vinegar for laundry

Can You Wash Clothes with Just Vinegar?

Run out of laundry detergent, but have a ton of dirty clothes to wash? You might have heard you can use vinegar instead.

But can you actually clean clothes with just vinegar? Find out below.


Can You Wash Clothes with Just Vinegar?

You can wash clothes with just vinegar and no detergent, as long as the vinegar is diluted in water.

It’s not recommended to clean clothes in pure, undiluted vinegar because it’s usually too acidic for most materials to handle.

It can cause significant damage to garments, discolour some outfits, and can even shrink some materials! Not to mention the fact that the stench vinegar gives off is foul, to say the least!

You can, however, clean your clothes in vinegar that has been diluted in a sufficient amount of water.

Here are a few ways vinegar can be used:

  • Popped inside the washing machine’s detergent drawer and used instead of detergent to clean clothes. You shouldn’t make a habit of doing this as it can weaken some of the parts inside the machine.
  • Added to the washing machine when it’s running through a rinse cycle, so it acts as a fabric softener on the laundry.
  • Popped in a bucket alongside lots of water where it acts as a chemical-free stain remover for clothes.

Is it Safe to Use Vinegar in the Washing Machine

Although it’s possible to clean clothes in diluted vinegar, it’s not always the best kind of alternative to using real laundry detergent.

Yes, vinegar can help to remove pesky odours, some stains and soften garments, but it cannot be used on all kinds of fabrics, like delicate ones (wool and silk). This is a significant drawback, especially if you have to clean a wardrobe’s worth of delicate clothes!

Vinegar also smells quite a lot, and this aroma doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone. This is why you shouldn’t go overboard with the vinegar when using it, and you shouldn’t use it every time you put a load in your washer!

It also doesn’t always have the cleaning power you need to eradicate the grime from your garments.

In addition to this, you’ve got to make sure that you choose the right vinegar! When cleaning or treating laundry, you need to use white vinegar. As the name suggests, this is a colourless liquid that won’t stain your garments.

If you were to choose something like malt vinegar, you’d end up staining your clothes, and you might not be able to get rid of the blemishes in their entirety.

Using vinegar alone to wash clothes is not recommended. But if you dilute the vinegar in water, and then clean your clothes with the solution, you effectively have a relatively cost-effective, neutral, chemical-free cleaner on your hands.

Of course, vinegar won’t be able to rid your clothes of every single blemish, but vinegar is a good backup option if you happen to run out of regular detergent.


Pros and Cons of Using Vinegar to Clean Clothes

Washing machine and vinegar

Here are a few benefits and drawbacks of using vinegar when cleaning dirty laundry:


  • Vinegar isn’t too expensive to buy in the first place.
  • Vinegar is readily available and can be bought from a number of shops.
  • You don’t need to use much vinegar when cleaning, so a bottle will last a long time.
  • Vinegar is a natural cleaning option as it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals.
  • Vinegar can eliminate some of the stinkiest of odours!
  • Vinegar can act as a fabric softener and it can leave laundry feeling ever so smooth!


  • Vinegar might not be strong enough to clean all the dirt off your clothes. To eradicate the bacteria and grime off your clothes you need to use an official detergent, and perhaps some laundry sanitiser.
  • Vinegar is known for its smelliness and this can be a big turn-off! The stench does go after a while, but that initial aroma might not be very nice for a lot of people.
  • Vinegar cannot be used on all kinds of fabrics, like delicate ones. If it were used on said materials it could permanently damage or discolour them.
  • Running vinegar too often through a washing machine could damage the seals and hose of the appliance in the long term.


How to Wash Clothes with Vinegar

why use white vinegar

Vinegar can be used to wash clothes in several different ways. You can either fill a tub up with water and vinegar and soak your garments in the mix, or add it to a washing machine.

Depending on what type of ‘clean’ you need to put your clothes through (general wash, banish odours, strip a build-up of soap off clothes, or a stain treatment, for example), you can alter how you use the vinegar to wash your outfits.

Follow our step-by-step guide to washing clothes with vinegar.

The key points to remember when cleaning with vinegar are:

  • Use white vinegar.
  • Don’t add too much vinegar.
  • Don’t pour vinegar directly onto your laundry.
  • Check your clothes’ care labels before you clean the items with vinegar.
  • Do a patch test with the vinegar before you use it to clean your dirty clothes.
  • Never, ever mix vinegar and bleach together – this is a recipe for disaster! Steer clear!


Can I Mix Vinegar with Laundry Detergent?

vinegar and laundry detergent

If you plan on adding both vinegar and laundry detergent to your washing machine to clean your clothes, you need to add the two products at separate times.

You should add the laundry detergent to your washer’s drawer and start a wash as normal, and then when the machine starts the rinse cycle you can add a measure of vinegar to it.

If you were to add both products at the same time to the washer, there’s a chance that the vinegar and laundry detergent would react badly with each other. As a consequence, your clothes might not be washed effectively in the washer.

(You typically don’t need to add more than a cupful of vinegar to the washer, and you need to use white vinegar).


What Happens If You Add Too Much Vinegar to a Washing Machine?

Frequently using an excessive amount of vinegar in your washing machine can cause the seals inside the appliance and the hose to break down. As a result, your washer might start leaking.

Always use vinegar in moderation and try not to use it every single day.

It’s also not essential to clean every single load of washing with vinegar! And, if you’re following a particular cleaning method, stick to the doses that are stipulated in the guidance.