Should you be using vinegar in your washing machine?

There are so many practical uses for white vinegar that go way beyond an ingredient for salad dressing or brining. Vinegar has long been used as a natural cleaning option, beauty product, and overall household miracle worker.

Just a few of the many out-of-box uses for white vinegar:

  • All-purpose cleaning spray
  • Soap scum remover
  • Hair clarifier
  • Candle wax remover
  • Weedkiller
  • Insect repellent
  • Flea spray for pets
  • Carpet stain remover
  • Stainless steel cleaner
  • Showerhead cleaner
  • Garbage disposal deodorizer
  • Odor remover
  • Sticker remover
  • Coffeemaker cleaner
  • Shoe cleaner

We could go on and on about vinegar. Instead, we’re going to focus exclusively on its benefits in your washing machine. Is vinegar safe to use in your washing machine? Is vinegar a good fabric softener, or is it a myth? Let’s explore.

Why make distilled white vinegar a staple in your laundry room

Safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers, vinegar is beneficial to septic tanks and good for the environment. Vinegar contains acetic acid that brightens, softens, and eliminates odors in your laundry. 

When buying vinegar for laundry use, always choose distilled white vinegar. It is free from natural plant dyes that can stain clothes, and it’s also less expensive than other types of vinegar. Distilled white vinegar, sometimes labeled as cleaning vinegar, is produced from the second fermentation of dilute distilled alcohol made from grain or the starch from corn, rice, barley, or potatoes.

Popular ways to utilize vinegar in your washing machine

Fabric softener: Distilled white vinegar is a natural fabric softener that won’t leave residue on your laundry. Add a couple of drops of lavender or another essential oil to the bottle of vinegar if you like your fabric softener to have a light scent. Unlike commercial fabric softeners with chemical ingredients that interfere with the flame retardancy of children’s clothing, distilled white vinegar is safe and hypoallergenic for all children’s clothing. Simply add a half cup to the final rinse cycle. 

Brighten clothes: Just a half cup of distilled white vinegar at the start of the rinse cycle or in the fabric softener dispenser will result in brighter colors. The acetic acid in vinegar is strong enough to residues left by detergents but mild, so it won’t harm fabrics. 

To whiten dingy white cotton clothing or dishcloths, add a cup of white distilled vinegar to a pot of water. Boil and allow the dingy items to soak overnight and then launder as usual. 

Banish mildew odor: Ever leave a load of wet clothing and forget about it? Then you know that nasty moldy smell. To get everything smelling fresh again, fill the washer with hot water, and add two cups of distilled white vinegar directly into the machine. Run a complete wash cycle and then repeat a second cycle, adding detergent for the second cycle.

Fight underarm odor and stains: Keep a spray bottle filled with distilled white vinegar in the laundry room to help remove perspiration stains and odor on washable clothing. Spray the vinegar directly on the fabric, let sit for 10 minutes, and toss into the washing machine for the regular wash cycle. The vinegar helps cut through residual deodorant on clothing and prevents yellowing of the underarm area.

Helps black clothing stay black: Soap and detergent residue can make washable black clothing look dull. Adding a half cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle can keep black clothes looking black. 

Vinegar is good for your washing machine, too!

Soap scum from laundry detergents and mineral deposits from water can build up in hoses, restricting water flow and performance. Run a wash cycle with an empty washing machine 4x per year, using hot water and two cups of distilled white vinegar. Place distilled white vinegar in automatic detergent or fabric softener dispensers to dissolve built-up residue that limits your washing machine’s performance. 

Vinegar has long been a household staple for its versatility as both a food product and cleaning agent. As more people explore “going green” and look for non-chemical ways to clean their homes and clothing, distilled white vinegar is a practical and affordable option. Good for the environment and effective in a variety of different ways, adding distilled white vinegar to the assortment of products in your laundry room makes sense for the benefit of your laundry, your washing machine, and your household budget. 

Editors' Recommendations