How to Remove Vinegar Stains From Clothes and Carpet

How to Remove Vinegar Stains From Clothes

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

In most cases, distilled white vinegar is one of laundry's best friends. But, there are many types of vinegar and vinegar-based products that can cause stains on clothes. Thankfully, you can remedy these stains with some products you most likely already have at home.

Distilled white vinegar is an effective green alternative to commercial fabric softeners, whiteners, and washer cleaners. A component of any type of vinegar is a mild acetic acid. It is this acid in vinegar that helps to remove detergent build-up and keep clothes looking bright and feeling soft. However, if the acid is left on fabric—especially dark fabric with unstable dyes—bleaching can occur. Once bleaching occurs on fabric, it is not reversible.

Tip

Vinegar can be made from just about any food that contains natural sugars. Tinted vinegar, like those made from dark-colored foods like red wine grapes or aged like balsamic vinegar, can not only bleach, but can stain. 

Never dry the clothes in a clothes dryer until the stain is completely gone. Drying the item in a clothes dryer will set the stain and make it unlikely that it could ever be removed fully. If silk or vintage fabric or upholstery gets a vinegar stain, contact a professional. Do not try to fix it at home; you can make the stain worse if you attempt it on your own.

Learn some simple steps for removing vinegar stains from washable clothing, carpet, and upholstery.

Stain type  Acid- or tannin-based
Detergent type Regular detergent and oxygen-based bleach 
Water temperature Cold
Cycle type Varies depending on the type of fabric

Before You Begin

Test any detergent or cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not discolor the fabric.

If the fabric is not washable or the clothes are labeled as dry clean only, blot the vinegar stain with a paper towel until all of the vinegar is absorbed. Then, wet a white cloth with plain cool water and blot the area for several minutes. Finish by blotting with a clean, dry cloth. If any sign of the stain remains, when you take the garment to the dry cleaner, point out and identify the stain.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Clothing

  • Paper towel
  • Faucet
  • White cloth
  • Washing machine (Optional)
  • Soaking basin (Optional)

Carpet and Upholstery

  • White paper towels
  • Soft-bristled brush or sponge (optional)
  • Vacuum

Materials

Clothing

  • Regular laundry detergent
  • Oxygen-based bleach

Carpet and Upholstery

  • Liquid dishwashing liquid (optional)

Instructions

materials for removing vinegar stains
The Spruce / Daria Groza

How to Remove Vinegar Stains From Clothing

  1. Blot the Stain

    For all types of vinegar stains, immediately blot the spill with a white paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.

    person blotting a blouse
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  2. Saturate the Stain With Water

    • Flood the area with plain cool water to weaken the acetic acid. You can do this by holding the stain under a running cold water faucet or by dipping a white cloth in cold water and blotting the stain.
    • Wash the stained item following the care label guidelines as usual. 
    person rinsing a garment under water
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  3. Use Oxygen Bleach to Remove Tough Tannin Stains

    If any color remains on the fabric after washing, use oxygen bleach.

    • Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (such as OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and tepid water.
    • Submerge the entire garment.
    • Allow it to soak for at least four hours or overnight, and then launder as usual.

    Warning

    This step is safe to use for all washable fabrics—white and colored—except for silk, wool, and anything trimmed with leather.

    person submerging garment in a tub with oxygen bleach
    The Spruce / Daria Groza

How to Remove Vinegar Stains From Carpet or Upholstery

The same techniques recommended to clean carpet can be used for upholstery. Take care not to over-wet the fabric because excess moisture can cause problems in the cushions.

Before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label on cleaning upholstery. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

materials for removing vinegar stains from carpet
The Spruce / Daria Groza
  1. Blot the Area and Air Dry

    When a dribble of vinegar hits the carpet, it is important to neutralize the acid, especially if the carpet is dark in color.

    • Dip a white paper towel in cold water and blot the stained area.
    • Use a dry paper towel to absorb the moisture.
    • If there is no trace of the stain remaining, allow the carpet or upholstery to air dry.
    person blotting a rug
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  2. Use Dishwashing Detergent Solution on Dark Stain

    If there is discoloration from a dark vinegar, take these steps:

    • Mix a solution of one teaspoon of hand dishwashing liquid with one cup of cool water.
    • Dip a sponge or soft-bristled brush in the solution and work it into the vinegar stain.
    person using soap and water as a stain remover
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  3. Blot and Rinse the Area

    • Use a dry paper towel to blot away the stain as it is lifted.
    • Use plain water to "rinse" the area and remove all soapy residue.

    Warning

    If you do not rinse thoroughly, the detergent residue will attract soil. But do not over-wet the fabric on upholstery because excess moisture can cause problems in the cushions.

    person blotting a rug with a paper towel
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  4. Air Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the area to air dry away from all direct heat and sunlight. Vacuum to lift the carpet fibers.

    Vacuuming carpet

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Additional Tips for Handling Vinegar Stains

Large stains on carpets and upholstery might be handled best with a steam cleaner or contact a professional cleaner to remove the stain. You will still need to do some prep work, and not let the vinegar stain set.

  • While the stain is still fresh and wet, blot with a wet paper towel or clean white towel to neutralize the acid and soak up as much wetness as possible.
  • Then rinse with water, blotting with a dry towel afterward to eliminate the water.
  • Let air dry and clean it yourself with a steam cleaner or hire a professional.