7 Smart Ways to Use Vinegar in Your Laundry

Do Laundry

With these easy ways to use vinegar in the laundry, you can fight stains and odors while saving money at the same time.

Doing laundry is already a chore. Shuffling through a shelf full of expensive laundry products looking for one that might work — and which won’t damage your clothes — makes it even more of a hassle.

Fortunately, the solution is as close as your pantry cupboard. In fact, once you know how to use vinegar in your laundry, you may want to keep a spare jug of it next to the washing machine.

Ways To Use Vinegar In Your Laundry

Rolled up earth-tone towels next to a bowl of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar to use in laundry

From treating stains to solving sticky messes, eliminating odors, and revitalizing your linens, using vinegar in the laundry is an affordable, effective, and safe solution.

Use Vinegar to Remove Red Wine Stains

If you’re a sucker for Shiraz or crazy for Cabernet, you’ll want to use vinegar in your laundry routine to tackle those inevitable red wine stains.

  1. Heat two cups of white vinegar and stretch the fabric stain-side down over a bowl.
  2. Slowly pour half the vinegar through the fabric and let it begin pulling the stain out.
  3. Rinse the cloth under cold water then soak the stained area in the rest of the vinegar for 20 minutes.
  4. Rinse again and launder.

Soften New Jeans with Vinegar

Give brand new jeans that soft, lived-in feel by washing them in a cold cycle using 2 cups of vinegar. Stop the machine before the rinse cycle to let the jeans soak for 20 minutes, and then proceed. (Related: How to Keep Jeans from Fading.)

Use Vinegar to Get Gum Out of Clothes

If you’ve sat in gum, don’t panic. Follow this 3-step method of using vinegar in your laundry to get rid of the mess. First, freeze the gum with an ice cube then scrape it off the fabric with the edge of a spoon. Then, soak the spot in hot vinegar for 30 minutes, scrubbing it with an old toothbrush every 5 minutes to remove residue. Finally, launder the item right away to get rid of the stickiness.

Using Vinegar as a Fabric Softener

Vinegar softens clothing fibers and removes residue from using too much detergent. All you need to do is pour one cup of vinegar into the rinse cycle, use it to fill your fabric softener dispenser. Don’t worry — the smell disappears as your clothing dries. (Related: How to Make Dryer Sheets.)

Using Vinegar to Eliminate Mildew Odor

Who hasn’t forgotten about clothes in the washer, or found a damp towel on the floor that’s reeking of mildew? Using vinegar in your laundry every load is an excellent solution because detergent alone doesn’t kill the mildew spores. Vinegar does. Just add two cups to the wash with the detergent. Then be sure you don’t forget about the load when it’s time to dry. (Related: How to Disinfect Laundry.)

Use Vinegar to Make Blankets Fluffy Again

If your favorite duvet isn’t as fluffy or your blanket has lost its softness, it’s usually due to a buildup of body oils or excess detergent or fabric softener. But you can use vinegar to make your blanket soft and like-new again.

Add your bedding to the washing machine with 2 cups of vinegar and nothing else. Run the longest cycle with the hottest temperature the fabric can handle. If possible, run a second rinse cycle, too. When you’re ready to dry, toss a couple of clean tennis balls in with your blanket to fluff the fibers. (Related: How to Wash and Revive Towels.)

Use Vinegar to Disinfect Laundry Without Bleach

Many people avoid bleach because it’s irritating, especially if you have asthma or sensitive skin. You can still disinfect laundry without it, though. Adding 1 cup of vinegar to the wash cycle with your favorite detergent kills many of the worst household germs. Finish disinfecting by tumble-drying laundry for at least 30 minutes on high heat.

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24 Comments

  1. matt brafford says:

    Question for you,
    I am trying to get old antiperspirant stains out of regular T shirts. I am thinking about with the vinegar and water soak, and then launder. Should I or could I use the vinegar in my washing machine as well? Meaning after I soak the t shirts, when I launder, put detergent in and vinegar in the fabric softener cup?
    By the way I have a front load HE washing machine I don’t know if that matters.
    Thanks for all the info your site is one of the best I have found.
    Matt

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I use vinegar in my fabric softener cup to prevent static, but I don’t think it fights stains at that point. To get antiperspirant stains out, try a 1:1 solution of warm water and warm vinegar and soak the fabric. If that doesn’t work, try an Oxyclean soak. Also, the best way to prevent them is to let the antiperspirant dry completely before putting your shirt on. Good luck!

    2. Christopher Downing says:

      Oxygenated bleach should do the trick along with Katie’s vinegar stage. Oxygenated bleach doesn’t actually bleach like the stuff you use down the toilet – unless you really misuse it. It comes in all sorts of brands like Vanish – but the shop brands are good as well and way cheaper. Check out the ingredients though – some cheap brands really cut corners and you’ll find the price cut came with an equal cut in effective ingredients! (It’s pretty simple stuff – but you do need some in the pack!!)

  2. Allegra Yancey says:

    Should I use both vinegar and baking soda to my laundry to guarantee getting out any odors from dog or cat urine? Should I also use borax? Thanks in advance – ANY

  3. Can you please send me your recipe for roach balls using flour and borax I have misplaced my copy I had.
    Thanx Barb

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi, Barb! You can find the roach ball recipe here.

  4. Once I launder my blanket with vinegar, how should I dry it?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you can’t find the tag, then a low-heat dryer should work for most blankets. Quilts should be line-dried.

  5. How much vinegar do you use for a blanket? I want to make it nice and soft again.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’d wash it once with half the normal amount of detergent (to get it clean), then again with a couple of cups of vinegar and nothing else added to the load. The vinegar cycle will help remove any body oils or fabric softener buildup.

  6. My blanket has recently gained patches of a very unpleasant “crunchy” texture. I’ve already tried normal detergent, without effect. Do you know of a cure doctor?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Add 1 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle but no detergent, wash it on the hottest setting the fabric can handle, skip the fabric softener, then wash it again with your usual detergent but be sure you don’t use too much.

  7. Hi, not sure if this thread was still being monitored. I have been adding white vinegar to Seventh Generation laundry detergent right in the main drum/full wash (not holding it until the rinse cycle) and wondering if that is safeā€¦

    Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s safe, but you may be reducing the detergent’s cleaning power. There’s a whole long, very sciency thread explaining why that can happen here. So, if your machine has a fabric softener dispenser, I’d recommend putting the vinegar in that.

  8. What can I do to remove/reduce static electritcy in clothes? What will help remove animal fur from clothes?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Vinegar helps remove it. If you’re still having problems, you might want to read how to make your own dryer sheets.

      As for pet hair on clothing, wash smaller loads in larger amounts of water (e.g., a medium load with a high water setting). Lint rollers work well, too.

  9. Wondering in Wisconsin says:

    Re subbing vinegar for fabric softener: the 1-cup advice has been around for a long time, well before the appearance of HE washers. Has anybody run a test on whether you still need that much vinegar in proportion to the amount of water used in an HE washer?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      My Fisher & Paykel adjusts the water to the weight of the load automatically. I still use the 1 cup of vinegar. It’s not going to harm fabrics, and it’s not expensive, so I don’t fret over it. But maybe someone with an HE will chime in?

  10. Do you have a method for killing bed bugs. I don’t have any but travelling and then coming home you never know.
    Thank you

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Debbie,
      I completely understand your concern about traveling and bringing home bed bugs. I wrote a lot about preventing bed bugs, including travel tips, here.

  11. does vinegar hurt my septic system

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Mary,
      Vinegar is actually more beneficial to your septic system than commercial cleaning products which may kill the bacteria that your system needs to break down waste. By the time vinegar in your laundry reaches your septic tank, it’s mixed with so much water that it is neutral and non-toxic to those bacteria, so you can feel good about using it.

  12. I washed a old can’t tell you how old velour blanket. I put it in the wash with detergent and some vinegar. When I went to remove it it completely disintegrated. Is it from the combination I used or maybe the blanket was never washed. I got it from an old person’s house

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Elaine,
      It’s usually safe to use a little vinegar combined with water to clean velour, though too much vinegar can damage any fabric. Chances are, it’s just the age of this blanket that caused the problem. Over time, the warp and weft of blankets get fragile, so washing them in a machine can cause problems.

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