Well, the good news is that I’m slowly sidling back into getting my dang bathroom taken care of so that I’ll eventually actually have before and after pictures for you all.
The bad news is that I managed to (minorly) injure myself twice because I didn’t think to Google something simple. Something that would have told me once again what a miracle solution (in both senses of the word) vinegar is.
How it all started
I spent about four hours on Sunday fighting with the metal frame for the shower doors on my fiberglass shower stall. The top of it didn’t take too long to figure out how to remove, which meant the doors came off too.
But then I was left with the vertical and bottom edges of the door frame, which were heavily caulked in place.
The vertical caulking took a bit, but an exacto blade (occasionally changed out for a putty knife) worked without too much fanfare. I’m sure the ease of downward force helped too.
Alas, when I got to the bottom portion, the caulk was practically petrified. It was difficult to get the blade actually into the caulk. When I did, it would go a short distance through, then hit a tough back and skim the surface. And since I was bearing down pretty hard, this caused me to smack my hand into one of the walls pretty hard. By the second time that happened, I’d opened up the skin on my index finger knuckle. The third time, it was officially a flap of skin. Ugh.
After about an hour of chipping away diligently at the caulk, I had made a complete line in substance — which had been enough to loosen the vertical parts of the frame a bit — but it turned out I was going to have to chip/peel away the bottom part’s caulk entirely.
I tweeted about this frustrating process, and a few minutes later a follower told me there’s such a thing as caulk remover, a substance that will break down the caulk and make it easy to get out.
But I didn’t buy it
At this point, I only had about three feet of caulk left — which I’d already made some progress on — and I didn’t want to buy something that I was pretty close to not needing. Admittedly, I was also just tired and didn’t want to use more energy to go to the store. So I did the frugal/lazy thing and googled “homemade caulk remover.”
At which point I learned that isopropyl alcohol or — you guessed it — vinegar could be applied to help break down the caulk a bit/make it more pliable.
I soaked an old rag in some vinegar and laid it on the worst spots. While it didn’t perform miracles, it definitely made the most petrified of the caulk more pliable and easier to chip off.
Which brings us to
This was my perennial reminder that vinegar is useful in so many ways — small and large. And as a result, I figure it’s once again time to pay tribute to the many ways vinegar can be a frugal (and environmentally friendly) life hack.
- It’s a natural disinfecting for surfaces. It’s also better on sewer systems than all the chemical-laden cleaning products out there.
- It gets hard water stains off of toilets: You have to let it soak for quite a bit, but then the stains come off without too much scrubbing required.
- It helps other hard-water buildup and stains too, including limescale on coffee pots/machines, irons, etc.
- Speaking of hard water issues, if your showerhead isn’t letting much water through, soaking it in vinegar for two to three hours can get rid of any buildup that might be blocking the holes. The sites suggesting this one said to fill a plastic bag with vinegar and securing it over the showerhead with rubber bands. But it would be far easier to just take the showerhead off.
- Have rusted tools? Soak them in vinegar for multiple days. Rinse them (very well, because: vinegar) and dry thoroughly before putting them away.
- Vinegar can kill weeds. Most websites encourage you to mix it with some water and dish soap, but most weeds are pretty averse to straight vinegar too.
- Glass cleaner: Vinegar is great for a streak-free clean!
- Stainless steel cleaner: You can wipe down fingerprints and other residue with vinegar and a microfiber cloth.
- It can help clear drains: Pour vinegar and baking soda into a clogged drain, let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then follow it with hot water. (And again, it’s better for your sewer lines than caustic things like Drano.) You can also help avoid clogs by doing this every month or so. And one day I will remember to actually follow this advice.
- Run vinegarthrough dishwashers or washer/dryers if smells start to develop. This is also go for stinky garbage disposals.
- If you forget and leave a load of laundry long enough that a mildew smell develops (not that I’d ever be so careless… cough cough), laundry detergent alone often won’t completely get the smell out. So add some vinegar in the fabric softener part. (You can use just vinegar, allegedly, but I put in some detergent too to avoid any potential vinegar after-smell.)
- Vinegar and water can be used as a floor cleaner — though personally I like my mom’s homemade Swiffer mopping solution.
- Spill something on your carpet? Before it has a chance to set, blot the area with vinegar and water. I’d recommend rinsing the area with regular water once you’ve gotten the spill dealt with. Just so the vinegar’s acid doesn’t discolor the carpet on its own.
- If you don’t get to a spill it before the stain sets, soak the stain in white vinegar then add baking soda. Let it sit and fizzle for a bit, then vacuum up the remaining powder.
- Some folks use regular or apple cider vinegar as bug spray. Not for me, but to each their own.
- Some people use apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse.
- Pets (part I): A vinegar solution is apparently helpful if your pup has itchy/scaly ears.
- Pets (part II): If your dog got a little too curious around a skunk, vinegar is less messy (and cheaper) than the ketchup remedy.
- Pets (part III): According to the Internet, a 50/50 solution of apple cider and water applied to your animal’s coat will be inhospitable for fleas. Personally, I’d worry about the animal’s nose, but maybe it’s diluted enough? Mix and sniff it yourself, I guess.
- Stray cats: If you find them using specific areas in your yard, pour/spray some vinegar in the area. They apparently can’t handle the smell.
- Sticky substances: Things like stickers or bumper stickers (or just their residue) can come off more easily by spraying vinegar. It may take a few applications to get it all.
- Vinegar and salt is good for cleaning silverware and stainless steel cookware.
- Save paintbrushes: If you forget to properly rinse a paintbrush, soaking it in vinegar can loosen the bristles. Just wash it well with soapy water afterward.
- Keep flowers fresh: Add two tablespoons of vinegar (white or apple cider) and two tablespoons of sugar to the water in your vase.
- Candle wax residue: While you should attack the dried-on glob of wax with a hair dryer, any leftover residue can be wiped off with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution.
- Wrinkle release spray: According to at least one blogger, vinegar, water and hair conditioner can be sprayed on clothes when you don’t feel like ironing.
Hopefully, some of these uses make your life easier. I pray I never have to battle caulk again, but lord knows it’ll be easier if I find myself in this situation again.
Did I forget any uses? What’s your favorite use for vinegar? (Adobo is an acceptable answer.)