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Will Vinegar Damage Car Paint?

A clear shot of vinegar on bottle.

Keeping your car’s paint in perfect condition is easier said than done because it’s not the big things that damage the vehicle in the long run. However, it is the small things that happen almost daily.

In addition, there are many everyday elements around that tend to deteriorate the paint of a vehicle without even noticing until it is too late. It is important to note that cleaning a vehicle with vinegar may not be the best op tion.

My Story

Someone once told me that it was ok to clean my car with white vinegar. All I had to do was to use a ratio of 3:1 to mix the vinegar with water and pour in a spray bottle to use on my car.

I was supposed to then wipe the car down using newspaper to get a dry shine without any streaks. I was not going to try something that I was not sure of and so I did not do it. I just took it to the car wash each time. Moreover, at the time, my vehicle was new.

What if it is a New Vehicle?

New black Mercedes Benz on road.

Modern car paint is applied in multiple layers to protect the bodywork, and although it is developed with durability in mind, various substances and materials that we encounter on a daily basis can damage the paint.

You will find many solutions to this problem, such as ceramic coating or protective films, but there is no objection that the most economical solution is to keep the car clean and use products specifically designed for it.

What is Vinegar?

Vinegar is one of the favorite cleaning solutions because it is natural, super effective, non-toxic and inexpensive. However, it cannot be applied to all surfaces or else it could cause irreparable damage, and that includes an automobile.

Why? Although there are tricks to apply it in a vehicle, there are good reasons never use vinegar to clean the exterior of a car.

Is It Good To Use on Any Area of the Car?

A bottle of vinegar inside the car.

Do not be scared, because there are some very good tricks to clean a car with vinegar, as long as it is not on the body of the vehicle.

While it is an excellent method to use on the windows, mirrors and even clean and super bright headlights with a mixture of water and white vinegar in equal portions, it can damage the paint.

It is also a great option to clean plastic, vinyl, and wood inside the car. It will help to eliminate bacteria, dust and even bad odors, in addition to leaving an incredible shine.

It is important to mix white vinegar with linseed oil in the same parts, shake very well and apply the solution on a microfiber cloth, never directly.

In addition, it has to be cleaned again with another clean and dry cloth, when it comes to using vinegar on the car. It is recommended not to leave residues that dry on their own.

Why You Should Never Use Vinegar To Clean the Exterior of Your Car?

A man worker cleaning the car.

Vinegar is an acid, so it can damage the clear, shiny coat of your car’s paint, gradually making it dull. Another reason not to use this product on the body is that it does not provide the same lubrication as a specialized shampoo or car cleaner, so it could cause scratches.

If I made a decision to clean the interior of my car or remove the scale from the headlights with vinegar and I accidentally get vinegar on the paint, I would have to rinse and clean with a cloth immediately, never letting the vinegar dry in the sun, as the water evaporates, but the acidic component that will dull it remains on the paint.

In addition, spraying vinegar directly on the car could etch the paint, especially if it was done in high heat and direct sunlight and it was left on for a long time.


Do not try to use vinegar to even clean small dirt on the paint coating like tartar or bird poop, as it has no lubrication to cover the dirt and you will need to apply more force to clean, resulting in a stain and possible scratches.

The best degreaser for the exterior of the vehicle is rubbing alcohol, which has the advantage of evaporating very quickly. It does not normally attack paint. However, do a test beforehand to make sure. For paint, I think it’s best that you refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.