People have been using vinegar as a low-cost, natural solution to getting things clean for eons. It might have been your grandmother’s favorite tool, but it’s making a comeback — and for good reason. There are many household uses for white vinegar, but this one has to be close to the top of the list. 

Even before there was any scientific evidence of microbes or bacteria, people were using vinegar for its sanitizing properties. In a paper titled "History of Disinfection From Early Times Until the End of the 18th Century" (J. Blancou, 1995), the author observed that while “genuine knowledge of the causes of human and animal diseases was not available until the 19th century. ... since very early times suspicion had fallen on the harmful action of 'animalcules' or living organisms.” 

This notion is evidenced through words from Marcus Terentius Varro in the first century, as the paper cites: “There perhaps exist ... animals which are invisibly small, and which cause serious diseases by invading the body through the mouth or the nose.”

Various cultures took numerous different precautions, including sulfur and mercury-based solutions, but vinegar was used as early as when Varro was writing his statement about “invisibly small animals” in the first century. Blancou notes that the effects of acids on “animalcules” weren’t scientifically substantiated until 1676, but by then, vinegar had been used for more than a millennia for those very effects. 

Nearly 300 years after Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s 1676 bacteria discovery, sanitation took on a new form — wet wipes. They’ve grown in popularity each decade since their introduction and show no signs of slowing. Freedonia Group states that “US wipes demand will rise 3.6 percent yearly through 2018,” when the market will reach a value of nearly $3 billion. 

While you’re best off sticking to commercial products for disinfecting surfaces that have come in contact with meat, for most of your kitchen, the acetic acid (Australian Broadcast Corp. says vinegar “is about 5% acetic acid”) found in apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and white vinegar will sanitize just fine. With DoItOnADime’s tip in the clip below, you’ll have your own surface disinfectant wipes at a cost that’s (according to the host) 75% less than what you’d spend in stores.

Wondering what’s wrong with using it on surfaces that have come into contact with meat? Well, raw meat carries a lot of bacteria, much of which can be deleterious. While Reader’s Digest notes that “the acetic acid in the vinegar is ... effective against E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus,” they’re not as effective as bleach. The important thing to keep in mind is when that level of effectiveness is necessary. Rodale’s OrganicLife recommends bleach “as a last resort.” In other words, for when vinegar or hot soapy water isn’t enough.

Let us know what you think of the trick from DoItOnADime in the comments below. When the video's over, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook!