Any experienced housekeeper knows that a lot of the cooking items in our kitchens can have additional cleaning and washing applications. For example, baking soda can be used in many ways to keep your home clean. What about vinegar? It’s one of those products that’s often talked about. Is it really good for washing our clothes or is that a myth?
The short answer is that, yes – white vinegar can be helpful for washing your clothes and towels. However, it needs to be used properly. So, let’s elaborate.
Why bother with vinegar at all?
There are a lot of laundry detergents on the market and it’s understandable why a lot of people prefer to use them. It’s easy and simple to just get a random laundry detergent that seems to work for your clothes and stick to it. And often times that’s an OK solution.
However, many modern laundry detergents have a lot of not-so-pleasant chemicals in them that aren’t too good neither for our health nor for the environment. After all, The detergents we pour in our washing machines do end up in our wastewater.
Ingredients such as triclosan, parabens, phthalates, ammonia, and others are often present in synthethic products are becoming more and more common.
That’s one reason why natural household cleaners have also been on a rise recently. By and large, they avoid most harsh chemicals and focus on being just as effective without having the same disastrous health and environmental impacts. However, they do tend to be quite pricey.
So, is this enough of a reason to look into distilled white vinegar? If so, let’s see how it works.
What makes vinegar work for washing?
Vinegar is simply a “doubly fermented” wine. It’s what happens when you leave the wine to keep fermenting after it’s “ready”. It’s during that subsequent fermentation that vinegar turns from alcohol into an acetic acid. That’s why vinegar is so acidic and that’s why it works as a cleaning agent.
The average pH level of most types of white vinegar (with some fluctuations) is ~2.5. That’s a bit too much for casually putting it on our clothes but that’s why it should be distilled.
A properly distilled white vinegar will/should have a pH level of ~5%. That’s the perfect acidity for most household cleaning tasks as it allows it to effectively dissolve any soap scum, dirt, or even glue.
How to use vinegar for washing?
Obviously, when we say that you should do your laundry with vinegar we don’t mean using just vinegar. We also don’t mean just pouring it from the bottle at the start of the washing. Instead, there are several different ways to use vinegar on your clothes, depending on what you want to achieve:
1. Clean your clothes with nothing but vinegar
If you want to forgo the use of laundry detergents altogether, what you can do is pour half a cup of distilled vinegar instead of the detergent at the start of the washing cycle.
DO NOT use vinegar together with laundry detergent. The vinegar is acidic and detergents are alkaline which means that all you’ll do is cancel them with each other.
2. Use vinegar as a fabric softener
If you want to keep washing with your normal laundry detergent, you can still use distilled vinegar as a softener. Just make sure to add a full cup of distilled vinegar directly into the washer during its last rinse cycle. You can also add it to the laundry compartment of the washing machine but make sure to do so during the last rinse cycle when all the detergent will be gone.
3. Deodorize clothes with distilled vinegar
Adding half a cup of distilled vinegar during the last rinse cycle will also deodorize your clothes and remove any unpleasant odors. It won’t add any “peachy” or “breezy” odors as some fabric softeners do but it will leave your clothes odor-free.
4. Pre-treat stains with vinegar to make them easier to wash
Diluting half a cup of white vinegar with 1 gallon of water makes for a nice stain remover. Just pour the solution over the stain and then wash your clothes as you would normally.
5. Bleach heavy stains with vinegar
For even worse problems you can use a solution of half a cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1/4 of borax. Use carefully whenever you want to bleach your laundry.
6. Prevent color fading
Adding half a cup of distilled vinegar to the last cycle of your laundry or just washing them with distilled vinegar only is also a good way to prevent color fading/running.
7. Remove soap buildup
A lot of modern detergents are hard to rinse, especially if the water in your home is a bit softer. This soap buildup can be both unpleasant and unhealthy. You can prevent this by adding half a cup of distilled vinegar to the last rinse cycle. Or, if the problem has gotten extra bad, you can at least occasionally wash your clothes with distilled vinegar only to remove any buildup.
8. Prevent lint and static
If you’re experiencing too much static and clothes sticking to each other, half a cup of distilled vinegar at the last rinse cycle can help with that too.
9. Wash your washing machine
Last but not least, you can also do empty washing cycles with just one cup of vinegar to keep your washing machine spotless clean.
Notes for using vinegar for laundry
Vinegar isn’t completely harmless, of course. After all, it is an acid. That’s why you should be extra careful when using it even in its distilled form. Here are several tips to always keep in mind:
- Don’t use vinegar on more delicate fabrics as it can stain them.
- Always put the vinegar where it’s supposed to go depending on what you need it for. If you’re using it as a softener, put it in the softener compartment. If you’re using it as an odor-remover, add it directly in the washing basin or in the detergent compartment. If you want to brighten your clothes, add it to the bleach dispenser.
- Always make sure your washing machine can withstand the acidity of the distilled vinegar too. Check with the machine’s manual or get in contact with the manufacturer if you can’t find any conclusive information. It’s not uncommon for customers to report issues with certain washing machine models so make sure yours is up to the task.