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More Uses For Vinegar: Self Care

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Most folks know that vinegar is used in kitchen recipes, canning, and even for household cleaning and other home care.  Did you know that the acetic acid in vinegar has attributes that make it good to use for other applications, including medicinal use, personal care, and pet care?

Medicinal/Home Remedies

Let’s start with what matters most—our health and feeling better when we’re coming down with something or have somehow hurt ourselves.  Try the following suggestions for relief.

Cough – A sprinkling of apple cider vinegar on your pillowcase or on a cloth near your head in your bed can help to control nighttime coughing.

A homemade cough syrup can be made using vinegar. Simply combine equal parts apple cider vinegar and honey. Take one tablespoon every four hours.  As usual with a persistent cough, if it persists more than a week, it might be a good idea to consult your physician. Do not give honey to young children, due to the risk of botulism.

Congestion – Add about 1/4 cup of vinegar to your vaporizer and allow it to run for an hour or two.  (Check your vaporizer’s instruction manual before doing this.)

Sinus Congestion – If you are using the above tip for general congestion, you may also relieve sinus congestion by breathing in the steam from the vaporizer to help with the pain of sinus congestion.  Just be careful not to burn yourself!

Sore Throats – Add one teaspoon of vinegar to a cup of water and gargle.

Headache – Moisten a compress (such as a folded washcloth) with a mixture of half warm water and half warm vinegar and hold to temples while lying down to relax.  An herbal vinegar, such as lavender, can further ease the headache.

Leg Cramps – Soak a cloth in full-strength vinegar and apply to the cramping area as a compress.

Backache – Take a hot bath with two cups of vinegar added to it.  Thirty minutes of soaking should bring relief.

Muscle Sprain – Soak a towel in hot vinegar and use as a compress on a recently acquired muscle sprain.  Do this for twenty minutes at a time. If you continue to experience pain that concerns you, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor, as the problem may be more serious than you realized.

Sunburn – Apple cider vinegar can be applied to sunburn to take the sting out of it. It may burn at first, but it will greatly lessen the duration of the sunburn and may prevent your skin from peeling.

Hives – If you suffer from a hives, gently apply apple cider vinegar to the affected area as needed to help with the itching. It may sting at first, but it should help relieve your symptoms. Make sure to apply it gently (using a spray bottle is best), as any extra pressure on the skin can cause your body to produce even more histamine and cause the hives to grow or spread. (Note: If you experience any additional symptoms such as trouble breathing or face or throat swelling, see a doctor immediately.)

Jellyfish Stings – Draw venom from a jellyfish sting by dousing the affected area with vinegar. The acetic acid deactivates the venomous nematocysts that jellyfish release (which is what causes so much pain).  If you know the cause is from the more sinister Portuguese man-o-war, it is best to get emergency help, especially if the symptoms include hives, back pain, shortness of breath, and muscle pain.

Insect Stings – Applying vinegar with a cotton ball to the site may alleviate the pain of an insect sting.  Some claim that this is a placebo effect and merely rubbing the affected area does the same amount of good. But if it works, why question it?

Personal Care

Taking care of our appearance can greatly affect the way we feel about ourselves, but there is no need to break the bank when deciding what to use on our bodies for our personal care.  Here are some (cheap!) ways to use vinegar in your personal care routine.

Hair – For shiny, conditioned hair, add one tablespoon of vinegar to the water when you rinse your hair. Got dandruff? Massage full-strength vinegar into your scalp a couple times a week before you shampoo, then shampoo and continue your usual hair care routine.

Aftershave – Vinegar may be used in place of aftershave.

Facial Cleanser – A mixture of half vinegar and half water can be used to cleanse the face.  Allow your face to air dry, rather than drying with a towel, to seal in moisture.   Vinegar can help to return your skin to a normal pH level and can help with acne as well. If your particular skin type is irritated by using vinegar, simply stop using it.

Oily Skin Treatment – The same facial cleanser mixture can be used and dabbed on the face with a cotton ball between washings to help control oil production. A cooling facial treatment can be made by freezing the half-vinegar/half-water mixture in ice cube trays.  On a day when you need a lift, remove a cube from the tray and rub over the face.

Age Spots – These may be lightened using a mixture of equal parts onion juice and vinegar. Dab on the affected area daily.  After several weeks, spots should lighten.  If you find they don’t lighten, at least you didn’t spend good money on an expensive, ineffective product from the store!

Itchy Skin – Adding a cup of vinegar to a tub of warm water and soaking in it for fifteen minutes or so will alleviate itchy skin.

Chapped Hands – Help your chapped hands to heal by mixing hand cream and vinegar in equal parts and then applying the mixture to your hands.

Hand Scrub – An easy scrub for especially dirty hands is a combination of corn meal and apple cider vinegar. Combine, scrub into your hands, rinse in cool water, and dry.

Extend Nail Polish Life – To make your nail polish last longer on your nails, soak your fingertips for one minute in a small bowl containing half a cup of warm water and two teaspoons of vinegar.  This should gently strip the oils and any residue from your nails, allowing the polish to better adhere to the nail.

Take control of beauty treatments with homemade products that use safe, nourishing ingredients to pamper the body and soothe the senses.

Animal Care

Vinegar can be used in caring for our animals as well. Here are a few ideas you might think about trying.

Litter Boxes – To freshen a kitty litter box, remove all the old litter and pour in vinegar to about half inch deep.  Allow it to sit for about fifteen minutes, then pour out the vinegar and dry completely.  Sprinkle the inside of the litter box with baking soda, pour in fresh kitty litter, and you should be good to go.  You may use a similar tactic when dealing with rabbit boxes as well.

Cat Deterrent – To encourage your cat to leave something alone, whether in your home or out in your flower beds, find a way to set vinegar in the area as a deterrent. In the garden, this may look like newspaper wads soaked in vinegar and placed in strategic places. In the home, this may look like a wiping down of a doorframe with vinegar or a sprinkling of vinegar on your countertop.

Cleaning Water Containers – We all know that outdoor water bowls and dispensers have a tendency to get nasty, particularly if poultry are involved.  To clean water bowls and other containers, saturate a rag with undiluted vinegar and wipe the containers clean. Then rinse well.

Improve Pet Digestion – To help with your pet’s digestive health, you may add a splash of vinegar to the water bowl.  You may do the same with outdoor animals as well. Just be careful not to overdo it, or you may end up repelling them from it!

Pet Accidents – These may be dealt with by first drying the urine, then spraying the area with full-strength vinegar.  The vinegar helps to fend off any offensive odors and can deter your pet from a repeated offense in that area.

Rinse Aid – To get rid of any soap residue after a bath, you can add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the rinse water when bathing your dog.  If you are treating skin issues, you may rinse with a stronger vinegar water solution (one part vinegar to three parts water).  If there are no skin issues, you may rinse with clear water after the vinegar rinse.  If there are skin issues, you may want to stop after the vinegar rinse.


Ear Itch – To help alleviate an itchy ear, dip a soft cloth in vinegar and wipe the inside of your pet’s ear.  If you think the ear issue was caused by dampness after grooming/bathing, the next time they are bathed you can put a vinegar-dampened cotton ball in each ear to help keep water out and prevent the issue from occurring in the first place.

Skunk Accidents – If your pet has had an unfortunate encounter with a skunk, you may rinse the animal with undiluted vinegar. Take care not to get the vinegar in their eyes or on any cuts or scrapes, as it will sting.

These ideas are just a sampling of the many uses of vinegar.  Are there any other ways you use your vinegar? Please share!

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