Green domestic housekeeping and sustainable cleaning laundry with chic homemade softener made of vinegar and baking soda for fluffy rolled towels on wooden background vinegar in laundry

7 Smart Reasons to Use Vinegar in Laundry

Using inexpensive distilled white vinegar in the laundry is smart because it will whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals. I recommend you do the same for these reasons:

Green domestic housekeeping and sustainable cleaning laundry with chic homemade softener made of vinegar and baking soda for fluffy rolled towels on wooden background vinegar in laundry

7 Reasons to Use Vinegar in Laundry

It’s cheapgallon white vinegar

Plain distilled white 5% vinegar runs around 5 cents per oz. in the typical supermarket, when purchased by the gallon. It is likely to be even less in a discount department store like Target, a warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s. or home center like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Check your local dollar store and you just might find the cheapest option of all.

Name brand liquid fabric softeners come in at about 15 cents per oz.—nearly four times the cost. As an alternative to liquid softeners, dryer sheets are a cheaper way to ruin your clothes and linens, on average about 7 cents per sheet.

It’s colorless

When buying vinegar to use in the laundry, choose the cheapest distilled white vinegar with 5% acidity. It contains no synthetic color and no natural plant dyes that can stain clothes.

It softens

Plain white distilled vinegar with 5% acidity is a natural fabric softener. The acid helps remove detergent and soil that is left clinging to fabric fibers, which is what allows clothes and linens to come out feeling soft and clean.

Commercial softeners work just the opposite. They are designed to coat fibers, leaving behind their scented residue, which can build up over time rendering those items non-absorbent, dingy gray, and anything but soft.

A half-cup of white vinegar when added to the final rinse (pour it into the washer reservoir marked for laundry softener), on the other hand, will soften fabrics and leave no residue at all. A light scent can be added, if you want, with a few drops of lavender oil. However, once dry your laundry will not smell like vinegar.

It is safe to use

Distilled white vinegar is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. At 5% acidity, it is 95% water, which makes it mildly acidic. Once added to the washer, food-grade vinegar becomes even more diluted when mixed with gallons of rinse water in the typical machine.

Vinegar in the laundry is not only safe in septic tanks, it is beneficial to that type of system, and to the environment as well.

It whitens, brightens

The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar will not harm washable fabrics because it is so mild, while at the same time strong enough to dissolve the alkalis left by soap and detergent.

Adding one-half 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 if your washer gives you that option.

It reduces odor

Wet towels left sitting in a hamper or forgotten in the washer can produce a sour, moldy smell. To get rid of that problem and to get those towels smelling nice and fresh, do this:

Fill the washer with hot water, add two cups of distilled white vinegar and run a complete wash cycle with no detergent. Run a second complete cycle with detergent added.

This works well for minor situations and small loads. For more serious situations, you’ll want to use this more aggressive treatment.

It releases lint, pet hair

One-half cup of white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle will help prevent lint and pet hair from clinging to clothes. The vinegar will help the fabric fibers relax and “release” the hair. For the same reason, it helps get rid of the excessive lint if you accidentally wash something dark with something that produces lint, like towels.


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12 replies
  1. Nancy says:

    As indicated in another comment, I’ve also been advised that white vinegar in the washing machine can damage the seal on a front loader. Any comments on that? Someone referred me to a consumer report article. If true, so disappointed.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I 100% dispute that information, Nancy. Check with your owner’s manual. If its manufacturer warns against using 1/2 cup 5% vinegar in the rinse cycle, follow it. I’ve never seen one yet that does.

      • Nancy says:

        As per your recommendation, and after reviewing the use and care guide to my Whirlpool front-loading automatic washer, no where did it state not to use white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser/ rinse. I am trying to wean off the liquid fabric softer, so many chemicals. In the dispenser compartment, I’ll place a teaspoon of the fabric softener (just using up what I already have on hand) and fill the rest with white vinegar. The clothes are soft and no trace of the vinegar scent. Thank you Mary, you truly are amazing at your household advice. I read and share your articles faithfully. I just tried the perfect cold brewed iced coffee, literally, it’s stepping now, for 8 hours. I’ll keep you posted on that one! God bless!

      • Mary Hunt says:

        Thanks, Nancy for your kind words and for checking in. I want to encourage you to speed up that weaning-off process 🙂 And enjoy that iced coffee. What a treat!

  2. Sandra Golightly says:

    I have been using white vinegar for years in the rinse cycle when washing towels and almost didn’t read the post above. I wear a lot of black pants and have a big black and white dog. My pants are always covered in white dog hair. OMG, rinsing my pants in white vinegar they were so soft. I couldn’t believe the difference in the feel and finish of the fabric. Still waiting to see the results of less dog hair on my pants. Excited to see the results.

  3. Linda D Radosevich says:

    Vinegar is amazing! Remember rinsing your hair in vinegar water to cut the shampoo? And we use it on sunburn to take out the sting. (And like your laundry, you will not wind up smelling like a salad!) Thanks, Mary. Love your newsletter!

  4. Susan O'Neal says:

    My wonderful front-loading LG washer and dryer in one advises against using vinegar as it can damage the door seal.

  5. Sheri B. says:

    I have been using Vinegar for a long time. I using put 1/2 cup in the rinse cycle to get the soap out. I am not trying the 1 cup. I just did laundry and I was hopping there will not be any smell of vinegar. BUT When I took them out of the wash (which I used you laundry soap for the 1st time and love it) they did not have a smell of vinegar. Amazing!
    Oh and I have been using wool dryer ball since you talked about it a while back. Love them! No static!
    Thank you so very much!!!

  6. JB says:

    I started doing this after the last time you posted something similar. Every word of this is true! My clothes are very soft, whites look great and my wallet isn’t busted with EXPENSIVE fabric softeners. Thanks for the tip, Mary!

  7. Ginny says:

    Because of you and EC, I began using DWV in my final rinse years ago; no commercial softeners for me! I’d like to add one more advantage to using DWV — it doesn’t gunk up your washing machine like the commercial liquids. Altho I don’t have proof – just personal experience – I’m convinced that DWV leads to fewer mechanical problems and keeps my front-loader from developing an odor (+ I leave the door ajar too).


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