Don’t Mix Detergent and Vinegar (Do This Instead)

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Vinegar is often used as a stain remover for clothes. You can add it to hot water for extra whitening power in your wash, but can you mix laundry detergent with vinegar?

Mixing vinegar with detergent in the same wash cycle is a common mistake. The solution won’t clean your laundry because vinegar is acidic whereas detergents are alkaline, creating a neutralization reaction. In some cases, it may even ruin delicate clothing articles.

Together, detergent and vinegar form a neutral solution that won’t act as a soap or a stain remover. Fortunately, there are plenty of tricks you can try instead to get your laundry looking bright and clean.

Can You Mix Laundry Detergent With Vinegar?

Detergent works by acting as a surfactant, allowing water to mix with hydrophobic materials such as oil and grease. Detergent molecules attract both oil and water, allowing them to remove grime from any fabric. 

Most detergent is alkaline, meaning it has a low pH. This pH level helps to make fats more soluble in water, making them easier to wash away. It also removes chemicals such as calcium and magnesium from hard water, preventing limescale buildup when you wash your clothes.

Vinegar, on the other hand, is acidic. While detergents usually have a pH of around 10, vinegar has a pH of just 2 or 3. Its acidity gives it whitening and stain-fighting power without being too harsh for delicate fabrics.

When you mix an acid and a base, you get a solution with a pH closer to 7. A neutral pH means your detergent won’t be as effective as an alkaline cleaner. At the same time, the vinegar won’t be acidic enough to fight tough stains and remove nasty odors.

Basically, you effectively strip the cleaning power of both ingredients at once when you combine laundry detergent with vinegar. This is why you should choose one and use it apart from each other.

Using Vinegar Safely

Instead of mixing vinegar with detergent, use both cleaners separately. First, wash your clothes as per the instructions using your favorite detergent. If you notice persistent stains, wait until the rinse cycle is complete to add a vinegar solution. Wash clothes once with vinegar to eliminate stains and leave clothes feeling soft.

It’s best to use white vinegar for laundry, as other types may stain or discolor light fabrics. You should use around half a cup, or four ounces, of vinegar per load. If you use too little vinegar, you may not see stains fade.

On the other hand, using too much may leave smells or oils that can trigger a skin reaction in sensitive individuals. Some people also dislike the strong acidic smell of vinegar, so avoid using too much.

The Risks of Mixing Vinegar With Detergent

Use laundry detergent separately from vinegar.

When you mix vinegar with detergent, your clothes can suffer damage as a result. The neutral solution is not only an ineffective cleaner but can also leave behind a greasy residue that may stain delicate fabrics. 

A vinegar and detergent solution can also cause residue to accumulate in your washer. While it’s unlikely to cause damage, this buildup may reduce cleaning efficacy and leave your wash loads smelling less ideal

It’s best to always avoid mixing vinegar with detergent when running your washing machine. If you combine the two, clean your machine thoroughly afterward to prevent odor or residue buildup. 

Why Use Vinegar On Its Own Instead?

There are a variety of different reasons to use vinegar with your laundry. As long as you don’t mix it with detergent, you can enjoy the gentle cleansing, whitening, and softening effects of a DIY vinegar solution on both light and dark loads. Here are the benefits of using vinegar in your laundry:

1. Get Rid of Odors

The vinegar attracts not only stains but also oils that create odors. It can remove smells such as sweat, smoke, and more from fabric. Vinegar also boasts antibacterial properties that destroy odor-causing bacteria living in your clothing. This is why white distilled vinegar is often used as a natural deodorizer.

2. Remove Stains

Thanks to its acidity, vinegar is effective at removing tough stains from clothing. It can also brighten faded whites and reduce yellowing. What’s more, vinegar is basically a natural and eco-friendly ingredient that is much more gentle than bleach solutions on both your clothes and your skin.

3. Brighten Colors

Vinegar doesn’t just brighten up white clothing. It can also protect colored fabrics and prevent dyes from fading, especially acid-based dyes. However, keep in mind that certain materials are sensitive to vinegar. It may damage rayon, acetate, silk, and more, weakening fibers and fading dyes. 

4. Soften Fabric

Many chemical fabric softeners contain harsh chemicals that may irritate sensitive skin. Vinegar offers a gentle, all-natural alternative that softens clothing by removing residue and mineral buildup. After a vinegar cycle, clothes will leave the dryer feeling lighter and fluffier.

How To Use Vinegar for Laundry

Using vinegar for your laundry is easy, and it can leave colors looking brighter and cleaner than before. Once you’ve completed a wash cycle using detergent, you can run a vinegar cycle for some extra cleaning power.

  1. Remove clean clothing from the washer drum and remove any lint, pocket change, or other debris.
  2. Pour half a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the washing machine drum.
  3. Replace clothing and adjust drum settings to “FULL.”
  4. For tough stains, allow clothes to soak for around 20 to 30 minutes before washing.
  5. Run the wash cycle as you normally would.
  6. If you notice any lingering vinegar smell, or you don't like the strong acidic odor, run one more load with water only to flush the remaining solution from your clothing. 

If you want to spot-clean clothes, you can add vinegar before you clean them in the wash. Scrub a vinegar and water solution into problem areas and allow it to sit before washing clothes as usual in your machine. You may want to add salt to your solution for an abrasive option for tough stains.

Does Vinegar Bleach Clothes?

White distilled vinegar is safe to use on laundry and will not bleach clothes (lose their color). In fact, white vinegar can help get rid of odors, remove stains, brighten colors, and soften fabric in white and dark clothes.

Key Takeaways

If you use vinegar as a stain remover, you may wonder, can you mix laundry detergent with vinegar? Mixing both ingredients inside the same load is never a good idea because it is not effective.

Alkaline detergent and acidic vinegar mix to create a neutral solution. Unfortunately, it won't clean your clothes nearly as effectively as each ingredient alone. Instead, it's best to use vinegar by itself before or after washing laundry with your favorite laundry detergent.

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