There’s a hidden weapon in your house, probably sitting in a kitchen cabinet somewhere, just hoping for its shot at salad dressing stardom. Vinegar is more than just a cooking ingredient. The acidic, fermented liquid can also be an all-purpose cleaning fluid, a home remedy, a stain remover, and more. Are you using it to its full potential? You should be carrying it wherever you go, basically. Here are just some of the situations in which vinegar should be your go-to tool: 

1. Surface cleaner

Dilute distilled white vinegar with water and use the mixture to clean countertops, bathrooms, refrigerator shelves, mirrors, windows, hard water stains, and pretty much anything else. The acid makes it a natural anti-bacterial agent, including against some food-borne bacteria like E. coli, but is less toxic than many commercial cleaning products. It won’t kill every germ in its path, but it’s effective enough for normal household use. Just be careful using it on natural stone and hardwood floors. 

2. Coffee pot refresh

Over time, minerals from the hot mixture of water and coffee build up inside coffee makers, slowing down the drip process. Instead of buying a special cleaning solution, brew a pot of vinegar and water. Once a month, mix equal parts vinegar and water, and run it through the machine with an empty filter. Halfway through brewing, turn it off and let the coffee maker stew for 30 minutes. Then, turn it back on and let the mixture run through completely. Brew another pot of plain water to eliminate any leftover vinegar.  

3. Clean up dentures

Soaking dentures in white vinegar can disinfect them and remove stains and calcium deposits, according to dentists

4. Easy microwave cleanser 

Caked-on food scum can be steamed off the inner surfaces of a microwave with vinegar. Just stick a bowl of equal parts vinegar and water in the microwave, uncovered, until it’s hot enough to steam. The burnt, crusty remains of your latest Hot Pocket should be easy to wipe off now. 

5. Duster for blinds 

It’s hard to clean between the slats of horizontal window blinds with a feather duster or cloth. Put on a pair of gloves (or, in a pinch, cover a finger with an old sock) and dip your finger in vinegar until it’s damp (but not dripping wet). Run your fingers between two slats to clear out any dust. 

6. Dieting tool

A small study from Sweden found that consuming white bread with vinegar, rather than dry, increased satiety 30, 90, and 120 minutes after a meal. But take this one with a grain of salt (or a dash of vinegar): it only tested 12 subjects. 

7. Get rid of bumper stickers

Vinegar softens the bonds of adhesives, meaning you can use it to help remove stubborn bumper stickers. Some anti-sticker fanatics recommend using a straight vinegar solution, while others suggest mixing it with liquid dishwashing soap. Either way, let the vinegar sit on the sticker for five minutes or so before scraping at it. 

8. Peel off old wallpaper

Wallpaper is kind of like a giant bumper sticker applied to the walls, and it can be stubborn about being torn away. Try spritzing it with hot water and vinegar for easier removal. 

9. Get rid of smoke smells 

Tobacco smoke is notorious for seeping into surfaces, leaving the lingering, stale smell of cigarettes in clothes, carpets, and couches for years. To deodorize a whole room, try leaving a bowl of vinegar in the middle of the floor overnight. For clothes and other portable items, the vinegar-makers at Heinz recommend two cups of vinegar in a bathtub of hot water. Hang the clothes above the tub and let the smell steam away. 

10. Cook fish

Raw fish can be "cooked" without any heat just by soaking it in an acidic marinade. In Central or South American cuisine, you may know this as a dish called ceviche. The acid from vinegar and citrus juices causes proteins in the fish to denature, just like they would if you stuck the filet on the grill. 

11. Revive old rugs

Rugs tend to flatten out after enduring years of foot traffic and heavy furniture loads. You can perk up your pile with vinegar and baking soda. Brush baking soda into the carpet to get rid of odors, and let it sit. The next morning, vacuum up the baking soda, and spritz the rug with a vinegar and water mix. After it dries, the pile should rise. Just remember to vacuum up the baking soda first, or you’ll create a foamy mess. 

12. Remove stains

Clean up after a messy pet or a messy human by pouring a vinegar and baking soda mixture onto the stain. The bubbling combination works like a DIY Oxyclean, working out stains. Let it dry for a few hours and vacuum the whole mess up. For clothing stains, pour full-strength vinegar on the stain within a day, and then throw it in the wash after it dries. 

13. Make a volcano 

It’s a technique time-tested by middle school scientists everywhere: when you mix vinegar and baking soda, things get explosive. When the acidic vinegar comes in contact with the basic baking soda, they form carbonic acid, an unstable compound that immediately fizzes into water and carbon dioxide—a fizzy eruption. 

14. Keep dye from running in the wash

To keep bright colors from bleeding when you wash them, soak the clothing in white vinegar before you throw it in the washing machine. This will keep your blue jeans blue, not a washed-out gray. 

15. Get rid of bugs

To get rid of flies around the house, make a trap with apple cider vinegar mixed with a little sugar. Put it in a cup or jar with a piece of cling wrap over the top, with small holes poked through it so the flies can enter. Once they fly through the plastic wrap in search of the vinegar and sugar, they’ll be trapped. You can also try cutting the tops off plastic water bottles and inverting them to form a funnel.  

All images courtesy iStock