Can You Use Vinegar on Wood?

Vinegar. What can’t it do? You use it on salads, morning booster drinks, and cleaning. But can you use it on wood? There are many products you can use on wood. However, the wrong product can damage your wood when cleaning, restoring, or disinfecting wooden surfaces. Can you really use vinegar on wood without damaging it? 

You can use vinegar on wood for cleaning, polishing, or removing stains and mold. It does not discolor or warp your wood and won’t leave a strong unpleasant scent on your wood surfaces.

The important thing to consider is that you have to get the right concentration of vinegar. Also, whether the wood is finished and painted is a major factor worth noting.

What does white vinegar do to wood?

White vinegar cleans all kinds of wood surfaces. It enhances wood’s natural grain. It is used with oils to give most wood surfaces a spit shine. 

It’s considered a suitable wood cleaner since it doesn’t cause warping or remove the wood finish. 

White vinegar removes dirt and dust from wood and shines it for a shimmering effect. Additionally, it removes superficial stains on wooden furniture. 

How to use vinegar on wood

You can use vinegar on wood in different ways. This includes cleaning old wooden furniture, cleaning untreated wood, removing liquid stains and mold or mildew, and polishing wood surfaces.

Here are ways you can use vinegar on wood:

1. Cleaning wood with vinegar

To clean wooden furniture, cabinets, or any other wooden structures around the house using vinegar, follow the procedure detailed below:

  1. Pour a cupful of water into a bucket and add three tablespoons of vinegar. Depending on how much wood you need to clean, add water and vinegar to the mixture, maintaining the same mix ratio. For instance, add six tablespoons of vinegar to 2 cups of water.
  2. Test the vinegar solution on a concealed area of the wood. Moisten a piece of cotton cloth with the vinegar solution and wipe down the inconspicuous wooden surface. Using a dry cotton cloth, buff the area and check for any adverse effects. If the vinegar solution doesn’t affect the wood’s finish or doesn’t warp the wood, it’s safe to clean the rest of the wooden structure with the solution.
  3. Dampen a piece of cotton cloth in the vinegar solution. If you dip the cloth in the solution, wring it so it remains moist but not saturated. Excessive vinegar can seep through the wood surface and damage the wood.
  4. Rub the damp cloth on the wooden furniture or cabinets in circular motions to remove watermarks. Rub in the direction of the wood grain. Once the soft cotton cloth shows dirt picked up from the wood, rinse it or switch to a clean cloth.
  5. Buff out excess vinegar solution. Rub a dry cotton cloth against the wood in circular motions to give it that final shine.

Polishing wood with vinegar

Polishing wood with vinegar results in a shiny, appealing look. Apply this wood restoration treatment 1-2 times annually to prevent wood furniture from becoming dry and worn. 

Here’s how to give wood a shine using vinegar.

  1. Mix olive oil and vinegar in a 1:1 ratio in a small jar. Then, close the jar and shake the mixture. Apart from polishing wood, this mixture also restores moisture on dry wood. It also removes the unsightly effects of water condensation, such as rings and light scratch marks.

Note: If the wood is old and has minor cracks, add a squeeze of lemon juice to the solution. The acid in the lemon juice will seep into the cracks and break down the dirt hiding in the cracks. Lemon also leaves a pleasant fragrance on wood surfaces.

  1. Test the solution on a hidden part of your wooden furniture and check for any negative effects. If there are none, proceed to polish the rest of the wooden surface.
  2. Dip a soft cotton cloth inside the olive oil and vinegar solution and wring it to remove extra liquid that could penetrate and damage the wood.
  3. Rub the wrung cloth evenly against the wood surface. Finally, buff the wood surface with a dry cloth for a deeper shine.

Removing stains and mold from wood using vinegar

You can also use vinegar to eliminate mold and mildew stains caused by liquid spills like wine, grease, and oil. 

The proper process for this is detailed below.

  1. Mix a cupful of water and ¼ cup of vinegar in a bottle sprayer and shake the mixture.
  2. Spray the solution on a lint-free cloth and lightly wring the cloth to remove excess liquid.
  3. Rub the cloth on the wood surface in the direction of the grain, and replace it with another cloth if visibly dirty.
  4. Polish the now clean wood surface and eliminate the bad odor caused by mold mildew. Mix ½ a cup of coconut oil with ¼ cup of lemon juice inside a small container/bowl and mix the solution using a whisk.
  5. Dip a fresh rag inside the mixture and rub against the wooden surface. Work in small sections and buff each section with a dry cloth before polishing and buffing the next section of the wooden surface.

Does vinegar damage untreated wood?

Unfinished or untreated wood surfaces are prone to damage from commercial cleaners due to the lack of surface protection. Porous untreated wood absorbs most of the cleaning solution, resulting in discoloration and structural damage.

However, vinegar won’t damage untreated wood like most cleaning agents if used correctly. Correct usage entails wiping or rubbing down the wood surface and drying up excessive vinegar solution afterward using a dry piece of cloth.

Here’s how to use vinegar to clean untreated wood. 

  1. Mix about 15oz of lukewarm water and 2oz of white vinegar.
  2. Dampen a cotton cloth with the water and vinegar solution. Wring out your cotton cloth to remove excess moisture. 
  3. Rub the untreated wood with the cotton cloth. Also, you can use apple cider vinegar to give the untreated wood a pleasant post-clean scent. 

Can you use apple cider vinegar to stain wood?

You can use apple cider vinegar to stain untreated wood. It gives the wood a nice rustic final look. You can stain untreated wood with apple cider vinegar for events or outdoor furniture. 

This is how you can stain untreated wood with apple cider vinegar. 

  1. Soak steel wool in a gallon of apple cider vinegar. 
  2. Let the undiluted apple cider vinegar and steel wool sit somewhere undisturbed until it turns to a color you’d like. Check the color changes in 24-hour intervals. 
  3. Strain the final solution in a work bucket.
  4. Use a paintbrush to stain your sanded, untreated wood. 
  5. Let it dry. 

However, keep these safety tips in mind. 

  • Wear protective gloves. The apple cider vinegar and steel wood combination is corrosive to your hands. Rubber gloves and a gas mask will protect you. 
  • Stain the wood outside. The mixture has a pungent vinegar smell. 

Can you use apple cider vinegar on painted wood?

You can use apple cider vinegar on painted wood. However, you should never apply the apple cider vinegar directly onto the painted wood. Apple cider vinegar is slightly acidic. It might dull the paint and ruin the wood structure. 

Here is how you can use apple cider vinegar on painted wood. 

  1. Pour about 4 inches of warm water into a container. 
  2. Add four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the water. 
  3. Dip a soft cloth in the diluted mixture and clean small sections in a round motion. 
  4. Dry the clean painted wood with a clean dryer sheet. 

Can you clean wooden floors with vinegar?

You cannot and should not clean wooden floors with vinegar. 

Vinegar is corrosive. Most wooden floors have a wax finish. Vinegar can ruin the wax finishing on wooden floors and make them look distressed. Wooden floors have specific surface cleaners formulated to keep them shiny. 

However, if you must clean wooden floors with vinegar, test out a diluted solution on a small corner section to see if it will work and not corrode the wooden floor.  

Additionally, avoid cleaning no-wax wooden floors with vinegar. Repeated use of vinegar on a no-wax wooden floor leaves it distressed and dull. No-wax wooden floors need to stay shiny and polished.

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