How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Last Update: May 16, 2023

Got apple cider vinegar? You can drink it, eat it, and even use it as a bona fide beauty booster. In fact, the fermented liquid (also known as ACV) has been an obsession among natural living enthusiasts for decades. Read on to find out why! 

Regular ACV doesn’t contribute high levels of nutrients and minerals, but the organic, raw, undistilled, and unfiltered variety (like Bragg’s) has plenty thanks to something called the “mother.” This is the cloudy sediment visible inside the bottle, which boasts proteins, enzymes, amino acids, and fiber (particularly from the pectin in apples). It also has plenty of prebiotic power, which feeds the “good” bacteria in your gut.

ACV is high in naturally antimicrobial acetic acid, too, giving it the ability to kill bacteria and pathogens. That makes it a great cleansing agent for the body and disinfectant in the home, too.

As you can see, we may be a little obsessed, but get ready to jump on the bandwagon with us—especially after you discover all of these unexpected ways to use apple cider vinegar for just about everything.

Apple cider vinegar for overall health

To harness all the health benefits, it’s best to take a shot of apple cider vinegar diluted in water before or after meals (we usually do three parts water to one part ACV). Or, create a flavorful tonic with maple syrup and ground ginger. As always, be sure to check with your doctor first before jumping into any new health regimen.

Here are some ways drinking ACV on the regular can boost your health.

1. Aid digestion

The mother substance in organic, raw, undistilled, and unfiltered ACV has plenty of fiber, which is known to lead to better digestion. Scientists also believe that ACV can inhibit the digestion of starch, which will lead to fewer calories entering the bloodstream. Along with ACV’s effects on LDL, appetite, and water retention, this may help you drop some pounds.

2. Minimize water retention

The trace amounts of potassium in ACV can help balance sodium levels and de-puff the body.

3. Improve gut flora

The gut is home to 70 percent of the body’s immune system, so it has a great role in regulating immune responses and corresponding inflammation (the body’s reaction to injury or infection). This is where a daily dose of ACV is important. Just like other fermented foods, it can feed the friendly bacteria in the GI tract and nourish a healthy gut microbiome.

4. Get energized

For a much-needed jolt, drink 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV diluted in a glass of water or juice. Doing so will provide fatigue-fighting potassium and enzymes.

Quick remedies using apple cider vinegar

ACV is revered by many a versatile elixir. Try these easy DIY to see if you agree.

5. Settle stomachaches

A cup of hot apple cider vinegar and honey can ease tummy troubles. Stir 1 teaspoon ACV and 1 teaspoon raw honey into a cup of hot water.

6. Stay regular

Drinking a cup of ACV and honey every day, followed by a few glasses of water, could help move things along.

7. Ease muscle cramps

Some cramps can be a result of low potassium levels. Drinking a bit of diluted ACV once or twice a day can help restore the essential mineral, and ultimately relax your muscles.

8. Soothe a scratchy throat

Feel a tickle in your throat? Make a do-it-yourself throat-coat tea made of hot water infused with honey and ACV.

9. Stop hiccups

The next time you have a never-ending fit of hiccups, reach for a bottle of ACV. Dilute a tiny bit into a shot glass of water, and bottoms up!

10. Treat sunburn

Help soothe your next mild sunburn with apple cider vinegar. Simply dilute the vinegar with water in a spray bottle, and spritz on the affected areas. Or, add one cup of ACV to a warm bath and soak.

11. Fade bruises

ACV’s acetic acid can increase circulation and help diminish bruises more quickly. Before it turns into a full-on shiner, you’ll want to soak a cotton ball with a little of the vinegar and set with a bandage for 10 to 15 minutes.

12. Apply to nail fungus

Simply clip and file infected nails, and then soak in a foot bath with some apple cider vinegar. Do this twice a day for 15 to 25 minutes.

13. Help address lice

ACV and coconut oil can provide a natural alternative to treating lice infestations. Proponents say ACV helps dissolve the adhesive that binds lice eggs to hair follicles, while coconut oil suffocates live bugs and keeps them from moving easily throughout the hair. Though it’s a bit of a process, it may spare you from having to use harmful chemicals on your head. To try, first coat hair thoroughly with ACV, let air dry, and then apply coconut oil all over. Cover hair with a towel or shower cap and let it sit for three to five hours. Comb hair to remove residual lice and eggs, then shampoo and condition.

Cooking with apple cider vinegar

Here are just a few reasons why apple cider vinegar earned its status as a pantry staple in the kitchens of health-minded cooks everywhere.

14. Make salad dressing

The sparkly-sour taste of ACV adds brightness to any dish, including a plate of greens. For the only dressing you’ll ever need, whisk together ¾ cup organic extra-virgin olive oil, ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 2 to 3 tablespoons stone-ground mustard, and the juice from ½ of a fresh organic lemon.

15. Boost savory dishes

Try a showstopping recipe of sautéed rainbow chard with bacon, complemented by a bright note from ACV.

16. Elevate soup

Add a little apple cider vinegar to your favorite soup for an extra flavor punch.

17. Amp up a smoothie

Give your morning smoothie added nutrients and health benefits with a little splash of ACV.

18. Make guilt-free chips

ACV is the secret ingredient to these amazing homemade Brussels sprouts chips that’ll make you forget about conventional potato chips forever.

19. Bake with it

In a pinch, a little apple cider vinegar plus baking soda can replace baking powder as a leavener. The mixture creates tiny bubbles, which allow muffins and cakes to rise. To account for 1 teaspoon baking powder, sub in ¼ teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients in the recipe and 1 teaspoon ACV to the wet ingredients.

20. Make vegan buttermilk

You can still have thick, creamy buttermilk even if you don’t eat dairy. ACV thickens up milk alternatives and gives it that signature sour taste. Just fill one cup with almond milk and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Done!

Apple cider vinegar for bath, body, and beauty

Turns out ACV is also an all-star beauty booster. Here are some of our favorite ways to use it for healthier skin, hair, and nails.

21. Condition hair

Each strand of hair is protected by a cuticle comprised of tightly woven scales that lay flat against the shaft and reflect light—that’s what makes it shiny! But when hair’s normally acidic pH balance goes out of whack—usually from a buildup of alkaline products—the cuticle comes undone. That leaves hair prone to breakage and a frizzy and dull appearance. The acidity in vinegar can help restore the pH balance and repair the cuticle. Just mix ½ cup distilled water and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz generously onto wet hair, work into scalp, and rinse.

22. Clear away dandruff

Raw, unfiltered ACV also has natural alpha-hydroxy acid that can gently exfoliate the scalp and hair to remove dead skin cells and product buildup. Use the same natural hair conditioning solution listed above to get rid of flakes.

23. Deep-clean pores

ACV pairs perfectly with bentonite clay powder to make a facial mask that draws out dirt and impurities from pores (seriously, you’ll feel your face tingle as proof!). Combine equal parts of each, smooth over the face, leave on 15 to 20 minutes, and rinse.

24. Exfoliate and tone

Make your own exfoliating and blemish-fighting toner with just a few ingredients: ½ cup ACV, ½ cup of water, 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, and 2 tablespoons fresh mint. To see how simply it comes together, watch this video.

25. Soothe skin all over

Who needs the spa? Treat yourself to a luxurious head-to-toe treatment by soaking in a bath with eight ounces of ACV and several drops of a calming essential oil like rosemary. It will help restore the skin’s natural pH balance and leave you feeling your best.

26. Relieve razor bumps

Mixed with a little antibacterial tea tree oil, the acetic acid in ACV can clear away dead skin cells, which helps prevent infection and ingrown hairs.

27. Replace deodorant

Soak a cotton ball with ACV and swipe it under the arms. This will help lower the skin’s pH, and kill the bacteria that causes odors.

28. Fight foot odor

Since ACV is antifungal, regularly spraying feet with a mixture of equal parts ACV and water can combat the dreaded smell.

29. Freshen breath

An overgrowth of bad bacteria in the digestive tract could be the cause of stinky breath. But ACV can help. Simply swallow a tablespoon of vinegar diluted with water or juice before or after meals.

Apple cider vinegar around the house

ACV is also an excellent all-natural alternative to bleach and other harmful chemical cleaners.

30. Polish wood

For an organic polish that can restore the shiny, classic look of wooden furniture, mix ¼ cup ACV with 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. (The formula is generally safe for both finished and unfinished wood.)

31. Dissolve dirt

Apple cider vinegar mixed with water makes a powerful all-purpose cleaner around the house that picks up dirt and makes surfaces sparkle.

32. Kill mildew

The same solution above can be used as a safe and effective mildew spray for the shower.

33. Degrease dishes

To make hard-to-clean pots and pans spotless, combine equal parts ACV and dish soap directly on the surface and scrub. Trust us: it works!

34. Unclog drains

The fizzy reaction that comes from mixing together baking soda and ACV can help clear clogged drains. First, sprinkle a cup of baking soda down the sink, followed by a cup of apple cider vinegar. Let it sit for at least five minutes (or longer, depending on how serious the blockage is). Then, run hot water down the drain. Hair and other debris should dislodge and clear the way.

35. Kill weeds

Want a safe, natural, and eco-friendly way to kill weeds? Mix a ½ gallon ACV with a ¼ cup table salt and ½ teaspoon liquid dish soap. Add to a water bottle and spray directly at the target. Be careful to use it strictly as a spot treatment though since it can kill other plants.

36. Fertilize your garden

On the flip side, ACV can also act as a fertilizer for certain species that love acidic soil, such as blueberry bushes, hydrangeas, and hibiscus. Mix 10 ounces ACV with 10 gallons water and pour on soil to help cultivate these kinds of plants.

Apple cider vinegar for cats and dogs

Even pets can get down with apple cider vinegar.

37. De-flea pets

Fleas despise the acidic taste of ACV, so if your dog is itching, try adding just a little of the vinegar to their bowl of water. For a 40-pound dog, 1 teaspoon ACV to 1 quart water is recommended (adjust according to weight). (Do not add ACV to a cat’s water.) For both dogs and cats, a 1:1 mixture of ACV and water can be sprayed directly onto fur and skin. (Dilution is especially important for cats, who tend to have more sensitive skin.)

38. Get rid of the smell of urine

If your cat has sprayed on any linens around the house, adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to the laundry may help neutralize the ammonia odor.

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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