6 effective vinegar hacks for laundry — perfect for even your laziest wash days

This is why I always keep white vinegar by the washing machine

A split image of a woman doing laundry and a bottle of white vinegar.
(Image credit: Getty)

Back when I was living in a dorm, I saw other students using vinegar and dish soap to wash their laundry. I have to confess that I was low-key horrified. I just couldn’t imagine why anyone would prefer to use that combo over a nice-smelling laundry detergent. 

But, according to TikTok, there are a lot of benefits to washing your clothes with vinegar. Who would've thunk it? And recently, thanks to spending a little too much time scrolling through #CleanTok, I’ve begun to test out using white vinegar for laundry myself. Now, I’m a total white vinegar convert. 

If, like past me, you aren’t sure about using vinegar in your wash, you might wanna give the below hacks a try before you pass judgment. 

To help you get to grips with using vinegar in your wash, I’ve rounded up a few simple ways you can use vinegar — and how it works. 

Vinegar laundry hacks you should know

Believe it or not, there are lots of ways that you can use vinegar to make doing laundry easier and cheaper, in addition to enhancing the end result. (Still not convinced? Give it a chance and you'll come around.) Let's take a look at the top ways vinegar can be used as part of the laundry process. 

Need to stock up on vinegar? The one that we always use — and that we swear by for cleaning — is just below.

1. To replace fabric softener

Sounds kinda strange, doesn’t it? But it works. So, whether you’re looking to keep your laundry costs low or simply don’t like the idea of using chemical-filled formulas to soften your clothes, towels, and bedding, distilled white vinegar is a great alternative. Not a fan of the smell? Add a few drops of essential oil along with the vinegar.  

2. To remove detergent build up 

Over time, laundry detergents and fabric softeners begin to build up within your machine — from the drum to the pipes — and if it's not cleaned out it can impact how well your machine performs. As deposits build up, they can restrict water flow or even lead to permanent damage. Yikes! To easily reduce build-up, run an empty washer cycle with two cups of white vinegar in it and aim to do this every three months or so. 

3. For banishing odors 

Noticed that some of your clothes smell like sweat and have matching stains even after you washed them? Sigh. The good news is that with a spritz or two of undiluted white vinegar, you can quickly remove any nasty odors, and often the accompanying stain, too. Just make sure to leave the vinegar to soak into the fabric for a good 10 minutes before throwing it in the wash again.  

4. To restore whites

If your white garments are starting to get that worn, gray hue, toss a little white vinegar in your next wash cycle. Often, the gray hue seen on white clothes is caused by leftover soap and detergent residue. Luckily, the acidic nature of white vinegar will dissolve this, leaving your clothes looking wonderfully white. In the first instance, add the vinegar to the normal wash cycle, but if you don't get any results, consider soaking dingy items in a mix of water and white vinegar overnight to lift stubborn stains.

5. Reducing lint and pet hair build up 

Hate it when lint and pet hair end up clinging to clothes? Add ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your machine and it will prevent this problem. Or, if you’ve accidentally washed something with lint-heavy towels, throw it back in the machine with some white vinegar and it’ll get the build-up right off. 

6. Brightening colors  

Noticed that your colored items have lost some of their brightness? Well, add ½ a cup of white vinegar to your washing machine and let it work its magic to revive your brightest items, making those bold hues pop. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.