The $2 Cleaning Gem Realtors Use to Make Bathroom Tiles Sparkle

published Dec 13, 2023
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A woman is scrubbing the black tiles of a bathroom
Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

If you’ve invested a pretty penny in bathroom tiles, you know very well that they’re a challenge to keep clean. For one, not only do they pick up mold and mildew easily because of the persistent moisture in bathrooms at all times, but you also want to make sure that you don’t use something super corrosive on them that’s going to damage the tiles. 

Quick Overview

How to Use White Vinegar to Clean Your Bathroom Tiles

Mix half a cup of distilled white vinegar with 33 ounces of warm water, and put the mixture in a spray bottle. Then, spray it on your bathroom tile and immediately wipe down with a damp mop or microfiber cloth. Leave to dry.

And let’s be real: Specialized bathroom cleaners can be pretty expensive, especially if you clean your bathroom at least once a week. Things add up, and so we polled real estate agents to see if they had another solution that would be quick, effective, and affordable. It turns out that the best solution for cleaning your bathroom is at your nearest grocery store: white vinegar.

Why White Vinegar Is Such a Great Cleaner

Vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner that can be used to clean windows, mirrors, and bathtubs, especially tile,” says Perrin Carrell at Agent Advice. “It can also be used to remove mold and mildew much easier than contemporary cleaners.”

The reason is because white vinegar contains acetic acid, which is such a powerful compound, it can dissolve mineral deposits, dirt, grease, and grime incredibly quickly. Because white vinegar doesn’t contain a coloring agent, it won’t stain surfaces or leave streaks, which is the issue that can occur with darker colored vinegar.

How to Use White Vinegar to Clean Your Bathroom

You can easily find a bottle of white vinegar at any supermarket, or at online retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart. It doesn’t cost more than a few dollars, and because you dilute it before using, one bottle lasts forever

In order to create the solution of white vinegar to water, mix in half a cup of distilled white vinegar with equal parts warm water, and put the mixture in a spray bottle. Shake to mix well, and then spray the solution on your bathroom tile (or anywhere you see mold or mildew). Immediately wipe down with a damp mop or microfiber cloth, and leave to dry naturally. 

Alternatively, you could put the mixture in a bucket and use a damp mop to wipe your bathroom clean, but this is a messier option, as you’ll have to keep wringing out the mop as you go about your cleaning — and you’ll want to still make sure you use a clean, damp mop or cloth to finish up the process. Make sure to let the surface air-dry before walking on or touching it.

“One thing to note about white vinegar is that it can be corrosive if used incorrectly, and there are certain surfaces you shouldn’t be using it on,” says Carrell. “White vinegar is a great natural disinfectant, so it works brilliantly as a tile cleaner, but I wouldn’t use it on natural stone tiles like marble, granite, or travertine.” 

These surfaces are softer stones, which means they’re more delicate and porous: The acids in the vinegar will react with the calcium carbonate in the stone and eat away at it, so in these cases, you’re better off buying specialized cleaners for those specific materials. 

How to Remove Strong Vinegar Smells While Cleaning

White vinegar can have a really pungent smell: It could take a while to get used to, but if it’s diluted enough, you’ll most likely not get too affected by the smell, which fades in time. However, if you find you’re sensitive to the smell, below are a few tips from Carrell to help decrease its effects.

  • Add essential oils to the solution: “Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils — such as lemon, lavender, or peppermint — to the solution,” he says. “This will help mask the smell of the vinegar.”
  • Rinse the surfaces well with water: After rinsing the solution off your surfaces, be sure to rinse them well with water. “This will help to remove any remaining vinegar residue and reduce the smell,” adds Carrell.
  • Use a fan or open a window: If the vinegar smell is still too strong, turn on a fan or open a window to ventilate the room.

Overall, cleaning with vinegar is a cheaper, more natural option, and it works particularly well in moist areas — especially bathrooms. If you can get over the smell, you might just be pleasantly surprised with the results. And hey: If it’s good enough for luxury real estate agents, it’s good enough for us.