Top 10 Reasons to Use Vinegar in Laundry

Top uses for vinegar in laundry stain removal

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Using vinegar in laundry will whiten, brighten, reduce odors, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals. Vinegar is inexpensive, and it's safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. When buying vinegar for laundry, choose distilled white vinegar. It contains no tannins (natural plant dyes) that can stain clothes. If you only have cider vinegar, use less and dilute it with water before pouring directly on clothes. 

Here are 10 reasons to add vinegar to your laundry routine.

  • 01 of 10

    Banish Mildew Odor

    white towels in a hamper

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija 

    Leaving wet towels in a hamper or a load of wet clothing in the washer can create mildew growth and a moldy smell. To get everything smelling fresh, fill the washer with hot water, add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar, and run a complete wash cycle. Run a second complete cycle with detergent added.

    This works well for small amounts of mold and sour smells. For larger mold issues and stains, you'll need to use a more aggressive treatment.

  • 02 of 10

    Brighten and Whiten Clothes

    laundering white clothing

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

    The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar is so mild that it will not harm washable fabrics. Yet it is strong enough to dissolve residues (alkalies) left by ingredients in soaps and detergents. Adding just 1/2 cup of vinegar to the final rinse will result in brighter, clearer colors. Add the distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser, or add the vinegar manually at the beginning of the rinse cycle.

    The mild acetic acid in vinegar also acts as a whitener and brightener for gray, dingy clothes. To get stained white socks and dingy dishcloths white again, add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water. Heat to boiling, and add the dingy items. Allow them to soak overnight, and then launder as usual. This method should only be used on 100 percent cotton fabric.

  • 03 of 10

    Naturally Soften Fabrics

    hamper of children's clothing

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin 

    If you don't like the idea of using heavily scented commercial fabric softeners but want softer clothes, distilled white vinegar acts as a natural fabric softener and leaves no residue on laundry. Just add 1/2 cup to the final rinse cycle.

    If you do like a light scent, add a couple of drops of an essential oil like lavender to the bottle of vinegar.

  • 04 of 10

    Reduce Lint and Pet Hair

    lint on a sweater

    The Spruce / Kori Livingston

    Just 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle will help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to clothes.

    It also helps get rid of the excessive lint if you accidentally washed something dark with some lint-producing towels.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Fight Underarm Odor

    underarm stains

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

    Fill a spray bottle with undiluted distilled white vinegar, and keep it on hand in the laundry room to remove perspiration odor and stains on washable clothing. Spray the vinegar directly on the fabric on the inside of the underarm areas, and allow it to work for at least 10 minutes before tossing the garment into the washing machine. If the fabric feels stiff before washing, use a soft-bristle brush to break up the residue. The vinegar will help to cut through residual deodorant left on clothing and prevent underarm yellowing.

  • 06 of 10

    Erase Hem Lines

    Erase Hem Line Marks with Vinegar
    Kentaroo Tryman / Maskot / Getty Images

    To get rid of the tiny holes left along a seam or hemline when a garment is altered, moisten a white cloth with distilled white vinegar, place it under the fabric, and press. Select the correct ironing temperature, and use a pressing cloth on top of the fabric to prevent scorching.

  • 07 of 10

    Keep Dark Clothing Dark

    dark clothing on a drying rack

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Adding 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle will remove soap and detergent residue that makes washable black clothes look dull. 

  • 08 of 10

    Get Rid of Smoke Odors

    cigarette in an ash tray

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

    If your washable clothing reeks of cigarette or cigar smoke odor, add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar to the wash cycle. For dry clean-only clothes and furnishings like pillows and drapes, fill the bathtub with very hot water and add 1 cup vinegar. Hang the clothes or fabric above the steaming water, and shut the door so the steam can penetrate the fibers.

    Distilled white vinegar is also effective in removing heavy smoke odors in the air following a kitchen or other small household fire.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Clean Your Washing Machine

    person cleaning a washer with vinegar

    The Spruce / Fiona Campbell 

    A clean washer equals cleaner laundry. Soap scum and mineral deposits can build up in the hoses of your washer restricting water flow and performance. Four times per year, remove soap scum and clean the hoses by running a complete wash cycle with the washer empty using hot water and 2 cups of distilled white vinegar.

    If you have automatic detergent or fabric softener dispensers, place distilled white vinegar in the dispensers to dissolve any residue buildup that may limit performance.

    Use vinegar to clean more frequently to help freshen a front load washer with musty odors.

  • 10 of 10

    Clean Your Iron

    cleaning an iron with vinegar

    The Spruce / Taylor Nebrija 

    Mineral deposits can clog an iron's steam vents and spray nozzles. To clean an iron and remove those deposits, fill the water chamber with a solution of equal parts distilled white vinegar and distilled water. Set the iron in an upright position on a heatproof surface, and let it steam for about five minutes.

    When the iron is cool, rinse the tank with distilled water. Refill the iron and shake water through the vents onto an old cloth. Finally, iron an old cloth for several minutes to expel any residue before moving on to ironing wearable garments.

    To remove scorch marks from the faceplate of an iron, rub with a paste of equal parts distilled white vinegar and salt. Finish by wiping down the faceplate with a cloth dampened with full-strength distilled white vinegar.