Reuse It . . . Vinegar and Other Household Products


Although “reuse” for most people means turning something old into something new, or just using it more than once, I like to think it also applies to using things for purposes other than that for which they were originally intended.

In that spirit, here are a few things around your house that could probably be used for something other than what you bought them for.

Vinegar: If you’ve made salad dressing or colored eggs, you probably have some vinegar around the house. You can use 100% vinegar for disinfecting countertops and bathroom surfaces, and more diluted solutions for loads of other things. In our house, I have even used a 50% water/vinegar solution when cleaning our couch with our steam cleaner. (I don’t recommend putting this solution in the soap compartment. I sprayed the surface of the couch liberally, then sucked the moisture out of the upholstery.) If you don’t want your surfaces to smell like salad dressing, just add some essential oils like lavender or lemon to the solution. The advantage to using vinegar is that you’re sparing yourself the exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in most cleaners. Plus, vinegar is CHEAP! I buy two gallons at a time at Costco, for less than $5.

Oranges or lemons: Getting your Vitamin C is all well and good, but did you know you can use those citrus peels to freshen up your garbage disposal? Throw the peels and a couple of ice cubes down your disposal and run with cold water. This is a great use for that Costco-sized bag of mandarin oranges that your kids declared “sweet like candy” but refused to eat more than one, until you were left with half a dozen shriveled, sad little orange globes that you threw down the disposal whole. That’s what I’ve heard anyway…

Newspaper: I’ve never been a fan of weed mat in flower beds or the garden because it’s a real pain when you want to move plants around. My husband, however, has a personal vendetta against weeds. Solution? Newspaper. Put down a double layer of newspaper, spray it down with water and cover with rubber mulch. It will keep the weeds down long enough for plants to get established, or for you to make up your mind what else is going into that bed. Next year when you’re adding or moving plants, it’s super easy to dig right through. Go ahead and just mix it into the planting hole — it won’t hurt a thing. In the veggie garden, it’ll keep weeds down between the rows and can go right into the composter at the end of the season.

There you have it: new uses for things you probably have around the house. Have other things you’ve pressed into service in interesting ways? I’d love to hear them!

Links to more information:

Non-toxic cleaners you can make at home

Boatloads of stuff you can clean with vinegar

What other creative ideas do you have for re-purposing different household products? Scroll down to the “Comments” box and leave your ideas.

Like this ‘Reuse It’  blog post by Lisa Hensley?  Then chances are you’ll also like our Going Green Missoula Recycling page,  or these blogs:  Cleaning Your Home For Less With Home Made Cleaning Products,  Custom Wrapping Paper and  Creating Crafty Crayons.

Click here to see Lisa Hensley’s Reuse It Archive.


Lisa Hensley is a mostly-native Montanan, living in Missoula with her husband, two young boys, two cats (boys), one tiny dog (a girl!) and 4 fish (probably boys). She spent more than 10 years in the Marketing and creative field, but is now Director of Household Operations for the Hensley group. When she’s not herding kids or doing laundry, she’s shooting photos, gardening, baking, reading or taking classes—sometimes all at once. She serves on the Board of Directors for Home ReSource, which fits in nicely with her tendency to repurpose pretty much anything.