In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding the father is convinced that Windex fixes everything from psoriasis to poison ivy to bruises to the common zit. Whenever an ailment arises he says with great conviction, “Put some Windex on it.”
As I was loading yet another family size container of vinegar into my shopping cart I realized I have become the mirror image of Gus. Only I’m a girl and my fix-all cure is vinegar. Gus would be horrified but I stopped buying Windex years ago and started filling spray bottles with a mixture of water and vinegar instead. I not only use it to clean windows and mirrors, but I keep a bottle in the shower and use it the same way you would a spray-and-walk-away commercial cleaner. I keep another bottle under the kitchen sink for spraying inside glasses before popping them into the dishwasher. It does a great job of removing hard water deposits.
I wash our floors with a bucket of hot water, a splash of vinegar and a few drops of olive oil for shine. And a dab of essential oil just to keep our house from smelling like a bucket of salad dressing. And speaking of salad dressing, of course I cook with it too. A splash of vinegar and half a teaspoon of cumin are just two of my secret chili weapons. Or not so secret now that I just told you about it.
I’ve used vinegar to add shine to my hair, take the sting out of sunburns and to fade my freckles. I even take vinegar out to the garden to kill weeds. Well . . . to torture the weeds anyway. It works best if you apply it on a really hot day.
If it’s windy and you’re worried about it drifting onto your vegetables or flowers you can simply pour it in a bucket and use a mop. Be sure to wring it out so you don’t drip too much into the soil. And be prepared for a few funny looks from the neighbours when they see you outside mopping your garden. You can also put on a pair of rubber gloves and then slip a pair of cloth ones over top, dunk your gloved hands in the bucket and systematically pet the plants you want to kill. I’ve also heard of gardeners using paper towel rolls to kill weeds that are hopelessly woven in amongst the plants they want to keep. They slide the roll over the stem of the weed and then use a spray bottle to squirt down inside the roll. Of course this would just be for weeds with rhizomes that make pulling them futile. “What exactly is vinegar?” a friend asked when we discovered I hadn’t rinsed the coffee machine as often as I should have after running vinegar through to clean it.
“Seriously? You don’t know what vinegar is?” I asked, dumping our coffee down the drain and preparing to run another batch of water through the machine.
And that’s when I realized after decades of splashing it on my house, my garden, my body and my food I didn’t really know what vinegar was neither. But I couldn’t very well admit it.
“It’s an acid,” I said. “But a safe acid. People started using it thousands of years ago.”
“And all those people are dead.”
I flipped on the tea kettle and got out the earl grey.
After she left I did a little research and discovered that vinegar is basically sour alcohol. It’s made from fermenting diluted alcoholic liquids, typically wine, cider, or beer. However it is also made synthetically from petrochemicals. Apparently if the label says things like cider-flavored then the vinegar is probably synthetic based. Another told how you can make your own by mashing up two pounds of raisins and adding it to a gallon of water in an uncorked two gallon jug. Let stand in a warm place for about two months then strain through a cheesecloth — voila! White wine vinegar. Or perhaps a severe case of botulism.
Whether you make your own, buy it made from a natural source or from one that’s synthetic all I know for sure is that you never see people pickling cucumbers in Windex. Sorry Gus. And one more thing. If you clean your coffee pot with vinegar rinse it with plain water at least three times.
Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can read more of her writing by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com
(Editor’s note: Shannon McKinnon is taking a break. This is her final column until she returns in early October.)