How to Use Vinegar in Laundry: Top 10 Uses

Learning how to use vinegar in the laundry can reduce fabric softener costs and leave you with stain-free and softer clothes.

How to Use Vinegar in Laundry

Vinegar is well known for its natural deodorizing and cleaning properties. But in addition to using it to wipe down tables and mirrors, you can add it to your laundry.

How to Use Vinegar in Laundry

White distilled vinegar has many laundry uses. But even with all its cleaning power, mixing laundry detergent with vinegar can weaken the detergent and affect its PH level. So it’s best to use these products separately. 

For example, you can treat your stains with vinegar and then wash the items with detergent. Or, wash with detergent and add vinegar to your washing machine’s rinse cycle.

Also, never mix vinegar with bleach. Doing so creates toxic chlorine gas.

Use Vinegar as a Fabric Softener

Looking for a non-toxic fabric softener? All you need is white distilled vinegar.

  • Top-load washers – Run your washing machine as usual. When it gets to the rinse cycle, open the lid and add ½ cup vinegar.
  • Front-load washers – Add ½ cup vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser.

Eliminate Sweat Stains

If you’re prone to sweat stains in your favorite shirts, vinegar will aid in removing the discoloration and odors. 

Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray the armpits of the affected items. The vinegar will break down deodorant and sweat, helping to prevent and eliminate stains. Allow the shirt to sit for ten minutes before placing it in the washing machine and cleaning it as usual.

Get Rid of Mildew Odors in Towels

When your towels smell like mildew, add two cups of white distilled vinegar to the washing machine and run on the regular cycle. Once finished, rewash the towels in your normal detergent.

Rinse Soap out of Dark Clothes

Soap residue is one reason your dark clothes don’t leave the washer looking bright. To rinse off the soap and get more saturated colors, add ½ cup of vinegar to the washer’s rinse cycle.

(If you have a front-load washing machine, you’ll need to add the vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser.)

Eliminate Ketchup, Mustard, and Grass Stains

The acetic acid in the vinegar helps break down certain types of stains, including those caused by ketchup, mustard, and grass. For the most success, treat the stains as soon as possible.

  • Spray the stain with undiluted white vinegar until saturated
  • Scrub with a soft-bristled brush
  • Allow the stain to soak in vinegar for 10-15 minutes before washing

Clean a Musty Front Load Washer with Vinegar

Front-load washers are notorious for musty smells. You can eliminate these odors by cleaning your washer with vinegar once per month. 

After cleaning any mold off the rubber gasket, add ¼ cup of baking soda to the empty drum, add 2 cups of white distilled vinegar to the detergent dispenser, and run the machine using hot water. Once finished, towel-dry the drum and gasket. 

Brighten Your Whites without Bleach

If you’re not a fan of bleach, add ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle when washing your whites. The vinegar will help remove soap residue and aid in breaking down stains.

Remove Bad Odors with a Vinegar Soak

Whether you’ve picked up second-hand clothes or can’t get a smoke smell out of your favorite jeans, you can use a vinegar soak to remove bad odors.

Fill a sink or bathtub with warm water and add 1 cup vinegar. Soak the clothes for 30 minutes and then launder as usual.

Remove Mold from Clothes

Removing mold from clothing can be a challenge. But if the mold stains are fresh, you may be able to remove them with vinegar. Vinegar is one of the top substances for killing mold spores, outperforming bleach.

To treat mold on clothing, spray it with undiluted white distilled vinegar. Then, scrub the area with a soft-bristled brush. Keep the stain saturated with vinegar for 30 minutes and then launder as normal.

Create a Fabric Refresher Spray

If you want to refresh your clothing without putting it through the washing machine, create a fabric refresher spray by placing a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar and two cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle and mist your clothes.

The vinegar smell will dissipate in a few minutes, and the mix will help deodorize clothing.

Tips for Using Vinegar in the Washing Machine

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which can break down rubber gaskets if you use it for a prolonged period and at a high concentration. However, when adding ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle, the vinegar becomes so diluted that it won’t cause harm to your washing machine. 

Here are some other helpful tips for getting the most out of vinegar:

  • Use plain white distilled vinegar in the laundry – not apple cider vinegar or cleaning vinegar.
  • You can remove urine odor from clothes by adding ½ cup of vinegar during the rinse cycle. Another option is to treat the urine with an enzymatic stain remover.
  • Using vinegar in the laundry won’t kill bed bugs – the vinegar gets diluted with water in a washing machine, so the acidity is not high enough.
  • Don’t mix vinegar with your laundry detergent.
  • Vinegar is unlikely to kill germs in the washing machine since the water dilutes it.

Discover more ways to clean with vinegar: 18 Household Items You Can Clean with Vinegar