DEAR MARY: I’ve noticed that on the gallon jug of white vinegar it says “mixed with water to a 5% acidity.” Is it possible to buy pure vinegar and dilute it to whatever acidity i want for myself? The gallons are heavy and take up storage space. Just thinking there might be an easier way. By the way, I love all of the homemade cleaners you share! Cally


DEAR CALLY: Yes, there is a way that you can mix your own vinegar and to the exact level of acidity you desire.

White vinegar consists of 5 to 20 percent acetic acid and water, which has a variety of industrial, medical and domestic uses.

An easy way to create 5-percent acidity is to mix 1/2 cup acetic acid with 1 gallon water. To make 30-percent acidity (ideal as a very potent weed killer), mix 3 cups of acetic acid to one gallon water.

The challenge is to find and then safely store acetic acid. You must be very careful to keep it safely out of reach of children and pets and clearly labeled. It has very strong fumes and should be handled cautiously.

You can get a quart of Food Grade Glacial Acetic Acid from Amazon for about $19 including shipping. One quart would make 8 gallons of vinegar with 5-percent acidity (1/2 cup acetic acid per 1 gallon water) at a cost of about $2.40 per gallon. This would produce supermarket-strength white vinegar you could us to make salad dressing, as substitute for fabric softener; your own scum and soap remover for the tub and shower, a batch of regular homemade weed killer and to be used in many other ways around the house.

Making your own white vinegar will achieve your goals to lighten your load and cut down on storage space. As a bonus, you could easily save you a few bucks over the course of time, depending how much vinegar you use.

I pay about $3 for one gallon white vinegar at Costco (it comes in a 1.32 gallon jug for about $4). I rip through a gallon in no time at all, which means I usually buy several jugs at a time. I know what you mean about a heavy load! The average price for a gallon of white vinegar at Walmart looks to be about $5.

Compare what you are paying to the $2.40 per gallon price mentioned above. I think we’ve got a winner! Thanks for the idea.

CAUTION: When using white vinegar in your washing machine as a substitute for liquid fabric softener, DO NOT use full strength acetic acid! Only use white vinegar with 5-percent acidity (1/2 cup acetic acid to 1 gallon of water if you are mixing your own).

DEAR MARY: I have bags and bags of hotel soaps—you know, stuffed away after trips (guess we traveled more than we realized). Anyway, do you know of anyone or an organization that would be interested in them? I have melted down way more than I need already. Elgie

DEAR ELGIE: Oh yes! Consider gifting these toiletries to a homeless shelter your area. Homeless shelters are one of the most direct ways to get your toiletries to someone who needs them. You can find a homeless shelter near you on the Homeless Shelter Directory.

Another option would be a local women’s shelter. Giving the women in these shelters access to toiletries of their own gives them a sense of ownership and the opportunity to start fresh. Visit—a great resource with shelters across the U.S.

Does your church send out ministry teams in the summer or fill shoeboxes for needy kids during the Christmas season? Small toiletry items are ideal for both. I’ve sent bags of small toiletries with young people to take with them as they spend weeks each summer in third world countries, building schools and helping out at orphanages. The children and workers are thrilled to receive any kind of toiletry item.

I know that my church will take all of the toiletry items I can bring in—that’s how how much they’re needed and appreciated. Makes me wonder if perhaps a church or synagogue in your area would also be as grateful.

Hope that helps!