We all want our homes to smell fresh and clean but pets, cooking, smoking, and just living can get in the way. While there are dozen of commercial air freshening sprays, candles, and solids that promise to remove odors, you can also use distilled white vinegar in many ways to freshen your home.
Distilled white vinegar contains around five percent acetic acid and 95 percent water. Cleaning vinegar is stronger with six percent acetic acid. The mild acetic acid is what can inhibit odor-causing bacteria. Of course, thoroughly cleaning the odor-causing item will eliminate much of the problem.
Learn how to use undiluted distilled or cleaning vinegar to remove odors from surfaces around your home.
How Often to Use Vinegar as an Air Freshener
Distilled white vinegar can be used as often as you'd like to help remove odors. It is less expensive than commercial products, environmentally friendly, safe for use around pets, and contains no harsh chemicals.
Before You Begin
As with any product, there are some precautions you should take when using vinegar as an air freshener. While the acid content is very low, it can be irritating to a child's sensitive skin so be sure to label the bottles and store them in a secure location.
There are surfaces in your home that can be damaged by undiluted distilled white vinegar if used in large quantities. Do not spray the vinegar directly on marble or other stone countertops, waxed wood surfaces, unsealed grout, or houseplants.
Do not use flavored or fruit vinegars like balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle for freshening the air or surfaces. They contain minute particles that can clog the sprayer. Use only distilled white vinegar or cleaning vinegar for misting or spraying. The flavored vinegars can be placed in a bowl to use as an air freshener.
Vinegar does not expire but should be stored in a cool, dark place. If the vinegar appears cloudy from contamination, use a coffee filter in the funnel to strain it before adding it to the spray bottle.
If using distilled white vinegar to freshen soft surfaces like carpet, upholstery, or clothes, test it in an inconspicuous spot before spraying liberally. Some dyes are unstable and bleeding or color changes can occur that are not reversible.
Equipment / Tools
- Misting bottle
- Spray bottle
- Small bowl
- Distilled white vinegar
- Essential oils
- Herbs, citrus peel, flower petals
How to Use Distilled White Vinegar as Air Freshener
Fill the Mister Bottle
To create the small, fine droplets of air-freshening mist, use a mister bottle usually used for plant care. If you cannot find a mister, use a spray bottle with an adjustable stream.
Use a small funnel to fill the bottle with undiluted distilled white vinegar.
Do not use empty bottles from commercial cleaning products even if they have been washed, especially those that contain chlorine bleach. There is the possibility of an unhealthy chemical reaction. Opt for a new spray bottle.
Label the Bottle
Always label the bottle so it will not be mistaken for another product.
If you dislike the acrid scent of vinegar, you can add essential oils to the undiluted vinegar. Choose your favorite scent like citrus, lavender, or woodsy notes. Or, you can create scented vinegar with herbs, citrus peels, or flower petals.
Adding essential oils is the quickest way to add scent. Adding fresh ingredients requires heating the vinegar and letting it steep for several days before straining out the fresh components.
Spray the Air
Mist the room as often as you'd like to remove odors. The vinegar scent will dissipate in just a few minutes.
Use a Bowl
To achieve continual freshening after painting a room or during a party where guests are smoking, fill a small bowl with distilled white vinegar and place it in a spot where it will not be spilled like the corner of a bookshelf or cabinet. Refill the bowl as the vinegar evaporates.
How to Use Distilled White Vinegar to Freshen and Deodorize Surfaces
Fill and Label a Spray Bottle
Fill a new spray bottle with undiluted distilled white vinegar using a funnel. Label the bottle.
Lightly spray the surface of the smelly item. Undiluted vinegar can be used to freshen trash can interiors, stinky shoes, carpets, and upholstery.
Allow to Air-Dry
Allow the surfaces to air-dry. Do not rinse away the vinegar.
Zinn, MK., Bockmühl, D. Did granny know best? Evaluating the antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral efficacy of acetic acid for home care procedures. BMC Microbiol 20, 265 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-020-01948-8
Vinegar Shelf Life and Safety. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.