I’m pleased to have Danielle from Laundry Care guest post at Mama’s today. She’s an experienced laundress and I couldn’t agree more with her assessment of white vinegar.
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I’m often asked by friends and family what my favorite laundry product is. With the endless choices available I can see why people want guidance on the best products to use.
Take a stroll down the cleaning aisle of your local general store and you’ll encounter everything from detergent to stain treatment, from softeners to brighteners. To make things even more complicated, the expanding varieties of different fabrics, both natural and synthetic, used in clothing has made the quest for the one perfect product combination seem futile.
Before you throw your hands in the air and grab whatever’s on sale, there is one product I stand by that isn’t even in the laundry aisle. It’s commonly found with the salad dressings and it’s a very reasonable $3 to $6 per gallon.
The product I’m referring to is white vinegar.
The list of benefits that white vinegar provides to your clothing exceeds that of any commercial cleaner out there. Combine this with the fact that it’s nontoxic and green and you’ve got the perfect laundry product.
Convincing Reasons to use White Vinegar in the Wash
1.) It brightens. If you’re looking for a gentler alternative to color-safe bleach, white vinegar is your answer. It helps keep your colors bright without the risk of lifting dye.
2.) It whitens. The acidic properties of white vinegar help restore dingy whites to their original bright state. All you need to do is fill a bucket with hot water, add 2 cups of white vinegar and let dingy clothes soak overnight. By morning, your old clothes will be noticeably whiter. As an added bonus, this same property also kills bacteria that can sometimes be found on clothes.
3.) It deodorizes. Clothes can be a magnet for smells in the environment. Smoke, pet odor and overall funkiness can be easily removed by adding a ½ cup in the rinse cycle.
4.) It softens. The advantage white vinegar has over commercial softeners is that it softens and fluffs without leaving a residue build-up on your clothes. Commercial softeners used repeatedly in the wash can form a waxy build-up that breaks down the fabric’s integrity over time.
5.) It removes stains. Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and warm water to remove moderately saturated stains or apply a paste of baking soda and white vinegar to muscle out stubborn stains. The mildness of the vinegar means there’s no risk of destroying the fabric or dye unlike other stain treatment products.
How else can you use white vinegar?
In addition to the reasons listed above it cleans your washer, helps remove pet hair from clothes, reduces static, and removes that mildew smell you get when clothes have been mistakenly left in a washer. What other product can do all this at such a low cost?
There are a lot of great options when it comes to laundry but if you want something that is both versatile and is multi-purpose, my recommendation is to add ½ cup of white vinegar to each load.
Danielle Douglas has 15 years of experience in cleaning clothes. She is the owner of Laundry Care, a premier wash and fold service provider.
Wow! I’ve been using vinegar as a softener for years but I had no idea it could remove stains as well. I’ll be sure to try that soon!
Hi. I just moved into a house that has hard water. I would love to use white vinegar as a water softener. How much would I add per load?
Dawn, I don’t think that white vinegar is going to solve a lot of the hard water issues. You’ll need a water softener for that. Sorry 🙁
hi, I bought new flannel sheets and looking for ways to help stop them distributing fluff all over the bedroom carpet I came across the suggestion to wash before use without detergent but with a cup of white vinegar.
the sheets are white with a black stripe. when I hung them out to dry I noticed yellowish patches on the top sheet.
I wondered could this be because as the washing machine was still filling I poured the cup of white vinegar around the washing, i think the top sheet was on the top, could it be that? should i have waited until the water was covering the sheets and agitating?
Hey Judith, I don’t think it was the vinegar, as I’ve never known that solution to dye or bleach a fabric. My guess is it was some type of rust in your machine, maybe? Or some type of bleed from the stripe?
I’m not totally sure, but my bet is definitely not on the vinegar.
So sorry that happened to you!
Yes, try it! You’ll love the results, especially if you dry the really stubborn stains in the sun.
Use Borax as your water softener, or search for a detergent that includes softener ingredients like Seventh Generation.
I use vinegar often in my laundry (and elsewhere around the house – comparable to bleach for disinfecting) but since I don’t have any way of adding it to the rinse cycle (front loader), I just pour it in the dispenser after my liquid laundry detergent and it assists in the wash cycle.
Also not that while you can still smell it on the wet clothes, I typically don’t notice any lingering vinegar scent after the clothes are dried (except the rare occasion where I’ve used too much – maybe on stinky towels).
Bonnie, you don’t have a fabric dispenser in the pull-out detergent section of your front loader? If you do, put the vinegar in that compartment and it will go in during the rinse cycle.
I have front loader as well and just add it to the fabric softener dispenser. It seems to do the trick 🙂
I’ve been using vinegar with my towels for a couple of years now. I don’t have a fabric softener dispenser, so I put it in my downy ball. I’m going to have to try putting it in a bucket with hot water. My white cleaning rags are getting kind of dingy from dusting.
I’ve heard that vinegar can damage the PUL lining on cloth diapers. Do you know if this is true? And if it is true how much and how often is safe to use on cloth diapers with PUL lining.
I’ve never heard that about PUL before. I’ve been washing diaper covers with PUL with vinegar in the rinse cycle for almost 3 years with no visible damage.
Jenn, thanks, that’s great to know.
I’ve never heard of vinegar ruining PUL. I’ll research that and let you know if it actually does.
i heard somewhere about a fabric softener made of 1 c baking soda, 2 c water and 1 c vinegar, do you think, that could work?
Mary, I personally wouldn’t use it because of the baking soda. It would be difficult to thoroughly rinse baking soda using just the water in the rinse cycle. If you choose to use baking soda, it needs to be during the wash cycle.
And the water would dilute the white vinegar quite a bit. You can use full strength white vinegar in the rinse cycle with no trouble.
If you’re looking to use something cheap and effective for a fabric softener, I’d use just the plain, full-strength white vinegar.
Question for you gals using white vinegar as a fabric softner. I’ve been using it for about a month now and was very impressed at first. In the last few loads I’ve done I have started noticing a lot of knots on my clothes. Does anyone know if this is related to the white vinegar? If not any ideas? I put it in my downy ball on the extra large load line. I have been using homemade detergent but do not think it is related to that. Thanks in advance!!
I have a regular washing machine, can I add vinegar to the little cup in the middle where you would normally put fabric softener?
I have a water softener, does that alter the effectiveness?
Yes – add away. It shouldn’t have any effect on the water softener.
I found a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that includes white vinegar. Would this be safe to use to wash my cloth diapers on a regular basis?
Rhiannan, I’d be very careful with using vinegar in every wash. Any and all additives should be used sparingly and infrequently. It’s my understand that vinegar can cause diaper elastic to break down significantly over time.
I am going to try this tomorrow and see what the results are. I have always wondered how my aunt would get her whites so crispy and bright! I always saw her with vinegar, but didn’t really put 2 _2 together, until now.
Can you substitute white distilled vinegar as a laundry detergent? Or should you use white distilled vinegar and laundry detergent together?
I live in an apartment with a laundry pair consisting of a Frigidaire Front Loading HE Washing Machine, and a Frigidaire Electric Dryer, both compact and stackable for a studio apartment, and I have a question for you. I don’t know if you might know about this, but you can certainly give it your best shot. It seems that lately, I’ve been interested in a lot of different fragrances, particularly fragrances that are natural, and I have a question for you. I’ve tried several fabric softeners, including Downy, Bounce, and Seventh Generation, and it seems that the liquid versions of Downy and Seventh Generation give me a rash, as well as the dryer sheet versions of Downy and Bounce. I didn’t think that Seventh Generation Liquid Fabric Softener was going to give me a rash, but then I realized that when I had my mobility trainer, Tim McLeod, read the label for me, despite the fact that it contains the all-natural fragrance of lavender and blue eucalyptus, we discovered it contained several chemicals, most of which neither Tim nor I can easily pronounce. Another downside was the price, $9 for a 32-ounce bottle! However, the Seventh Generation dryer sheets have the same scent of lavender and blue eucalyptus, but they don’t give me a rash. I’ve been using vinegar and baking soda combined, as an alternative to commercial fabric softeners for my bedding, especially my knitted afghans. However, since the vinegar overpowers the baking soda, which for me seems to have no scent (the baking soda), it seems to make them smell like a salad afterwards, which, let me say, is rather sour. I want them to smell like something sweet, like peach, orange, lemon, pear, vanilla, something nice, like an ocean breeze, a spring meadow, a pine forest, or even something calm like lavender and eucalyptus. As I have a deep love for Australia, that, to me, is the scent of paradise! How would I achieve this? Do I put essential oil in the vinegar before combining with baking soda? Do I put essential oil in the baking soda before combining with vinegar? I’m confused! my Mom tells me I would have to be careful when making up my fabric softener, as vinegar and baking soda bubble and foam when they combine. She has also tried to tell me that they would fizz over if I was to shake them up in a bottle. In other words, they would possibly fizz right out of the bottle! Is that something I should take precautions of? Is she trying to tell me that it would make a mess? I’m confused! Mom thought I couldn’t make this alone, in other words, she wanted to wait until she was here to see what would happen. But I proved her wrong, and showed her that my 85% grade in science was a good grade, and that I absolutely know what I’m doing. Even when I made the mixture in a bucket that I put in the shower, it didn’t even make a mess. Sure it went fizz fizz, which cracked me up because I thought it sounded cool, but it didn’t bubble over and make a mess like mom thought it would. The reason for this is that #1, I slowly poured the vinegar into the baking soda, little bits at a time, and #2, I waited until the mixture settled to put it into the bottle. I don’t know if I should do this next time, but one thing I forgot to do was warm the vinegar, because despite the fact that it was at room temperature, it seems some of the baking soda didn’t dissolve. Instead, it settled on the bottom of the bucket that I made the mixture in. Also, when it got to the point where it was near the end of my mixture, I discovered that when I tried to shake it up, it was all undissolved baking soda! What should I do when I make my next batch?
Please share any ideas…I have white football pants to keep clean and it is impossible to get them white again. I try spot bleaching but I don’t like the yellowing that is beginning to appear. Any Suggestions?
How do you get the smell of vinegar out of your clothes if you add too much to a wash cycle? I may have dumped about half the gallon into the wash because my workout clothes have a funk in them that washing never handles. Now my clothes smell like I tried to pickle them…will the smell go away with another wash? Or is there a trick
Here is another great use for white vinegar. Fill an empty spray bottle full strength or 2 parts vinegar 1 part water. Spray it on the dirtiest windows home or car. The scrunch up old newspaper (black and white) to remove. Your windows will shine like there is no glass. Also during those hot humid days if you see a little mold appearing on a wall spray and use a light scrub brush to remove. Both work wonderful and have been using for over 40 years.
Is it possible to remove a light spot from clothing with white vinegar without leaving a circle?
I’m wondering if it is a problem to use white vinegar and bleach/color safe bleach at the same time.
I use vinegar in my washer when i’m washing my tshirts.
but for some reason, after they are done hang drying indoors, when i wear them, the second they get wet, or sweaty them emit this most obnoxious order. i don’t know what to do. i’ve cleaned my washing machine. and wash with vinegar.
would it be best to actually dry them? hang dry them outside. my shirts are becoming garbage because i can’t get the smell out of them.
Hola mama, I would like to know when mixing the vinegar and baking soda. Do I mix both together, and can I mix them in the wash and rinse cycle? Do I always need to use it with hot water?
Mix the vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl. Remember that it WILL FIZZ pretty heavily since it’s a chemical reaction!
Add just enough vinegar to the baking soda to create the same consistency as toothpaste and then apply to the stain with a spoon or other implement you can use to spread the paste.
I am trying to find out if using the vinegar solution of 1/2 cup of vinegar to two gallons of hot water will fade or harm the blue trim or blue silkscreen ed team logo on a 100% white polyester shirt with sunscreen and perspiration stains? I has also lost its original whiteness.
Dorothy, I’ve never known white vinegar to lift the color on a fabric. That is one of the beautiful things about it!
You can probably use the vinegar with a good result.
Hi, I am trying to learn how to clean my house and wash my clothing (specially whites) in a more natural way. I have heard a lot about white vinegar ( I have no idea how powerful this natural product is) but I still have some questions. I was reading that Borax (never heard about it in my life) or Washing Soda (not Baking Soda) was better to wash whites. Is that true? If so, is it safe to use in both, white and colors? And I scared about all I read regarding fabric softeners that I would like to go a more natural way. I do front load washer and dryer and I do have water softer at home . Should I use white vinegar instead of fabric soften? Is it safe in both, whites and colored clothes? Thank you for your help.
Yes, you can definitely use white vinegar as a fabric softener! It is a very safe option and results are wonderful. The fabric won’t be quite as soft as when you use a product like Downy, but the results are much better than washing alone. White vinegar is safe to use in every load – lights and darks.
As for Borax and washing soda, you’ll need to research those a bit. Borax can definitely cause a chemical burn (like many laundry products), so you’ll need to be careful with it. I don’t use it exclusively, so I can’t offer much advice on it.
I just bought a pink top and my maide washed a new blue top with the pink top. The whole top is full of blue stains…. Can i use vinegar and how much?
Monica, in my experience and research, white vinegar will do nothing to help with removing the color stain that bled onto your shirt.
I would try using a product like Carbona Color Run Remover and following the directions very carefully.
I have heard that using white vinegar in the washing machine damages the rubber hoses. Is this true.
I’ve never heard of this, Ann. I have heard of ammonia damaging tubes, but never vinegar.
Sorry I can’t be of more help!
I know this is an older post, but might I humbly suggest a warning be attached to NEVER MIX BLEACH AND VINEGAR? This can release chlorine gas, which can be deadly if inhaled.
When using white vinegar to help with whiten your clothes do you still have to or should i still use bleach
Hi, I use white vinegar to set the color in embroidery thread on white flour towels. Recently, I purchased my first colored embroidery fabric and I started thinking that when I go to set the color, will the white vinegar harm the color of the fabric, itself. It is a bright orange because its a Fall pattern. Any ideas?
Hey Amy –
So you’ve already stitched the thread onto the fabric when you set the color? Or do you soak the thread first?
I’ve done quite a bit of cross-stitching in my time, and it uses the same type embroidery thread. I’d set the color before ever putting a stitch on the fabric, personally.
Actually, I’d use only DMC floss since it is known not to run.
But to answer your questions, no, the white vinegar shouldn’t make the color run at all. Now the dye in the thread itself might run when it gets wet, but the white vinegar shouldn’t cause that. The fact that it’s wet is what would make it run. Clear as mud?
I hope the color stays put for you!! xoxo, Lauren
Not sure if anyone is still monitoring this thread. I have been adding white vinegar directly to the wash along with my Seventh Generation detergent….is that safe?
Yes, that should be safe. Vinegar won’t bleach clothes, so you should be good!
It works better, however, if you add it to the rinse cycle through your washer’s rinse compartment (where you’d add fabric softener).
I have been trying to use white vinegar in my laundry. But I’m finding even though it’s not supposed to be toxic is actually causing my throat to close up. Just wondering if you know what is in white vinegar that would possibly do that to me.?? I like the results of how the clothes or after I use white vinegar but having to put a dual exhaust fan in my window in my bathroom to exhaust the smell other than agar out even after drying