Believe it or not, vinegar is a cleaning powerhouse — especially when it comes to doing the laundry. Vinegar is an all-natural (not to mention, inexpensive) solution for softening water, pre-treating stains, and enhancing regular store-bought laundry detergents. It's also safe to use in both high-efficiency and standard machines. So, wash away your worries with these need-to-know laundry tips.
Please note: Dry-clean-only fabrics are a completely different animal, and should be treated as such.
1. Get rid of stubborn odors.
Vinegar contains acetic acid, an odor-killing chemical compound that can get rid of even the smelliest of smells, including cigarette smoke, motor oil, and sweat. Although apple cider vinegar (ACV) will do the trick, distilled or white vinegar is best used in the laundry. Unlike ACV, distilled vinegar doesn't contain tannins — aka natural plant dyes — that can stain your clothes. Plus, it's less expensive. If you're out of distilled vinegar and opt for ACV instead, be sure to dilute it beforehand.
Use vinegar to deodorize clothes. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of distilled vinegar straight into the washer during the last rinse cycle. And don't worry, your clothes won't smell like vinegar afterward.
2. Say goodbye to lint and pet hair.
Accidents happen! Don't panic if you've accidentally washed something dark (like that brand-new cashmere sweater you picked up on sale at Macy's) with the lint monsters known as "fluffy towels." It's nothing a little bit of vinegar can't fix.
Use vinegar to prevent lint and pet hair from sticking to clothes. Add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar to the last rinse cycle. This will also reduce that annoying static cling.
3. Brighten your whites.
Remember the acetic acid we mentioned earlier? Well, it doesn't just deodorize. Acetic acid is a great way to revitalize dingy dish rags and stained socks, among other old-looking items.
Use vinegar as a whitener and brightener. Add 1 cup of distilled vinegar to a pot of water. Bring the pot to a boil and drop in your drab rags. Let them soak overnight, and then wash as usual.
Tip: This whitening method should only be used on 100-percent cotton items.
4. Soften clothes naturally.
Store-bought fabric softeners can leave your towels and sheets gritty, stiff, and crunchy. What gives? Product build-up. Each time you do your laundry, more and more of this product gets left behind to ruin your clothes. In addition to wreaking havoc on your laundry, liquid fabric softener contains a variety of toxic chemicals, including (but not limited to) benzyl alcohol and ethanol.
Use vinegar to naturally soften clothes, sheets, and towels. Add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar to the final rinse cycle. Still want that clean, floral scent? Add a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar.
5. Remove hemlines.
If you have a growing child, it's possible you've let down a pant hem or two. Get rid of those unsightly hem marks along the seam with a moist cloth, an iron, and of course, vinegar.
Use vinegar to erase hemlines. Dampen a white cloth with distilled vinegar, place it underneath the fabric and press.
Tip: Be sure to use a pressing cloth to prevent scorching.
6. Keep your darks dark.
Vinegar is great for brightening your whites, but did you know it does wonders for dark clothing, too? Soap and detergent residue will make even the cutest little black dress look dull and faded. Liven it up with vinegar.
Use vinegar to keep your darks dark and your whites white. Add 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar to the final rinse cycle.
7. Banish that gross mildew smell forever.
Have you ever left a wet towel in the hamper (or even worse, in a load of wet clothing), only to discover a foul, moldy smell? Get your towels back to their freshly washed state with hot water and distilled vinegar.
Use vinegar to get rid of mildew odor. Fill the washer with hot water. Add two cups of distilled vinegar and run through the wash cycle. Once it's finished, run a normal cycle with detergent.
8. Disinfect your washing machine.
No one wants to wash their clothes in a dirty washer. Prevent soap scum and mineral deposits from clogging your washer hoses with distilled vinegar and hot water.
Use vinegar to clean your washing machine. Occasionally clean your washer by running a regular (empty) cycle with hot water and 2 cups of distilled vinegar.
9. Clean the iron.
Raise your hand if you agree that ironing is the worst part of doing laundry. Throwing dirty clothes into a machine and mashing a few buttons, now that's pretty easy. But having to delicately smooth a shirt without accidentally burning your fingers is trickier.
If it takes way too long to steam a shirt in the morning, it could be that your iron is clogged. Mineral deposits can build up in the steam holes over time. The good news is that vinegar can clean out your iron so it works like new.
Use vinegar to clean an iron. Pour equal parts white distilled vinegar and distilled water in the iron's water chamber. Set the machine upright and on a heatproof surface. Let the iron steam for five minutes. Then, rinse the iron once it's cooled.
Who would have thought vinegar had so many uses in the laundry room?