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Green Cleaning Guide You’ll Ever Need

Brush up on the powers—and limitations—of your cleaning staples.


Does: Sanitize. Yeah, the stuff you use for salad dressing is also great at slashing bacteria. “You can go a long way toward reducing organisms by rubbing a surface with distilled white vinegar and water,” says Philip Tierno, Ph.D., clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

Doesn’t: Disinfect. To disinfect, an ingredient must kill nearly all the microbes on a surface, which vinegar does not do. It’s strongest (and, unfortunately, smelliest) in its undiluted form, says Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and the author of The Germ Code ($18,; $18, ). The more water you add, the less effective it becomes.

Good to know: You can use a vinegar-and-water solution on some kitchen and bathroom countertops, on glass, and in the washing machine, but avoid using it on marble, granite, stone, and wood, because the acidity can damage the surface. To lift stuck-on grime, add baking soda to your vinegar solution and watch it bubble up.