20 ways to use vinegar when doing laundry

man doing laundry
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Need help with the laundry? Head to the pantry.

Anybody who embarks on cleaning up their cleaning routine learns this truism quickly: Baking soda and vinegar are non-toxic superheroes that can leap tall buildings while also making your kitchen sink sparkle ... along with roughly 5,000 other uses around the house. They are free of the questionable chemicals often found in commercial cleaners; they are also considerably cheaper, cause less harm to waste water, and a box of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar create much less packaging waste than a cupboard full of single-purpose cleaners.

Even though I know this and have been using and writing about kitchen cupboard cleaning formulas forever, I am still surprised by their many uses. I was recently looking through my bookshelves and saw an old gem that i hadn't looked at in ages, "Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile & Very Good Uses You've Probably Never Heard Of." I thought, ha, by this point I have heard of all of them I am sure. Yet lo and behold, upon opening to the laundry section I realized I was mistaken. I know I am not alone, so I thought I'd share some of author Vicki Lansky's laundry tips, along with a few of my own.

1. Remove the new clothes funk: While we generally advocate for washing clothes less frequently, it's always a good idea to wash new clothes before you wear them. Lansky says that adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the water helps eliminate manufacturing chemicals.

2. Prevent sticky lint: Add 1/2 cup to the rinse cycle to prevent lint from clinging to clothes.

3. Prevent magnetic pet hair: Seriously, sometimes I think that our cats' fur has magnetic properties – but like with the lint tip above, adding vinegar to the rinse cycle makes the fur less attracted to the clothes.

4. De-dull in the last rinse: Add 1/4 cup of of vinegar to the last rinse to help dissolve the alkalis in soap and detergents which can leave clothes looking dingy.

5. Clean the machine: Using the bleach or fabric softener dispensing compartments for vinegar is an easy way to add it to the wash; but it's also good for cleaning those compartments. Lansky also recommends periodically running the machine with nothing else besides a cup of vinegar to clean out the entire machine.

6. Brighten the lights: White socks and graying dish towels can be perked up by adding one cup of vinegar to a large pot of water, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, drop in the items, and let them soak overnight. Launder as usual the next day.

7. Clean mildew: Use vinegar instead of bleach on articles that have been inundated with mildew.

8. Remove ring around the collar: Make a past of the dynamic duo (baking soda + vinegar) and scrub it on stubborn ring around the collar, then launder as usual.

9. Set running color: If you have clothes in which the dye runs, you can try setting the color by adding a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water and let them soak before washing. (Also be sure to wash clothes that are not colorfast in cold water.)

10. Tackle grass stains: I always think of grass stains as a sign that fun was had ... sadly at expense of pristine clothes! But this trick can help: Mix a formula of water, vinegar, and liquid soap and attack the stain with it.

11. Treat perspiration and deodorant stains: Spray full strength vinegar on underarm areas before adding the garments to the wash.

12. And fight other tricky stains: Lansky recommends dabbing vinegar on mustard stains before washing, and pre-treating tomato-based stains with a solution of vinegar and water.

13. Fight the skunk: Tomato juice is the go-to rinse for removing skunk scent, but vinegar can work too. Add one cup to a gallon of warm water and let the garment soak for several hours, repeating as necessary.

14. Remove smoke smell: I have never tried this before, but for clothes that smell like smoke (cigarettes, campfires, etc) Lansky recommends filling a bathtub with very hot water, adding a cup of vinegar, hanging the garments above the steaming vinegar-water, and then closing the door and allowing the vinegar-infused steam to remove the odor.

15. Fluff up blankets: Add a cup or two of vinegar to the last rinse of wool and/or cotton blankets to fluff them up.

16. Prevent bed and table linens from yellowing: Sheets and tablecloths squirreled away in storage can pick up a strange smell and a sad yellow tinge – but if you add vinegar to the rinse cycle when laundering them, it should help.

17. Reduce static cling: If you use fabric softener to reduce static cling, instead, try adding vinegar to the rinse cycle.

18. Soften fabric without using noxious fabric softener: Fabric softeners are notoriously over-fragranced, leaving many people itchy and sneezy, among other things. Instead, to soften clothes just add one-half cup to the final rinse cycle. If you like some scent, you can add a drop or two of pure essential oil.

19. Save the sour laundry: We have all done it: Forgotten about the washed laundry in the washing machine, only to open the door a day later to the smell of putrid sour clothes; and it's a smell that can linger on the clothes for a few washes. Next time, add a cup of vinegar to the load and wash again, which seems to rinse the stench away.

20. Remove glue: Should you find glue has dried on a piece of clothing, vinegar can help. Soak a cloth in vinegar and place it on the glue spot, allowing it to saturate until the glue softens, then wash as usual.

NOTES:
• Use distilled white vinegar for laundry; it is clear and the least expensive.
• Always test first on an inconspicuous part of the garment; and never use vinegar on silk, rayon, or acetate.
• I have been using vinegar in the wash for years and have had no problems, but check with your machine's manufacturer to ensure that it won't cause damage.

20 ways to use vinegar when doing laundry
Need help with the laundry? Head to the pantry.

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