spray bottle or plastic bottle designed to hold acidic cleaners – The acetic acid in vinegar can leach chemicals from plastic spray bottles. Make and store vinegar based cleaners in upcycled glass spray bottles, a store bought glass spray bottle, or a plastic spray bottle designed for cleaning products (#2 plastic).
I hope you try making a few jars of scented vinegar, you’ll be amazed at the ease of the process (you don’t even need a pioneer girl sunbonnet) and you’ll love the natural cleaners.
Like my green cleaning tutorials? Sign up for my free weekly newsletter below.
Thank you so much for recipes for citrus infused vinegar, specially for the one with heating vinegar. For years I use cleaning vinegar (10% acetic acid) all over the house. For some days I started colecting the orange peels and just thinking how to infuse the vinegar and today I found your website ☺️
Please be kind and let me know if it’s good to heat the jar with peels and vinegar in microwave, instead of heating just the vinegar?
Do you think it will work also as air freshener, if after infusing I’ll leave it in an opened container?
Best of luck with the future of your excellent initiative🤞
I’ve never heated both the peels and vinegar so I’m not sure how it would work. It might cook the peels and mess with the orange oil scent. I would not recommend the mix as a room freshener, it still has some vinegar odor. I do love it as a deodorizing cleaner though!
You don’t mention the strength (percentage) to be used. Is there a difference?
You can use any strength you prefer then dilute for cleaning.
How long does the vinegar solution (with the soaked lemon and orange peel) last? and is there any difference in soaking it for 2,4 6, 8, etc. months (potency-wise or in terms of effectiveness)?
Maya, the solution lasts for months and months after the peel is removed. The color darkens the longer the peels soak (which seems to indicate more citrus oils being transferred to the vinegar) but at some point, this will stop. I have not done a direct comparison to see how long that takes. The longest soak I have ever done in 6 months. I have not tested the effectiveness of a short soaked batch vs long soak batch but they seems to work the same to me.
Question – i know vinegar attracts fruit flies and that’s why it’s used for a trap.. Do you find it has the same impact when using it as a cleaning agent, like spraying on carpet as a deodorizer, or mopping the floor with it? I assume it doesn’t attract flies, or else you wouldn’t recommend this solution, but why doesn’t it?
Samuel, when the vinegar dries it no longer has a odor so it does not attract fruit flies. When using it as a trap the vinegar is still a liquid. Hope this makes sense.
Can you add essential oil to the infusion?
Yes, but I find it unnecessary.
Hi! Are there other types of cookware I can use aside from glass? My pots and pans are all metal type ones; I have a clay pot somewhere I can use if that will work.
I would stick to the original vinegar container or a recycled glass jar with lid to be safe.
It Does not say how much vinegar to use.
Fill the container full after adding your citrus peels.
I love the smell of tomato greens. Do you know if it would be safe to use tomato greens in vinegar for cleaning???
Interesting idea! I would give it a try. The vinegar only costs a few cents so even if the result is not good it’s not a huge waste!
Can you use the insides, as in just slice up the orange and use all of it? Thankyou 🙂
No, the fruit pulp will ferment. You need to use just the peels.
I would like to know of a good opposed Couch cleaner if you have one could you please share
What kind of couch? I generally a damp, soft cotton cloth for microfiber or cloth furniture. A drop or two of detergent in a bucket of water is good for stains, just dip the cloth in, ring out and wipe clean.
Thank you for your wonderful post. I was recently diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that effects my skin. I have been trying to find natural ways to clean my home and to eliminate as many dangerous chemicals as I can. Your site is a God send!
I’m so glad it is helpful, Jackie!
This works so good. The smell of the vinegar is almost all gone after infusing it. Just a tidbit of info. For the people who don’t use the citrus much, you might be able to get lemons or limes at a discount at the grocery store . When I see them on clearance I pick them up and will make scented vinegars.
Great tip, Karen! I’m so glad you like the scented vinegar!
Sounds like an amazing idea. I was so annoyed with the smell of white vinegar while doing the green cleaning. Your tip will stay with me forever.
Thank You so much.
Hi Bren! Does boiling the vinegar not make it lose any of its chemical properties/effectiveness? Is it just personal preference to do this method instead of using EOs in the vinegar? Does the scent of the infused vinegar stick better to laundry than when using EOs?
I do not boil the vinegar, just get it hot. I like making scented vinegar to use up peels I have on hand vs spending money on essential oils. No, infusing the vinegar will not make the scent stick to laundry any better than using EOs. Hope you try making infused vinegar!
Does it have to be GLASS jars?
You can use an original vinegar container or glass jars… something to prevent the vinegar from leaching chemicals from plastic.
Can I freeze peelings until I get enough to make a scented vinegar? Or would them freezing take away the effectiveness of the peels
Interesting question, Kari! I’ve never tried freezing the peels but it should work. You can also add a few peels at a time to the jar of vinegar. Good luck!
I was wondering something along the same lines. I don’t usually have half a jar of peels laying around at one time. 😛 Just one here and there as I use lemons/limes for cooking. I would assume that if they dry out first they won’t be as potent since the oils would have evaporated? If adding to the jar of vinegar over time, would not boiling the vinegar first be an issue (I’m not sure I understand why it needs to be boiled)?
The vinegar only needs to be boiled to make the scent develop more quickly. Room temp works if you are not in a hurry. If you have just one peel you could just make a small jar of vinegar! 😉
I just made a batch of lemon basil vinegar for cleaning. The pine/evergreen sounds wonderful. I’m wondering if it’s sticky? I think of the sap from the trees. Thanks for your great ideas!
No, it’s not sticky at all! Hope you enjoy the scented vinegar.
Does it still smell like vinegar? Someone in my house HATES the smell of vinegar, so I never really clean with it.
I does still have a slight vinegar odor, Angie. If you want no odor I would try cleaning with this citrus infused spray cleaner. Good luck!
Does the orange vinegar stain the grout when used to clean bathtubs and floors?
I’ve never had a problem with it staining grout. I would test it on a small area first if you have concerns.
Thanks been for these tips. Very useful. Can’t wait to start trying them
I love cleaning with vinegar! These scents will make it much more pleasurable, though. Thanks! One question: is it required to dilute the vinegar with water in order to use it? I never thought about it damaging hard surfaces, but now im wondering.
Vinegar is 3–9% acetic acid -> it gives vinegar its sour taste and strong smell. You do not ALWAYS have to dilute vinegar, but should be cautious about using straight vinegar to clean. Here are a few time to be cautious: Vinegar can corrode cast iron or aluminum pans if left too long. The finish on waxed wood floors or furniture will be clouded or ruined by vinegar. Grout can be corroded by too much vinegar. Do not use vinegar to clean electronics. Do not clean natural stone with vinegar, the acid can corrode the stone or wear down the finish. Be careful cleaning wood floors with straight vinegar the acid can soften or wear down the finish.
Whats the shelf life of the mixture ?
I’ve kept it for 6 months with no problems. Make sure to store it in a cool dark place.
Awesome list of uses, and great ideas for adding scents. Thank you.