Posted on: June 8, 2020 at 4:31 pm
Last updated: October 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Over the past several years, consumers have become increasingly concerned with the effect that the products they purchase have on the environment and on their health. Awareness surrounding toxic chemicals like parabens, triclosan, phthalates, and ammonia, which are often present in synthetic cleaning products, has been steadily increasing. It turns out, adding vinegar in laundry can go a long way.

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For this reason, the natural household cleaners market has been on the rise and is expected to reach a market size worth 7.8 billion dollars by 2025 [1].

While these products offer a solution to the health and environmentally-conscious homeowner, they also come with a higher price tag than the conventional cleaning product. For this reason, many are searching for more cost-effective alternatives. 

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Luckily, you may have to look no further than your own kitchen cupboard. Distilled white vinegar has many uses, and when used in your regular laundry routine it can remove stains, soften hardened towels, and get rid of odors. 

How Does Adding Vinegar To Laundry Work?

The word vinegar actually means “sour wine” in French, and is produced when alcohol, which is produced through fermentation, undergoes a secondary fermentation (for example, when a bottle of wine is left open too long). During this process, the alcohol is turned into acetic acid, which is the primary compound in vinegar, and is what makes it so acidic.

It is vinegar’s acidity that makes it such an effective cleaning agent. With a pH of 2.5* [2], white distilled vinegar, at 5% acetic acid, is best suited for household cleaning, and this acidity can dissolve away soap scum, hard water stains, and even glue left behind by stickers [3,4].

*Note: The pH will vary depending on the type of vinegar being used. For instance, cleaning vinegar, which has concentrations up to 10% acetic acid has a pH of approximately 2.0 [5]. For laundry purposes, it is suggested to stick with a regular 5% solution.

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Read: List: Worst Laundry Detergent Brands with Ingredients Linked to Allergies, Cancer

Vinegar In Laundry For White Clothes

When used properly, white vinegar can tackle many of your laundry-related woes. The following are ways that this acidic liquid can improve the quality of your wash on laundry day:

Vinegar Gets Rid of Odors

If your clothes have mildew, you struggle with armpit sweat smells, or your clothes just generally have an unpleasant funk, vinegar can destroy the bacteria that cause these odors. 

For mildewy towels, add 2 cups of distilled vinegar to a washer filled with hot water, add your towels, and run the normal cycle. For clothes, add half to one cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. For smells that are particularly strong and difficult to get rid of, presoak those items in one cup of vinegar mixed with cold water, and let them sit for twenty minutes before washing [6].

Read: Does Vinegar Kill Germs and Mold? 7 Best Uses

Vinegar Removes Stains

To remove stains, spray the affected area with vinegar and allow it to sit for ten to fifteen minutes before washing. If it is a mild stain, you can soak the item instead in a mixture of one cup of vinegar with two cups of warm water. Harsher stains can be removed by using a paste made from one tablespoon of baking soda and vinegar, but this should be used sparingly [6].

Vinegar Protects Color

Dark clothing items, such as a pair of dark-wash jeans, can often become lighter after several washes because of soapy residue that sticks to their fibers. To prevent this, put half to one cup of distilled vinegar into the final rinse cycle, and keep your dark colors dark [6].

Vinegar Fights Static

If you find that your clothes come out of the laundry with a lot of static, lint, or pet hair, adding a half cup of vinegar into your washer’s rinse cycle can solve your problem [6].

Vinegar as a Fabric Softener

Because vinegar breaks down detergent residue, it can be used to soften your clothes, linens, and towels. Instead of commercial fabric softener, add a half cup of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser in your machine and let it do its magic [6].

Related: Why you don’t need commercial fabric softener

Reverse Dye-Damage, Preserve Whites

If some of your clothes have experienced color bleeding, you can add one cup of vinegar to your wash cycle along with your regular detergent to reverse the problem. If your whites are starting to look discolored, try adding one and a half cups of vinegar to the wash cycle, and stubborn underarm stains can be taken care of by soaking white items in a half-gallon of hot water mixed with two cups of vinegar overnight before washing [6].

Precautions when using vinegar in laundry

It is important that you use vinegar properly so that you don’t ruin your clothes or your laundry machine. Keep the following guidelines in mind next time your do your laundry:

  • You can use vinegar and detergent together, but they shouldn’t be mixed. If you’re using detergent, add the vinegar to the rinse cycle after the detergent is out, or else you could end up with oily clothes [7].
  • Where and when you add the vinegar in the wash cycle depends on what you’re trying to achieve. To soften your clothes, add the vinegar to the softening dispenser. To get rid of odors, add it directly to the washing basin during the rinse cycle, or use it instead of regular detergent, and add it again during the rinse cycle for strong odors. To brighten your clothes, add the vinegar to the bleach dispenser [7].
  • Be careful when using vinegar on more delicate fabrics. If it is too concentrated, it can actually stain them [4].
  • Always check with the manufacturer of your washing machine to ensure that it is made with materials that will withstand vinegar, as the strong acid can eat away at certain materials, and some users have reported issues with scum buildup in parts of their machines once they started using vinegar [8].
  • Use vinegar sparingly, as there have been some anecdotal reports of it clogging pipes and hoses and damaging machines in the long term [8].

Keep Reading: Grandma’s Rules for Hanging Out the Laundry

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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