My Mom put a little paperback book simply entitled Vinegar in my Christmas stocking many years ago. I glanced through it quickly and it was filled with so many great ideas, I still refer to it from time to time. Vinegar is what happens when wines are allowed to go through a second fermentation process and are exposed to bacteria. We can vouch for this. Sometimes we've made our own vinegar, but never on purpose! For sure, there are many practical applications for store-bought vinegar on the boat that we're happy to share with you.

Vinegar … what would we ever do without it on the boat? I buy white vinegar by the gallon and we divide it into smaller bottles for uses in the galley and the head. David dilutes and decants it into spray bottles for various uses throughout the boat. If you Google vinegar, you come up with 60,700,000 results, so I guess there's lots to be said for it.

First of all, there are so many vinegar variations nowadays, it's mind-boggling. There's balsamic, of course, which I use lots of. Then there's rice vinegar, cider vinegar, malt, red wine, white wine, herbed....the list goes on. I've got at least 4-5 different varieties in the galley locker, but quite honestly, it's the white vinegar that gets used the most. Not only for cooking … but for so much more! With a gallon of vinegar, a gallon of bleach and some baking soda on hand, I don't ever buy any expensive cleaning products.

Here's a quick list of where and how I use vinegar on the boat...

In the galley:

Use as a tenderizer and for marinades and salad dressings; also for pickling.

Soak fresh veggies in water with a spoonful of white or cider vinegar and a dash of salt to remove bugs; it's a good replacement for expensive fruit/veggie washes. You can also perk up wilted veggies with a quick soak in vinegar and water.

If I'm short on eggs while baking at sea, I substitute 1 Tbsp white vinegar in place of one of the eggs. Really! (This only works, I'm told, if there's baking soda, baking powder or self-rising flour already in the recipe.) I put a dash of vinegar in the water when I'm poaching eggs to keep the whites better formed (a tuna can with both ends cut out makes a good egg poaching form, BTW).

Cheese keeps longer if it's covered in a cloth moistened with vinegar and then placed in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.

Rub vinegar on your hands after cutting up onion or garlic and the smell disappears. It also removes stains from berries, curries, etc.

Wipe off the outsides of canning jars with vinegar to remove residue and inhibit mold/bacteria growth.

Wipe off countertops to remove bacteria. Spray full strength on cutting boards and leave overnight. Odors disappear and so does the bacteria.

Get rid of mineral deposits in the tea kettle by adding ½ cup of vinegar to the water, bringing to a boil and leaving overnight. Rinse well in the morning.

Deodorize your drains with a ½ cup of baking soda followed by a ½ cup of hot vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse with hot water.

On the rest of the boat:

Wash down walls and the insides of lockers to remove mold and mildew, dust and odors and prevent more from growing.

Remove lime and mineral stains by pouring full strength vinegar on them and letting the vinegar dissolve the build-up. Some elbow grease may be required. Add a paste of baking soda for a little extra oomph.

Allow about 3 cups of full strength vinegar to sit in the toilet bowl for an hour; then flush/rinse. It removes stains and deodorizes at the same time.

We have acrylic portholes, portlights and hatch lenses which are adversely affected by window cleaners such as Windex and products containing ammonia or bleach. Use a water/vinegar solution (16:1) to wash and wipe dry with a soft cloth (not a paper towel!). This same solution works well as an eyeglass cleaner.

In the laundry (done manually and in a bucket), I use a tsp of vinegar when I'm doing a final rinse (usually rainwater). Vinegar doesn't hurt the clothes and prevents yellowing, helps remove soap and acts as a fabric softener.

When I was a kid, we sometimes used a water/vinegar solution instead of a hair conditioner. In actuality, when I run out of conditioner, I still do this (2:1). It's a good de-tangler and supposedly helps to prevent dandruff. You only smell like a pickle for a short time. ;-)

Treat jellyfish and/or coral stings with a good dousing of vinegar. It helps to deactivate the venom. You can also dab full strength vinegar on bug bites for relief from itching.

David uses malt vinegar for cleaning and removing verdigris and corrosion from our bronze through-hulls.

Got any other applications for vinegar that I should add to the list? I'd welcome them.

Legend has it that Cleopatra dissolved pearls in a goblet of vinegar and drank it in order to win a wager with Marc Antony that she could consume a fortune in just one meal.

Some warnings:

Vinegar should not be used on marble, in metal drinking cups, on unglazed pottery or on pearls!

I've just discovered that there's an International Vinegar Museum in Roslyn, SD. WHAT? I can't believe we missed it on our trek across the USA this past summer in search of the odd and obscure. We found the SPAM Museum and the potato museum, but I'll be darned if we don't need to make another trip to South Dakota. Always something more to see.


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