When I was ten years old, my mother decided it was time for me to start doing the laundry. She had gotten me involved with chores from a young age–not to pawn off household tasks, but to make sure that when I moved out, I was ready to run my own place efficiently. Some of her lessons didn’t stick. I can’t cook, I constantly find loose m&ms and frozen peas on my floor, and there are knick-knacks on every surface. But one of the things I do remember is her tip for laundry: vinegar. Plain old distilled white vinegar is the magic bullet of doing the laundry. Here are the surprising ways it helps.
The Rinse Cycle Note:
When some of these tips call for adding vinegar in the rinse cycle, you may sigh. You’re a busy person, and you may have a “set it and forget it” attitude towards laundry. I certainly do. Adding the vinegar to the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine, if it has one, will make sure it is automatically added just before the rinse. Right on time!
Kegan Kimball of Laundryheap, a UK-based laundry and dry cleaning service says, putting clothes in “a white vinegar and water solution for around 20 minutes, drain[ing] and then air dry[ing]” will fix up itchy or stiff clothes. “Rough fibres will need relaxing if you want your clothes to feel soft,” she says, “and white vinegar is also a great go-to.” Additionally, Connie Sundjojo, from laundry service Lavie Laundry says that a simple half-cup of vinegar added in the rinse cycle will have the same effect for things like towels, which you might not wish to air-dry. Fabric softeners sold on store shelves can actually counteract the chemicals that make children’s clothing fire-retardant, so white vinegar is a nice alternative.
White vinegar is acidic. The acetic acid in vinegar works to dissolve alkalis found in soaps and commercial detergents. Adding the vinegar in the rinse cycle will remove these residues that dull clothing colors.
Additionally, for white 100% cotton fabric, you can use vinegar in a different way. Add one cup of vinegar to a pot of water, then bring it to a boil. Depending on the amount of clothes, you can either take the pot off the heat and add the clothes in, or pour the contents of the pot into a tub or laundry sink, adding the clothes to that. Leave them overnight, then wash them as you usually would. 100% cotton ONLY!
Reducing Cling and Lint!
I’m a lazy washer, and towels and shirts go in together. This could leave me picking lint off my clothes, but vinegar, again, saves the day. Vinegar in the rinse cycle will cut down the static properties of clothes, and prevent lint and fibers from getting attached.
De-Scent Smokey Clothes
My mother has allergies, so if I’m at a campfire, around people smoking, or even around people who have smoked, my mother will smell it. Then she’ll break out in hives and get a migraine. If you have a similar situation, or just want fresh-smelling clothes, the half-cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle will kill those odors dead. If the laundry can’t be washed traditionally (like dry-clean only), leave the clothes hanging above a tub of boiling water with one cup vinegar for the same effect.