Uses for Vinegar: Doing Laundry

By: Christine Halvorson  | 
©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Add some vinegar to the wash to soften your clothes.

Vinegar is a veritable powerhouse when it comes to pretreating stains, softening water, and boosting regular laundry detergents. When cleaning fabrics, distilled white vinegar is preferred, but apple cider vinegar works just as well if that's what you have on hand.

This article includes a number of ways you can use vinegar to do a better job with your laundry. We'll start with the basics. (Please note: None of the tips listed here should be tried with dry-clean-only fabrics.)


Blankets: When washing cotton or washable wool blankets, add 2 cups of vinegar to the last rinse cycle. This will help remove the soap and make blankets soft and fluffy.

Clothes softener: Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the last rinse cycle of your wash to soften clothes.

Lint: Reduce lint buildup and keep pet hair from clinging to clothing by adding vinegar to the last rinse cycle.

New clothes: Some new clothes may be treated with a chemical that can be irritating to sensitive skin. Soak new clothing in 1 gallon of water with 1/2 cup vinegar. Rinse, then wash as usual.

Static cling: A good way to control static cling is to add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the last rinse cycle of your wash.

Special Fabrics

Delicates: If you're washing delicate items by hand, follow the garment's care instructions, and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the last rinse to help remove soap residue.

Leather: Clean leather with a mixture of 1 cup boiled linseed oil and 1 cup vinegar. Carefully apply to any spots with a soft cloth. Let dry.

Silk: Dip silks (do not soak) in a mixture of 1/2 cup mild detergent, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and 2 quarts cold water. Rinse well, then roll in a heavy towel to soak up the excess moisture. Iron while still damp.

As you'll see in the next section, vinegar can be used for special laundry needs as well.


Cleaning Colors and Removing Stains

Vinegar can work magic when it comes to washing colored garments and removing stains. Here's how:


Any colored clothing item that has become dulled can be brightened by soaking it in 1 gallon warm water and 1 cup vinegar. Follow this with a clear water rinse.


Yellowing: When hand washing linen, wool, or silk, prevent them from yellowing by adding 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse water.

Removing Stains

Vinegar is a great ally in the fight against laundry stains. Here are a few examples:

Coffee and tea: For coffee stains or tea stains that have set, soak item in a solution of 1/3 cup of vinegar to 2/3 cup of water, then hang the garment out in the sun to dry.

Grass: Removal of severe grass stains on white clothes can be helped along by soaking it in full-strength vinegar for a half-hour before washing.

Gum: If sticky spots remain after removing a piece of gum from clothing, soak gum stains in vinegar for 10 to 15 minutes. Launder as usual.

Ink: An older ink stain in cotton fabric may be helped by spraying with hair spray. Dab with vinegar to remove the sticky spray.

Juice: Dried red berry juice may be removed from bleach-safe garments by soaking it in a solution of 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water. Then wash as usual.

Mildew: A mixture of salt, vinegar, and water should remove mildew stains on most fabrics. Use up to full-strength vinegar if mildew is extensive.

Pretreatment: For synthetic blends or old stains on natural materials, presoak the stain in ammonia before applying vinegar and water.

A basic mixture of half water and half vinegar as a laundry pretreatment can do the trick with many common stains on clothing. Keep a spray bottle of this in your laundry room. Spray mixture on the stains before washing to give an extra boost.

As you've seen, vinegar can be of great help when it's time to do laundry. It's certainly better than buying new clothes.


Vinegar in Laundry FAQs

What does adding vinegar to laundry do?
Adding vinegar to laundry can whiten garments, as well as brighten them, get rid of odors and remove lint. Vinegar also helps remove ink, juice and gum stains.
Can you use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar to do laundry?
When washing fabrics, ideally white vinegar should be used. Apple cider vinegar can be used, however, if white vinegar isn't available. But dilute it with water before putting it on clothes so as to avoid staining.
How do I use vinegar in my washing machine?
You can put it in the fabric softener compartment or manually add it during the last rinse.
How long do you let clothes soak in vinegar?
Clothes can be soaked in vinegar for anywhere between 10 minutes to half an hour.