A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

I put white vinegar in my washing machine and you should too.

I love Tuesdays. Not only do I get to share great info with you, but it’s the only day of the week I have a pretty dependable routine going.

Tuesday means “Taco Tuesday.” That’s one less day of having to endure the kids whining, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” 

I also scrub the toilets on Tuesday. It makes our Saturday morning family chore time a little easier if I get the toilets out of the way earlier in the week.

There’s one other weekly chore I try to do every Tuesday, and that’s washing towels. I’m a simple girl at heart, what can I say.

However, due to my clinical inability to complete any task EVER, I never seem to get a load of laundry finished all the way through.

It is not an uncommon event around here for me to wet a clean hand towel, wring it out, and stick it in the dryer with an old wrinkly load that I forgot to pull out days ago.

I’m sorry. I just said “load” and “pull out” in the same sentence. Excuse me while I go have a giggle fit in the corner.

Okay, I’m back.

We were talking about laundry, weren’t we.

Oh yes. And I know I’m not the only one who forgets about my laundry and lets a wet load sit in the washing machine too long, getting all musty and sour. I know this because my sense of smell is my super power and I can smell that sour old laundry stank from a mile away.

So don’t act like you always remember to move the laundry to the dryer in a timely fashion. We’re all human. We all forget sometimes.

And when this happens, we need to pull out the big guns to get that sour stank out of our stuff.

And by big guns, I mean white vinegar.

I go through it like water ’round here.

We buy it in bulk at Costco and about 4 big bottles will last me the month. Naturally, I only buy Heinz vinegar because I’m a Pittsburgh girl and we’re loyal to our hometahn, an’ ‘at. 

Stinky or not, I always add one cup of white vinegar to the wash when I’m doing towels.

the bearded iris adds vinegar to laundry

The vinegar acts as a natural antibacterial agent and kills bacteria, mold, and germs.

Vinegar is also a natural fabric softener, even in hard water! White vinegar naturally softens laundry by removing soap and residue. It contains small amounts of potassium and sodium, which softens hard water and disolves mineral build up.

Double bonus!

Some people add vinegar to the rinse cycle. I don’t because I think it leaves the clothes smelling a little like vinegar. I always add my vinegar at the beginning of the wash cycle and never have a problem with lingering vinegar smell.

I have a very old and reliable top-loading washing machine, but you can use this trick in front-loading machines as well. In fact, I’ve seen several articles about using white vinegar to clean your funky smelling front-loading machine. Here’s one, if this is an issue for you.

Please note: I only use WHITE vinegar for laundry. I’m kind of a vinegar racist, I guess. Apple cider vinegar is great for other stuff like stopping a cold in its tracks. But don’t use darker vinegars on laundry unless you are purposefully going for the dingy stained look, and then God help you. (Crazy hipster kids today.)

I also use diluted white vinegar to clean my hardwood floors.

Do you have a favorite vinegar related household tip to share? (Spare us the douche comments, Uncle Slappy.)

And/or what is your super power?


Leslie (aka “Iris”)


  1. VenusGenetrix

    Oh yes, definitely! I discovered the white-vinegar-in-the-laundry trick when I was trying to find ways to get cat pee stank out of our clothes that did not involved washing them 4 times in a row then ignoring the tiny bit of residual stench still left. 1 cup of white vinegar does the trick beautifully!! No smell, AND the added bonus of making the kids’ fleecy-gone-crunchy footie pajamas feel soft & fleecy again. Luckily, our kitty’s crazy and wild days of pissing in the hamper are in her past (mostly). 🙂

  2. Joanna

    I use white vinegar when I do my whites, too. My kids have super stinky feet and vinegar will get their socks smelly nice and clean.

    • Kathy at kissing the frog

      Ooo, this is good to know. I have 5 stinky males in my house. That’s ten feet times 7 days . . .that’s a lot of stinky socks! I will definitely have to try this.

  3. Sue at Wub Boo Mummy

    I love white vinegar and use it for a lot of my cleaning, especially combined with baking soda.

    It’s also great for removing nits (head lice eggs).

    • elspeth

      Good to know. Any thing special about the way to use it to get rid of nits?

    • The Bearded Iris

      Yeah – fess up Sue about the nit removal with vinegar! Does the vinegar help dissolve the glue that makes the nits stick to the hair? One of my kids has lice right now, in fact, so I’d love to know every lice tip you have!! 🙂

      • Sue at Wub Boo Mummy

        Douse their head in white vinegar, then put a shower cap on and leave for a couple of hours or overnight.

        My step daughters have pretty much had constant infestations in the 8 years I’ve known them. We get it sorted, they return home and their mother does nothing and so the cycle continues. That’s why it’s important to do treatments each week for about 3 weeks to ensure you get them all. For really bad infestations (and believe me they’ve had some doozies) I’ve found either Dettol or Listerine is good – it can sting a bit if they’ve been scratching a lot, but at least those scratches won’t be infected!. Get it all over the scalp then put a shower cap on for at least 20 minutes before combing out. I’ve actually found this more effective than expensive, pesticide ridden lice treatments, particularly the Listerine. Those that aren’t dead will be high on fumes and very slow moving so they’re a lot easier to get out. Good luck.

        • The Bearded Iris

          Thanks Sue! I believe you about the Listerine. I tried that myself when my child first got lice because I could not stop feel itchy. Pretty sure I got drunk on the scalp-Listerine.

  4. Elly

    We do the vinegar in ALL our laundry, we put it in the bleach compartment for our front loader and have it run “extra rinse.” We started it back when we were cloth diapering, kept it during potty training and just have never let it go.

  5. Jessica

    It will take marker out of carpet, you know for when your kids decide to draw a rainbow on the white carpeted floor.

    • VenusGenetrix

      Whoa, seriously?! (Is there anything white vinegar CAN’T do! :D)

      • Ms.K

        white vinger is also good for cleaning windows or glass table tops.

  6. Susan

    All right, here’s the truth…

    At this very moment I am re-drying clothes that sat in the dryer all night. I do NOT like to iron unless I absolutely have to.

    My nose is also my super power. My husband is always asking me to sniff something suspicious. Sometimes I have to refuse. I also have a strong smell memory and once I sniff something horrid I have a real hard time forgetting it. I’m very sensitive.

    I am ashamed that I didn’t think to use vinegar in my washing machine but I will soon be doing so! In my defense, I use it in my dishwasher and coffee pot on occasion to undo the damage our hard water inflicts on appliances.

  7. Ginger Kay

    I’ve been using white vinegar in the rinse cycle forever. One of my children developed rashes from fabric softeners, so it’s always been vinegar for us. I have a super strong sense of smell, too, but I do not use a full cup per load. The funny thing is how often people have asked me over the years what brand of fabric softener I use, because my t-shirts are so soft. Putting in the rinse cycle gets the soap residue out of the clothes, rather than adding another residue.

  8. nicole

    White vinegar is awesome for cleaning shower glass if you have hard water. Get a cloth or sponge sopping wet with vinegar then soak the door. Then take a scotch pad and scrub. The vinegar helps dissolve the nasty mineral deposits hard water leaves behind on the glass. Finish up with another round of vinegar on a clean cloth. Works better than CLR and much safer to use.

  9. Ann

    Cleans the dishwasher too! You can put a cup full in the top rack standing up, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the dishwasher, and run a hot cycle. Helps get the sticky-funk out.

    Apple cider vinegar, mixed half and half with water, is a great final rinse for dogs after a bath as it’s a natural flea repellant. Pour it on after rinsing the dog and don’t rinse again. As long as you don’t mind the dog smelling like salad for a day or so you’re good, beats the hell out of fleas!

  10. Beth

    I’m also a vinegar laundry gal. Now I make my own laundry detergent and combined with the vinegar even clothes that I was going to toss out because of the musty stink have been saved.

    I have two dogs and this fall has been particularly bad for skunk attacks. We’ve been hit twice with the added bonus of my lab finding a pile of opossum poop to roll in the day after the last skunk encounter. I usually use peroxide, dish soap and baking soda combined to get rid of the smell on the dogs but a final rinse with vinegar is a guarantee that all the stink will be gone and their coats will be shiny.

    I also put a cup baking soda in the drains or garbage disposal and then pour a cup of vinegar down to break up the black scum and smells. I let it foam and sit for a while and then pour really hot water down to rinse it away.

    My super power is also my nose. That and being able to tell if someone is pregnant, often before they even know it themselves.

  11. Leigh Ann

    I think I’ve only used it for particularly stinky towels, but I do use diluted vinegar to mop the floor, which my husband especially hates. He’d rather I use a bunch of chemicals.

  12. L. Hewitt

    Everybody has pretty muched covered it. You can run it through coffee maker (diluted). ACV (diluted) is suppose to be a great astrigent. Baking soda and vinegar – well, that is just fun. My super powers are too numerous too mention.

  13. Sarah G

    I use white vinegar in the rinse agent dispenser of my dish washer!

  14. Jenn

    I put white vinegar in the dishwasher for every single load. Just fill up the rinse aid compartment and watch your dishes shine! We have very, very hard water and white vinegar is the only way to prevent nasty white buildup on the dishes.

    • VenusGenetrix

      I will have to remember this for after our dishwasher gets fixed. 🙂 Thanks!

  15. Leslie

    I use white vinegar for everything mentioned above. It’s also the secret ingredient in my pulled pork recipe. That sh!t is the bomb.com

    My secret power is my boobs.

  16. The UnderToad

    I knew I wasn’t the only one who did Taco Tuesday (for me this habit started at a summer camp I attended from the ages of 8 to 23), but I am officially stealing Toilet Tuesday to add to my weekly plan. I almost always try to get chores done on Tuesdays also, but somehow adding the catchy phrase makes me feel like I will actually follow through.

    Starting next Tuesday.

  17. Michaela Mitchell

    Ok, so Tuesday is for tacos, toilets, and towels. Is Wednesday for waffles, windows, and washcloths? 🙂 I know, I’m freaking hilarious, right?

    I’ve had people tell me all about the wonderful power of white vinegar and somehow I ALWAYS forget…maybe this time, with your handy alliteration, I can actually remember to buy some and use it! 🙂

  18. hollow tree ventures

    After reading all these tips, I feel almost like a full grown woman now, one with insider info who might actually clean some stuff! *Maybe.*

    My super power is my hearing. My other super power was not telling my husband about my super hearing for a long time; he thought he was really getting away with it when he said stuff after I left the room.

  19. Jen

    Ok, THIS is a fabulous tip! I struggle so much with stinky towels. I am totally going to try this next time I wash.

  20. Lady Jennie

    I didn’t know about vinegar for the hardwood floors. Why do I think it would be too harsh and not oily enough? Sure it’s good? Does your house smell like vinegar?

    And what does an’ ‘at mean?

    • The Bearded Iris

      Well, it’s very diluted, so it’s not too harsh. The guy who installed my hardwood floors recommended it. Supposedly it’s really good for removing the buildup of other cleaners. But you know, my hardwood floors aren’t very shiny now that you mention it. That could also be because I hardly ever wash them.

      An’ ‘at is Pittsburghese for “and that.” It’s a Pittsburgh thing. It kind of means “okay” or “if you know what I mean” or “I am going to keep saying these nonsense words until you shut me up with a Pierogi or some chipped ham.”

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oh, also, forgot to mention, no my house doesn’t smell like vinegar. It smells like cat pee and wet dog. I actually have a friend whose house smells really funky but she uses apple cider vinegar on everything–drinks it, cleans with it, tones her skin with it…etc. My house doesn’t smell like that.

      But if you were concerned about the smell of vinegar, you could always add some essential oil to it in your favorite scent.

  21. C

    We use vinegar for eliminating dog pee smell from our floors. We also like to combine it with another AMAZING super cleaner – baking soda. Not only do you get the fabulous science fair feeling when they react together, you also get super clean garbage disposal drains, crusty baking pans, etc. And your hands! They feel so soft, and your nail tips whiten almost magically. I buy Baking Soda in the big bags meant for pools. I buy 5 or 6 bags to get me throught the winter months until summer rolls around again and the big bags become available.

  22. steph

    I know this is annoying about me, but will you please change it to “wring” so I can sleep tonight?

    • The Bearded Iris

      DOH! Not annoying at all, THANK YOU.

  23. Meredith

    I did not know this! How is it that you can make a simple household trick funny? You’ve got skills! Since I ALWAYS let the laundry sit for too long, this might come in handy about a billion times over.

  24. Debbie M

    A whole cup? I put in more like 1/4 of a cup for a while and didn’t notice any difference. I have hard water, but not super hard water.

    It looks like your vinegar has 5% acidity (though I can’t quite read it in the picture). I buy the 9% acidity, so I probably only need 5/9 of a cup. That’s more than double what I was using before. I’m going to try it again. We air dry all of our stuff, so a little more softness would be nice.

    My favorite amazing vinegar thing is to use it (watered down a bit) for a hair rinse instead of conditioner. I didn’t think it would work since it doesn’t make my hair all slimy like conditioner does, but my hair is just as easy to brush and just as soft as with conditioner. Actually, I think it is slightly better. I do rinse it out after letting it sit on my hair while I’m washing the rest of me, and I don’t smell it afterwords. My boyfriend says he can smell a hint of vinegar in my hair, though, but also claims he likes it just fine, so that works. I prefer white vinegar over apple cider vinegar just because it turns out I don’t much like the smell of ACL.

    My super power is rationalization: I can always think of a good reason why somebody might be doing something that seems stupid at first (that crazy driver may be allergic to the bee he just noticed in his car). I can usually think of a way that two opposite-seeming things can both be true (he didn’t have sex with that woman because he thinks only intercourse is sex, and he didn’t touch her breast because she was wearing clothes and he was only touching the clothes). And, of course, the ever-popular rationalizing of why I should be able to do whatever I want (sugar isn’t that bad for you unless you’re on the diabetic side of the diabetes/hypoglycemic scale (which scale I made up); and although every woman on my mom’s side became diabetic, I am nevertheless obviously on the hypoglycemic side because I get hungry every four hours no matter how much I eat).

  25. Allysgrandma

    Thanks for reminding me to put it on my list. My tip (and sorry I have not read them all yet)…..is to put baking soda in various sinks or in the garbage disposal, let it sit for a while, then dump vinegar on it and watch it bubble and clean…..

    The only thing I have to export from my home town is marijuana……Humboldt County and all….only kidding, Restoration Hardware and Yakima products both started in Humboldt and then moved out for several reasons…including how hard it is to get out of here, so rural and all…

  26. Robin

    I use vinegar for all sorts of things, most of which are listed above. The one I don’t see however, is how I remove hard water buildup on my sink faucets. If I can unscrew the faucet head I’ll take out the filter and soak it in vinegar and then scrub with a toothbrush I have reserved for cleaning. If not (like the one on my bathroom sink) I put a rubber band on the faucet, take a small baggie filled with vinegar and slip the rubber band over the opening of the baggie so the end of the faucet is submerged in the vinegar. I’ll let it soak for a while then remove it and scrub it with an old toothbrush to remove any remaining bits of calcium. I also close the bathroom sink stopper and pour a bit of vinegar in, let it soak, and scrub around the drain with a toothbrush to remove hard water buildup and mildew.

    And, my secret power? I’m pretty good at finding things my family have lost in the house.

  27. Michelle n

    I too use white vinegar for towels. But my little trick is that I put the vinegar in one of those downy balls ( supposed to be used for fabric softener) and its released during the rinse cycle.

  28. Tracey

    When my kids were little and they misbehaved to the point of my very last tendril of nerves shattering and needed correcting, we gave them a taste of white vinegar. Worked like a charm. No soap, no time out scream fits.
    After the first few tastes, the threat of the white vinegar was enough to stop the bad behavior in its tracks.

    • The Bearded Iris

      BRILLIANT. Never thought of that one! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Kelley

    To eliminate using Clorox wipes (which I love for their convenience but loathe for their cost and enviromental impact), I cut a few old tee shirts up into small squares and put them in a tupperware with a lid- mix a cup of hot water with a cup of white vinegar, and put in essential oils (I heat the vin/water mix in the micro for a min, and add however many drops work for you to cover the vin smell– I just shake away!), pour it over the tee shirt rags, and voila! Homemade, reusable, not bleachy Clorox wipes!

  30. Rebekah

    I’m a little late in chiming in, but I thought I’d add: I use it for laundry and other things listed here, but also:

    when your little kid pees on the couch cushion and you have removable slip covers you can wash in the machine but that doesn’t help your actual cushion, which is still wet and stinky. Spray the cushion with a generous amount of straight vinegar (I keep a spray bottle on hand!) and set it in the sun to dry. Both the vinegar and the sun are natural disinfectants that get rid of bacteria, and the vinegar smell evaporates quicker in the sun. The vinegar kills the pee germs, is cheap, and you don’t have any lingering smells of other fabric or carpet sprays that you might want to use on the cushion itself.

    #2: In a miniture spray bottle, half vinegar half water is my favorite cleaning supply to give to little hands to teach them how to clean and let them join in the family work. It really does disinfect whatever they spray, to a degree, and is better than letting them spray straight water at a floor or wall since it evaporates much faster (if they are enthusiastically over-using the bottle you can talk to them about it but don’t have to be the spray bottle police, either. ) Give them a wash rag and the bottle and let them go! on any surface: floor, wall, window, cabinet, you name it! And if they happen to be like my oldest and decide to taste it at some point, that is, as others have pointed out, a self-correcting problem. 🙂 And since it’s edible I’m not worried one bit that they might get sick. Yay!

    • The Bearded Iris

      Two excellent tips! Thanks Rebekah. I have some couch cushions I need to attend to, fo sho!

  31. Bernadette

    Thanks for all your information, I’m a vinegar person myself I always use it to clean my washer I used 2 cups I guess 1 will do I don’t have any scent I just like to clean the inside of my washer, I wanted to know if anyone else ever used bleach? after everything I read not 1 person metioned bleach. I was happy with vinegar and I use it for everything. I can add something to what it’s good for I stripped my old wall paper with it and I couldn’t believe how well it worked I put it in a water bottle straight vinegar and sprayed the walls and waited a few minuets and off it came so easy you could use a sponge instead of a scraper.

    • Hotmama154

      I read that you shouldn’t use vinegar with bleach because if the fumes. Plus it doesn’t really seem like you need to.

  32. funny pants

    will vinegar set stains if put in the washer before the rinse cycle?

    my secret superpower is my man-boobs.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Oooh, that’s a great question! I don’t think I’ve had a problem with that, but let me research it and get back to you and your moobs. Thanks for stopping by!

  33. Desiree - Dishing with Des

    Question – I know many people have mentioned white vinegar as a dog pee remover in carpet, and I’ve also seen people on other sites mention baking soda. Since vinegar & baking soda have such a fun reaction together, wouldn’t it work to sprinkle the baking soda on the carpet, spray it down good with white vinegar, let the bubbles do their job & then use a carpet cleaner vacuum to pull the mess up? My 8 year old chihuahua was originally trained on potty pads for a few years, and now that she has been outdoor trained (mostly), if she has to go badly, she’ll just go in our upstairs guest bedroom… I’ve always been good about cleaning it up right away, but it’s starting to get a tiny bit of a smell since it’s been happening for 8 months. I’d hate to see our brand new carpet completely ruined already…


    • The Bearded Iris

      I totally think you should try it. Both are good to use separately for dog pee, so together they are *probably* even better! (Disclaimer: The Bearded Iris and affiliates are not to be held personally responsible for any damages incurred from following the advice procured on this blog. The Bearded Iris is a humorist, not a professional carpet cleaner.) 😉

  34. Sheri Cochran

    Have been using white vinegar for years in laundry and to clean. I tend to put a load of wash in when I leave for work in the morning but sits there all day until I get home at night. Phew! A little white vinegar through a rinse cycle get the clothes fresh smelling again. Pop into the dryer and shen fold while chatching up my shows on the DVR….start over again next morning.

  35. StacE

    Started using 1 cup of white vinegar in EACH load of wash in my front loading machine because everything was starting to smell funky – even when I got to it right away or washed it on the sanitizing cycle. Since I’ve been adding the vinegar (dump it on top of the clothes before I start the cycle) my clothes smell much fresher, they are softer, and the smell of the laundry detergent is more prevalent.

    I’m going to try adding it to my dishwasher. The glasses are looking kind of nasty from the hard water. Thanks for the tip.

    I’m a teacher and I’m always talking to the kids about their “super powers.” I tell them mine are my height (I can reach things off the top shelf without a boost), my near-sightedness, and my sense of hearing (they don’t get away with a lot in my room, unless of course I’ve forgotten my glasses!)

  36. Stephanie

    I keep a spray bottle of vinegar in the laundry room to get deodorant stains/residue out of knit shirts/dresses. For some reason those fabrics don’t seem to come completely clean with detergent alone. I also use it to clean any appliance that uses water and has water lines. Water in Florida is FULL of Calcium and Lime deposits, so water lines clog up fast! Just this morning I sucked up a gallon of vinegar solution into my “Little Green Machine” steam cleaner. It was starting to smell like my dogs!

  37. v

    have used distilled vinegar for over 30 years. in the washer it is antibacterial, sets the color in new clothes they won’t fade as fast, it is great for taking allergens out of clothes, freshens, cleans the washer and great for florida’s hard water. in kitchen, softens the water in dish washer, freshens the disposal, cleans the appliances (coffee pot) and cleans the frig, its all nature–great stuff. buy it by the case every month

  38. Celesteanne

    I use vinegar in my carpet cleaner. Because it doesn’t leave a residue, the stains don’t return.

  39. Caz

    I use white vinegar in my rinse cycle but I add a few drops of tea tree and lavender oil to it. This completely masks any vinegary smell and leaves the clothes smelling beautiful and feeling soft. As a plus point both tea tree and lavender oil have anti microbial properties too.

  40. Ashley

    Can you use vinegar on colours as well? My husband sweats really bad and I have been trying everything to get the smell out.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Yes, you absolutely can use vinegar on colors (and colours). For super stinky laundry, I always put in a cup of baking soda along with a cup of vinegar. Good luck!

  41. Cassie

    I was wondering if u use white vingar with clothes to you use laundry soap like normal

    • The Bearded Iris

      Yes, I still use laundry detergent…I just ADD the cup of vinegar to the regular load.

  42. Nina

    For anyone who uses diluted vinegar to wash non-porous surfaces…I recommend adding 15-20 drops of a scented oil (lavender, lemon, …) to your homemade cleaning solution to reduce the astringent smell that may bother your family/housemates.

  43. Hotmama154

    Do you happen to know the concentration to use in a rug scrubber? I have some dog pee marks I want to try this on.

    My super power is my ability to untangle anything quickly. Plus, I’m also from Pittsburgh.

    • The Bearded Iris

      Hello my fellow Pittsburgher! Untangling things, eh? That really is a super power! I’m going to keep you in mind for helping me with my Christmas lights next year, yinz guys.

  44. Daniel

    Everything! I learned from my grandma to use it for cleaning windows and mirrors, especially if you smoke in your house as she did. Cuts right through nicotine buildup and anything else leaving streak free clean. Especially if you pair it with newspaper. Also adding to the laundry trick I dampen a towel with a lil white vinegar and run it in my dryer to clean and freshen it up. Also use it 50/50 diluted in my steam cleaner to freshen my carpet and get rid of pet odor from my dogs. Don’t worry the vinegar smell only lasts until it dries then its all fresh! Sometimes ill go back over the carpet after its dry with fabric softener in the water to give it an extra fresh smell.

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