Vinegar in the wash?

kcredAugust 30, 2011

So while I wait for my washing machine to get fixed, I've been going to the local laundromat. The lady there says to mix vinegar in with the laundry soap for each load. Use 2 oz. soap and 2 oz. plain white vinegar. It's supposed to keep clothes clean, reduce mold/mildew, and soften clothes too.

Has anyone tried this? It made sense to me, so once the washer is fixed I plan to start doing this.


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I don't know if adding it with detergent will do much. I add mine in the rinse (no fabric softener). It helps remove detergent residue (which can make fabrics stiff) and has a "slight" softening affect by reversing what detergent has done. It will not soften like a fabric softener.

Miele also said I can use vinegar to clean my machine.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Why in god's green earth would you listen to a stranger at a laundromat? She obviously knows zip about laundry.

Detergents do their best work in an alkaline environment. That's why manufacturers add builders to raise the pH. Vinegar would acidulate the wash liquor, lower the pH and reduce detergent effectiveness. I don't believe that's what you want to do.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 8:57PM
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What @markb said.

I think the lady meant for you to use it instead of fabric softener, in the FS dispenser.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:42PM
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@ kcred

A basic knowledge of chemistry might be useful here. Did you ever take Chemistry in high school? If you did, you would know that vinegar is an acid and your detergent is a base (alkaline). Your detergent cleans partly by creating an alkaline environment in your machine. Adding vinegar will push the pH value back towards neutral, which will cause your detergent to not be able to properly do its job.

Just because vinegar is good at some types of general cleaning doesn't mean you should mix it into everything. Also, I would like to say that using vinegar in the FS compartment does absolutely nothing. In fact, my clothes come out rougher after a vinegar rinse than when using plain water. Maybe it helps people who use too much detergent or who have hard water, but in my case it's a waste.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 12:26PM
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Thanks for the advice/info! Guess I won't be using vinegar in the wash after all.
Ummm, the only chemistry I took in high school was "applied chemistry" on weekends with friends.
The laundromat lady just talked a good game I guess. She seemed to believe what she was saying.
I do live in an area with hard water. And with my washer, I opted for a bleach dispenser instead of a fabric softener dispenser, as we use dryer sheets.
@livebetter: F&P says to use a detergent high in phosphates once every couple months in a special "clean me" cycle to clean the machine. I found a Mexican detergent at the local Big Lots store that's high in phosphates, so that's how I clean this one.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 3:42PM
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@ kcred

I think a phosphated detergent will suds too much in a clean machine cycle. Usually those cycles have an elevated water level and fiercely agitate the water. That may create a suds bomb with a phosphated detergent. Since you have hard water, you may also have some calcium or limescale deposits in areas you can't see. I would suggest using 1 cup of citric acid crystals in your cleaning cycle instead of phosphated detergent. This will remove any calcification buildup while creating no suds at all.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 6:40PM
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If phosphated detergents make a lot of suds, it isn't from the phosphates themselves. STPP doesn't make any suds for me.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 7:00PM
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@ sshrivastava:
Citric acid crystals? I've never heard of these. Is there a brand name for them? Where would I find them? The grocery store, maybe?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 5:40AM
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@kcred, I use a brand called Smelly Washer that is (I'm sure) made of citric acid. There is a more mainstream brand called Lemi Shine. I'm sure you can buy CA on the internet too.

I use Smelly Washer once a month on a clean machine for my Miele W4842.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lemi Shine

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 10:06AM
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You can buy citric acid in bulk here.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 11:16AM
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Thanks for all the info!
@ livebetter: Thanks for the Lemi Shine link! It looks like they have several products I could use, and I can buy them locally. I think I'll try them soon and let you all know how they work.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 6:51PM
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Some good info in this thread.
The vinegar is out. LemiShine is in. This stuff just works! This is my first time living in a hard water area. I thought the damage to my dishes was permanent. One use of LemiShine in the wash made them sparkle like new. Amazing. It's a bit pricey, and I'm sure the link sshrivastava provided is a better deal, but I'd like to find citric acid in bulk locally.
Anyway, as this is a laundry forum, the part is in for my F&P washer, and the service tech will be here Friday to install it. From now on, the clean me cycle will be having the LemiShine Machine Cleaner added instead of the high phosphate detergent.
Thanks again to all!

Here is a link that might be useful: LemiShine

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 3:50AM
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1) How much vinegar should you use for a top loader?

2) Do you put the vinegar in the bleach compartment? The fabric softener compartment? Or do you have to monitor the machine and pour it into the tub during the rinse cycle? If the latter, during the first rinse cycle or the second rinse cycle?


    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 11:10AM
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Long ago when we had softened well water I would run loads with vinegar only to remove some of the effects of the iron in the water but never with detergent for the reasons listed above.

As sshrivasta stated, vinegar really has no use as a fabric softner. It might lower the alkalinity left by detergents but proper rinsing will do that better than the vinegar and you won't be wearing a chemical reaction for a shirt. Unless you are using pure vinegar you're adding a few tbsp of a 5% solution to gallons of water. It's harmless and has little effect. An uncoated asprin would have more effect.

Iron out is widely available and will do a better job than citric acid for cleaning out your washer occasionally. Most Eco detergents contain citric acid as do many rinse aids, the dw equivalent of fabric softner.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Regarding vinegar. I've used it in the fab dispenser for seven years with my front loader. I AGREE it does NOT soften like fab softener does.........However, it does neutralize the detergent to a point to where it could give the spider assembly some longevity (from what I've read on this forum) there was a long conversation about why some aluminum spider assembly's corrode in a matter of a couple of years while others can last over a decade with little to no corrosion.

It is a good point as to whether or NOT the small amount of vinegar the dispenser can hold is even doing anything. Hopefully it is. I'm in a hard water area and my Duet still keeps pumping out clean clothes. Is the vinegar along with my washing habits keeping my washer's spider from corroding? I don't know, but I hope so.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 3:34PM
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What is it with vinegar?!?! I am so tired of hearing/reading people recommend vinegar as a cleaner or part of a solution that cannot possibly work effectively (as already pointed out in this thread).

Detergents are carefully formulated with a pH exactly suited to their purpose. Higher pH for stronger cleaning, more neutral in dish detergent so as to not irritate skin, etc. If you read the ingredients in a well-formulated detergent like Tide, there are several ingredients to adjust and balance pH, including citric acid. Adding vinegar will destroy that careful balance and reduce the cleaning power of a product formulated by chemists. Do people really think that something like Tide would clean better if it only contained more of some cheap, common ingredient (vinegar, borax, baking soda, you name it)?

Vinegar also smells unpleasant, and strong acids can corrode many metals. Yes, vinegar (or any other acid) can dissolve mineral deposits from hard water, but anything that can dissolve the calcium is also very harsh. Think about what it could do to your plumbing or any metal parts it comes in contact with.

I have tested vinegar as a rinse agent, and it doesn't help. It doesn't soften fabrics, and it doesn't rinse them more effectively. Fabric softener DOES help, because it reduces the surface tension of water.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 1:04AM
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