10 Ways to Use Vinegar in Laundry You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Vinegar is a cleaning super-product, especially on laundry day! Discover all the ways you can use vinegar to spruce up your clothes and linens.

Updated October 23, 2023
Products and person showing freshly washed clothes

More and more people are beginning to see the versatile (and magical) power of vinegar for home cleaning, especially in the laundry room. With laundry, vinegar is a jack of all trades. You can use it as a fabric softener, to brighten colors, get rid of static, fight stains, and cut nasty odors. It can also help remove mildew from fabric. Not to mention, it'll cut down your grocery bill now that you have an affordable, multi-purpose product at your disposal.

If today is the day you want to start using vinegar in your laundry, all you need are a few tips to get started.

How to Use Vinegar in Laundry

Using vinegar in laundry is simple. Generally, you'll add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your load of laundry to enjoy the many benefits vinegar can offer. But depending on what kinds of clothes you're washing or if you're focusing on stain removal or deodorizing, the instructions may differ. 

Need to Know

Important: Never use vinegar in a load of laundry that also uses bleach, as this combination creates a toxic chemical. 

What Kind of Vinegar to Use for Laundry

We recommend using plain white vinegar for your laundry purposes, but apple cider vinegar is okay as a backup. If you do need to use apple cider vinegar in your laundry, just make sure to dilute it with water first to avoid staining, since it naturally has a brown color.

How Much Vinegar to Use in Laundry

The amount of vinegar you add to the laundry depends on the situation. When in doubt, go with ½ cup vinegar. In some cases, like for deodorizing stronger scents, you can use more, up to 2 cups. But for general daily use, less is more, because vinegar is acidic. Continually using too much acid can harm the fibers of the clothing.

When and How to Add Vinegar to Laundry

laundry with vinegar and baking soda

Most of the time, you should add vinegar to water or mix it with water before putting it over the clothing. Because of its acidity, you don't want to pour vinegar directly on clothes unless you're dealing with a stain (which we'll cover below). For top-loading machines, simply open the top during the rinse cycle to add your vinegar to the laundry water.

Adding Vinegar to Laundry in a H.E. Washer

High-efficiency washers are a special breed, but it's completely safe to add vinegar to these types of washers. You'll just need to add it to the fabric softener dispenser in place of fabric softener.

In an H.E. washer, you need to add white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. Unlike a top loader, you can't just open it during the rinse cycle to add your vinegar. Therefore, you'll need to add it to the proper dispenser to have incorporated into the cycle at the right time.

Different Ways to Use Vinegar for Laundry

Now that you know the basics of using vinegar for your laundry, you'll be thrilled to know there are so many ways to actually incorporate it! From deodorizing clothes to removing stains to preserving different types of clothes, it's a laundry staple you won't want to go without. 

DIY Laundry Detergent With Vinegar and Baking Soda

Combine vinegar and baking soda for a DIY laundry detergent

  1. Start by adding ½ cup baking soda to your wash cycle, and a pea-sized amount of Dawn dish soap. 
  2. During the rinse cycle, add your ½ cup of vinegar to act as your fabric softener. 
Quick Tip

This is a simple DIY detergent recipe that uses vinegar, but we've got more in-depth detergent recipes that include more ingredients, so you can whip up a batch of detergent and use it again and again.

Use Vinegar as a Fragrance-Free Fabric Softener

Vinegar makes a perfect fragrance-free fabric softener and works well for hard water. Saving money and using fewer chemicals? Yes, please. 

To use vinegar as a fabric softener and static reducer:

  • Add ¼ to ½ cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle of your washing machine.
  • If you are washing blankets and comforters, add two cups of vinegar to the final rinse.

Use Vinegar in Laundry to Brighten Clothes

The acidic nature of white vinegar can be used as a fabulous clothes whitener and brightener for dingy white and colored clothes, and it provides a great way to whiten socks.

  • Add ½ cup of vinegar to your wash during the rinse cycle to brighten clothes.
  • You can use the fabric softener dispenser or just add it manually during the rinse cycle.
Helpful Hack

For particularly dingy clothes, boil a large pot of water and add one cup of vinegar. Turn off the heat, add clothes, and allow them to soak overnight.

Add Vinegar to Laundry to Remove Stains

stain on shirt

Undiluted vinegar works great as a stain treater for mustard, ketchup, deodorant stains, and grass stains on cotton and everyday clothing.

  1. Soak the stain in straight vinegar.
  2. Allow it to sit for 10-30 minutes.
  3. Wash as normal.

Use Vinegar in Laundry to Remove Mildew Odors

Vinegar is excellent for eliminating stronger odors like smoke and mildew. Give this method a try to tackle that mildew smell from the hamper or leaving your laundry in the washer too long.

  1. Add two cups of vinegar to the wash.
  2. Wash as normal.

Vinegar Removes Soap Residue

You can even use vinegar in the laundry to eliminate soap residue. This keeps your darks looking dark, and it's super easy.

  • In the washing machine, add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle, and the soap dissolves.
  • When hand-washing, add a few tablespoons to help dissolve soap residue.

Use Vinegar to Combat Lint in Laundry

Adding ½ cup of vinegar in your rinse cycle can minimize lint. It reduces the static and makes lint and pet hair less likely to stick.

Use Vinegar for New Denim

Vinegar is great for whites, but this magic laundry sorcery also keeps new denim from fading. Use this vinegar hack to lock in the color.

  1. Keep your new jeans from getting faded by soaking them for 1 hour in a solution of equal parts cold water and vinegar.
  2. Allow them to air dry.

Keep Pantyhose Newer Longer With Vinegar in Laundry

Pantyhose are delicate, but you can keep them looking new longer by adding a bit of vinegar when washing.

  1. When hand-washing pantyhose, add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water.
  2. Continue washing as normal.

How to Use Vinegar for Ironing

Vinegar works as a pre-treater and during the wash, but you can add it when ironing, as well. To remove creases or shine spots from ironing:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water.
  2. Spray the area and run the iron over it.

Strip Towels of Buildup and Odors With Vinegar

Towels can start to smell and feel gross after they've been used a few too many times. If regular washing doesn't seem to help them, it might be time for a strip session. No, not that kind — laundry stripping

  1. Put clean towels in the washing machine.
  2. Add 1 cup of white vinegar and wash on hot.
  3. When that first wash cycle is done, leave the towels in and add a cup of baking soda. 
  4. Start another wash cycle on hot. 
  5. Dry towels as normal. 
  6. Enjoy their fresh scent and fluffy feel!

The Power of Using Vinegar in Laundry

Hopefully now you feel like a master of using vinegar on laundry day. It feels good, doesn't it? Using vinegar in the laundry will make your clothes softer and brighter, but it's important to know how to use it properly to protect your clothing and not be wasteful. 

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10 Ways to Use Vinegar in Laundry You'll Wish You Knew Sooner