Medicine Mondays: Vinegar

Vinegar Bottles by Pernilla Lindmon Gauffin

Camping Uses for Vinegar

Especially for long term camping, and living in a tent, vinegar should be a staple of your camping supplies. It cleans, disinfects, can drive away bugs, and is a safe food additive.

Both White Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar can eat through their container (or the container lid’s seal), however, so make sure that wherever you store it, to keep it upright at all times.

Do not simply pour any type of vinegar onto your tent or tarps in an effort to keep the bugs away: it will begin to breakdown the material and weaken the structure.


White Vinegar

White vinegar is used for cleaning and disinfecting, and to help get rid of odors.

Most cleaning solutions for white vinegar are a very simple equation:

1 part white vinegar and 9 parts water

For example: when I clean a silicone cup, I wash it with just antibacterial soap and then I let it sit overnight in a loosely-lidded container with this mix. I know that it’s fully clean after 5 minutes, but I can forget it’s there for 3 weeks and it’s still just fine because the lid is very loose and the solution is correct.

I also, in a pinch, poured vinegar into a gouge on my leg. However, I was:

  • not alone
  • sitting on the ground
  • already accustomed to getting spots of chlorine burns on my legs, occasionally
  • at the time completely unable to find my actual disinfecting solutions

This is not something I recommend doing, whichever type of vinegar you use. As I said, it was an unusual situation (one which I never want to repeat).

Getting a clean cloth damp with vinegar, however, can be an easy way to clear dirt away from a wound, and help with minor cuts/bumps/bruises/scrapes/etc. “Minor” is the key word here.

For odors, fabrics are naturally easier. When you throw a load of wash in, add 3 ounces of white vinegar before adding the soap. Some people just put it in the fabric softener spot, if the machine has one. If you are hand washing, add more vinegar if the smell hasn’t dissipated halfway through washing. Like cooking, it’s a “to taste” recipe because of the variety of causes of a smell. You may need to wash more stubborn fabrics.

If you are hand washing, add more vinegar if the smell hasn’t dissipated halfway through washing. Like cooking, it’s a “to taste” recipe because of the variety of causes possible. You may need to wash more stubborn fabrics twice, and rinse repeatedly. Of course, adding baking soda will give you the bubbling to help with the abrasiveness.

For any style of washing, I’ve heard it can affect the color of some fabrics, but haven’t ever experienced this.

If the odor is on your tent or tarp itself, and you haven’t been able to successfully clean it in any regular manner, first try soaking the section in water, maybe with a light soap. If that doesn’t work or isn’t currently possible, get a washcloth or towel damp with the vinegar. Set it on the spot for 5 minutes. Lift it off and set it to the side. Check to make sure there isn’t any damage. Check to see if the smell is gone. Wait 10 minutes. If the smell is still there, try wiping the surfaces completely, and even try to dry it out (sometimes a smell just “falls out” if it’s actually because of particulate). If this didn’t help, or didn’t help enough, dampen the cloth again and repeat. Don’t rush the process.

With odors around your tent, but not on it: make sure the spot isn’t the home for something, and just pour a couple ounces on and around the section of ground. It can cut the smell quickly, and help keep it down. There are some smells, of course, that are just too strong. It’s not a miracle solution, but rather a temporary reprieve.


Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is used to drive away bugs, and can be used as a food additive with a kick. This is especially important for long-term camping, or those living in a tent.

Whether or not you choose to drink it, you can pour it onto your legs or hair, or items such as your socks and hat to help keep the pests away from where you are likely to have them try to bite.

If you’ve never tried to drink apple cider vinegar before, don’t just attempt to swig it. It won’t go well for you.

An idea of the flavor: take the most disgusting citrus drink you can think off, imagine it tasting a little more like turpentine, and give it a tiny afterburn. Then imagine there’s nothing available to cover it up with. Aaaaand there we go, if you flinched you’re pretty close.

For a 20oz bottle, you want to have about 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar.

However, you do not want that bottle to only ever have water in it, especially at first.

To start using this regularly, you want to pour in just a half-ounce into 20 ounces of your strongest favorite drink (I like Mixade or a red Powerade for this). Shake well, then take a sip.

If you can’t taste it: congratulations! (don’t try just water!!)

If you can: just swallow, it’ll become familiar with time. Honest.

After the first day or so, up the amount to a full ounce. If you are in a particularly buggy place for an extended amount of time, you may need to go as high as 2 or 3 ounces. (I wish you luck)

For those of you who shave while camping: it acts like an aftershave. It will keep any nicks or cuts from becoming infected, but – much like biting into a lemon when you have a cut on your lip – you will know where every broken spot of skin is for a minute or two. It can also, depending on skin and hair type, lighten hair color a little bit.

A friendly warning: apple cider vinegar dries out skin. Don’t use it on your face! One of the first times I was using it, I had poured in into my hair (it’s also a great dandruff shampoo alternative), but I had something brush my leg so I moved and it got on my forehead – lucky not near my eyes. Every single little wrinkle on my forehead became the Grand Canyon for almost a month, and my face hurt from my skin pulling.

DON’T GET IT IN YOUR EYES!!!! If you do, eye wash repeatedly with any clean water you’ve got, and you probably need to go to the ER.


So, on that ending note: has anyone used vinegar for cleaning, disinfecting, or as a bug repellent?

Are you interested in trying it?

Let me know in the comments!

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I'm (now) an Affiliate, who blogs about the materials, gear and supplies needed for living in a tent and long term camping: http://longtermcamping.siterubix.com I also enjoy reading and sci-fi in all its many forms.

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