Does vinegar kill strong odors?

Updated February 21, 2017

White vinegar is a common ingredient in many homemade cleaning solutions, including mould killers, descaling solutions and air fresheners. White vinegar is a natural disinfectant that does not pollute your home, nor does it harm the environment. White vinegar is an anti-fungal that will kill mould spores. White vinegar is also effective in removing odours. It will often kill strong odours, depending on where the strong odours have soaked.

Type of Surface

Some surfaces are more porous than others. Concrete is a very porous surface that will absorb odours easily, while metal is less porous and absorbs fewer odours. White vinegar is effective in removing strong odours that have not soaked deep into surfaces. Thus, white vinegar can remove strong odours from less porous surfaces such as metal, plastic, vinyl or ceramic. White vinegar may not be as effective in removing odours from carpets, concrete or insulation because they are more porous.

Type of Odor

White vinegar neutralises odours such as strong food odours, cigarette odours and sweaty feet odours. It is not as effective in removing odours that have been in a home for a long time. For instance, if your shoes have been smelly for months, white vinegar may not remove the smell from them. If you have been smoking in an apartment for years, white vinegar may not be enough to remove the smell.

Using White Vinegar

There are several ways to use white vinegar to remove odours in your home. Fill a spray bottle with it to use it to remove the smell from a surface. Spray the white vinegar over the surface and let it either dry, or wipe it up with a cloth. To use it to deodorise the air, fill a bowl with white vinegar and place it in the centre of the room. Let it sit there for several days.

White Vinegar Smell

On its own, white vinegar has a very pungent smell that is not usually desirable. This vinegar smell will initially mask any other odours in the home, and will eventually neutralise the odours. Finally, when the white vinegar dries, the smell will completely dissipate. Add a few drops of essential oils to the white vinegar to add a pleasant smell to the area and to help mask the strong white vinegar smell.

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About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.