24 September 2011

Prep30: Store Less, Accomplish More, part 6: Vinegar

This is part 6 in the Store Less, Accomplish More (SLAM) sub-set of posts within the Prep30 series. Each post in the SLAM "mini-series" focuses on a single preparedness item that you can stock and use in many different ways. Whenever possible, we've selected items that store very well, either lasting indefinitely or at least several years.

Use your Prep30 time to become familiar with today's SLAM item, which is Vinegar.

One of the oldest SLAM items, vinegar has been used for thousands of years. It's traditionally made by fermenting wine, cider, beer,or fruit juice... basically anything that has carbohydrates and sugars. (Unfortunately, some modern commercial vinegar can be made from ethyl alcohol produced synthetically from natural gas and petroleum derivatives.)

As an acid, vinegar has an amazing range of uses, from cooking to medicine, and cleaning to lawn care. Some uses related to preparedness and self-reliance include:
  1. Soothe sore throats: Put a teaspoon of vinegar in a glass of water. Gargle, then swallow. A bit more palatable gargle is to mix 1 cup hot water, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon vinegar, then gargle then drink.

  2. Help get rid of lice: When children get lice, apply warm vinegar to the hair, then dip your nit comb in the vinegar. As you run the nit comb through the hair, the vinegar helps remove the nits by helping to break down the glue the nits use to stay attached to the hair.

  3. Sun and skin burns: Apply ice-cold vinegar right away for fast relief of burns. This should prevent blisters from some burns too.

  4. Get rid of fleas: Kill fleas by adding a little white distilled vinegar to your dog or cat’s drinking water. This should help repel fleas too.

  5. Herbicide: Pour vinegar on grass or weeds to kill them. Some people claim that hot vinegar works better, just like pouring boiling water on weeds can help kill them. You may have to do this a coupl of times to get the weeds to die off, but they should stay gone for several weeks.

  6. Clean your toilet while protecting your septic system: If you have a septic tank, use vinegar in place of harsh cleaning chemicals to clean the toilet bowl. If able, let the vinegar soak in the bowl overnight to help reduce germs.

  7. Disinfectant cleanser: Mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in equal amounts for an effective disinfectant cleaner. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and use for kitchens and bathrooms.

  8. Rust remover: Soak bolts and other metals in full strength vinegar to remove rust.

  9. Clean sooty fireplace doors: Wash glass fireplace doors with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar to remove the blackened soot on them.

  10. Leather cleaner: Clean leather goods with a mixture of white distilled vinegar and linseed oil. Rub the mixture into the leather and then polish with a soft cloth.

  11. Cooking fish: Soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking to make it sweeter, more tender, and hold its shape better. Adding a tablespoon of vinegar to the water when boiling or poaching fish will keep it from crumbling as much.

  12. Fluffier rice: Add a teaspoon of vinegar to boiling water before adding rice to make it fluffier, easier to spoon, less sticky. Adding something other than plain vinegar will enhance the flavor of the rice too.

  13. Use as a meat tenderizer: Add a tablespoon to water when boiling ribs or meat for stews to make the meat tender.

  14. Get rid of cooking smells: Let a small pot of vinegar and water solution simmer on the stove to make an effective air deodorizer.
As mentioned above, there are many, many more uses for vinegar; you can find 25 here, 30 here, 50 here, 72 here, 92 here, 131 here, and a ton here. If you'd prefer a printed set of alternate uses for vinegar, try Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You've Probably Never Thought Of by Vicki Lansky and Martha Campbell.

The great thing about commercially made vinegar is that it doesn't go bad. According to The Vinegar Institute:
The Vinegar Institute conducted studies to find out and confirmed that vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite. Because of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.
You'll get long life from unopened vinegar that you store. Once the bottle is opened, it can start to deteriorate, especially flavored or homemade vinegars. Here's good advice from TLC and the How Stuff Works website:
Some vinegars, if stored improperly or too long, will develop a cloudy look. This cloudy substance (called "mother of vinegar" since it can be used to make more vinegar) can be filtered out with a paper coffee filter in order to salvage the vinegar. However, if either the mother or the vinegar smells bad or rotten, discard both immediately.
So, vinegar is a great SLAM item because it's very versatile, has a long shelf life, and is pretty inexpensive. But, the bonus is that you can make your own vinegar too, meaning you can ultimately replenish your supply when you run out.

You can learn How to Make Your Own Vinegar from information again provided by TLC and the How Stuff Works website. For those looking for more in-depth and/or printed information, try the book Vinegar: The User Friendly Standard Text Reference and Guide to Appreciating, Making, and Enjoying Vinegar by Lawrence J. Diggs.

A final note: experts generally recommend against using homemade vinegar for preserving foods. The How to Make Your Own Vinegar article warns:
The acidity of homemade vinegar varies greatly. If you make your own vinegar, do not use it for canning, for preserving, or for anything that will be stored at room temperature. The vinegar's acidity, or pH level, may not be sufficient to preserve your food and could result in severe food poisoning. The pH level in homemade vinegar can weaken and allow pathogens, such as the deadly E. coli, to grow. Homemade vinegar is well suited for dressings, marinades, cooking, or pickled products that are stored in the refrigerator at all times.
One way around this is to check the pH of your vinegar to determine if it's adequate for use in preservation (i.e., a low enough pH value). You can use kits for testing the acidity of wine to also check your vinegar. Refer to Vinegar Titration: The Best Way to Determine Acetic Acid Content for more information on checking out your homemade vinegar.


  1. Good Post. There are so many products out there that can do so many things.

    I'm linking your article to the site.


  2. Thanks, Todd... I appreciate the link!