Okay, y’all. I have the very best laundry tip to share that you are not going to believe the difference it makes in your laundry.

I’ve been using this method for my laundry for a little over a year and can not believe the difference it has made.

I never, ever, ever want to go back.

Like ever.

Are you ready for the tip?


Plain ol distilled white vinegar is a huge life saver, or should I say, laundry saver.

When we built our house, we bought a new washer and dryer set for our laundry room. I was beyond thrilled with this “new and improved” design and just knew that it was the best thing since sliced bread in the laundry department.

Well, after a little while I started noticing a musty smell in our laundry.

The towels seemed to be the worst.

It was horrible!

If you’ve ever had that same problem, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I tried everything from using less detergent, cleaning out the seals of my washing machine at least once a month, buying washing machine cleaner, to calling a repairman. Then, in a conversation one day while talking to my Mama about my Grandmother hanging clothes on a drying line and ironing my Granddaddy’s overalls until they could stand up by themselves, Mama mentioned that my Grandmother was a firm believer in using white vinegar in her laundry.

Why in the world had I forgotten that little fact.

When I began using it in my laundry, I noticed no more mildew smell from my front-load washing machine, my towels seemed fluffier, and whites whiter. As a bonus during the fall and winter when we’ve been outside around our firepit, there was no more residual smell of smoke on our clothes afterward.


Using Vinegar in Laundry

I simply add 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar into each load of laundry.

For sheets, towels, and stained linens, I pour distilled white vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser of my washing machine.

As with any change in your laundry routine, I suggest you read your machine’s manual to make sure there are no issues with using vinegar in your washing machine.

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Robyn Stone

..where I share sweet, savory and southern recipes, as well as home and garden tips and tidbits of travel.

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108 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. I’ve tried both (vinegar and citric acid) with misleading results. I tried adding 2 cups of citric acid powder dissolved in water (adjusted to 5% acidity, similar to vinegar).

    The problem with these methods, is when they come out of the wash, they smell pretty good and fresh (even a slight lemon scent from the citric acid). And out of the dryer, they still smell good and fresh (to our noses).

    But venture out into public, especially an enclosed space (corridor) in an office building (where I work), I can smell underlying mildew smell. I know others can smell it too, because I’ve overheard them talking about it.

    I honestly don’t think any form of putting clothes in a washer (bathing in water (especially since we all are forced in modern times to use municipal tap water), and adding vinegar or citric acid to disinfect, will truly eliminate all traces of mildew smell (without exposure to UV Light as a final step) as nature intended to effectively sanitize fabric.

    Since I can’t line dry my clothes (where I live)… To test, I bought one of those UV Germicidal Wands and passed it over my already dried garments. Low and behold, nobody could smell mildew (at the office) that day.

    Unfortunately, they don’t make a clothes dryer with a UV Light built in. This would mimic nature and put dryer sheets out of business.

    So hate to put a rain on the parade, but I think clothes that smell fresh (at home) may be a product of our noses being used to our home environment and smells (which is why I kept smelling fresh lemons at home, but mildew @ work). Just like other people can smell your house (when you can’t), I think it is similar with laundered garments.

    If someone can tell me different (i.e. told in public that their clothes smelled fresh– after using vinegar or another natural method), and not just from people living in your home, i’d like to hear.

    1. I had this problem for a while. I didn’t realize that my clothing and bedding had so much grease and body oils trapped in them. One day I realized how much funk was locked into the clothing. So I took all of the musty clothing and bedding and put it all in the bathtub. I added hot water and 2 cups of commercial degreaser (like simple green on steroids) and (with gloves on) hand agitated the clothing in the bathtub. 

      Keep in mind it was clean out of the wash/dryer at this time… but when I pulled it out of the bathtub… the water was dark. Like so dark I couldn’t see though it. After draining that water I did it again and the water was at least where I could see the bottom. I did that to all of our clothing and bedding and then put it in the washer with some more degreaser and set it for second rinse. Did that a few more times as we regularly washed and the funk was all gone. Now we just use vinegar and all is well. 

      Oh and the degreaser works well for those in the food industry. My sister-in-law is a manager at a greasy fast food joint. She ran out of $$ and brought laundry to our house to do. I immediately smelled the greasy funk. She said it lingered no matter what. So I mixed in about a cup of purple degreaser with the regular detergent and set it for second rinse. Clothing came out smelling like new. I didn’t tell her my secret though… she just thinks we have a really nice washing machine lol 

  2. I had a bunch of t-shirts that had bad perspiration odor. I read to soak the garment in 2 cups white vinegar in the washer with hot water for at least 2 hours or longer then wash normally. I let them soak overnight then washed them twice on warm water. They do not smell anymore. I have some linens that smell “old”. I’m going to try them next. Maybe you need to soak them one time to gets the really set I’m odor out, then wash with 1/4 vinegar each time. Good luck.

  3. I add the white vinegar in the washer (cupful) and in the rinse cycle. Using a product like Damp-Rid in the closet may help, also. It has rid my mother’s bibs of stains when soaked in vinegar water.

  4. I found that throughly cleaning my top-loading washer by running a full cycle using hot water and bleach and rinsing twice, and cleaning seals around the detergent and fabric softener with a toothbrush and bleach solution, then running a cycle with 1/2 gallon of vinegar removed that mildew smell completely.on the advice of my dermatologist, I have stopped using any fabric softener products and my skin is recovering from dermatatic reaction caused by the chemicals they contain.Using vinegar in the rinse 1/2 to 1 cup per rinse keeps the machine odor free, and I also leave the lid propped up with a 1 inch dowel (old broomstick) and that helps to ventilate and dry the tub and drain til next time.
    In addition, I discovered that using much less detergent per load especially the liquid high effecieny ones, improved things. We used to thinl that suds equated cleansing, but it is no longer true with the phosphate free products.
    Also the vinegar does not harm anything in the washer and aids in removing the soap suds in my drain and the water flows freely. I encourage you to try this soon,it’s good forMother Nature, too.

  5. Front loading washers must be left open when not in use. The door seals to keep the water in when in use. When not in use, the closed door also seals and prevents the moisture from drying out.

    If your machine door blocks a door or passageway when open, block it open as much as you can. Elizabeth E. Conboy has very good advice – all that she says in her above comments.

    1. I never leave my front load washing machine door open. I got my first front load in 2007, never had a issue. Moved into a new home, purchased my second set of front loads. I’ve been make my own powder laundry detergent this entire time. The recipe can be found online just by googling. My only difference is I use ivory soap instead and I add a large box of baking soda. Towels come out clean, soft and absorbent. No vinegar rinse ever needed.

      1. Then your the only person I know of that doesn’t have problem with front loader, you should always keep door open mold gets under the rubber
        I have had mold on my clean clothes had to rewash them always seemed to come out but not all
        So I will give the vinegar a try
        As of now I’m getting rid of front loader and going back to top loader Had front loaders for 20 years

    1. I put the vinegar right into the water as it’s loading. I add the detergent and then the clothes(while the water is still running). The white vinegar works great for keeping colors from bleeding and fading.

    1. Hi Gayle,
      I use both laundry detergent and vinegar . I add the vinegar like I detail in my post. I always suggest making sure to check the instructions for your particular washing machine to make sure it’s ok to use. Thanks!

      1. Hi, I’m excited to try this! My mother-in-law has been telling me this for years already. Question, though: I have a front-loader washing machine. If I’m just doing a normal load of laundry (say, kids’ clothes), do I also put the 1/4 cup vinegar into the fabric softener place? Or if not, then where?

        Thanks in advance!

      2. Hi Michal,
        We should always just listen to our Mama’s and mothers-in-law, right?! 🙂 Yes, my washing machine is a front load as well and I just add to the fabric softener side of the dispenser. I hope that helps! xo

  6. I have a problem with a mildew smell in my built-in closet and faintly in that entire room. I have allergies and asthma and found I had a reaction whenever sorting clothes in the closet. Tried everything to air it out. Am suspecting moisture or mould in the ceiling but that’s another story. So I’ve taken all my clothes and linen out of the closet and they now are on an racks and a free standing hanger. I’m in the process of rewashing everything with vinegar and either a hot or warm wash which I usually don’t do for clothes but do for linen. The results have been better smell wise (I like little to no fragrance) but items are dry/crunchy. I suspect that’s the hot water rather than the vinegar and I’m not too worried because next time I can do them on cold. Still, the vinegar is helping give me some peace of mind that I’ve disinfected things 🙂

    1. Do you have a dehumidifier? If not, buy one, turn it on during the day in the humid room, and you will get litters of water in the evening and a couple weeks later your flat will smell much better. Keep the wardrobe’s door open meanwhile. If you have astma, this will improve your healt as well. 

  7. I live in Kent,  where water is extremely hard and we don’t have a water softener . Will white vinegar help soften clothes and towels, I really don’t want to use fabric conditioner if I can avoid it and don’t want to tumble dry if I can avoid that also, as I like the outdoor smell where possible?

    1. I use white vinegar instead of fabric softener and it works perfectly. They come out soft and my daughter’s skin problem is solved. 

  8. Use powdered laundry detergent. I still like vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser, but using powdered laundry detergent eliminated the musty smell in my washing machine (once I got the smell out).

  9. I am a mom of 8 (adopted 4) Grandma to 13. I use the Downey sofener balls filled to top to add vineger during rinse. Careful adding vinegar to products with bleach or using softener in rinse after washing with vinegar as it can cause a bleaching effect. For static control add about 3 diy foil dryer balls. In my opinion only the foil balls also help improve dryer time. To avoid recurring mildew smell add baking soda or 1-2 tsp Dawn dish soap to wash cycle and add vinegar to rinse. Great article and tips.

  10. We live in the country and have hard water, it doesn’t smell bad just leaves light colored clothes looking dingy after awhile. Iron Out is expensive for the amount we would have to use for a family of 6 and it leaves the clothes smelling very odd even after Gain liquid softener and dryer sheets.

    So my 92yr old Mother in law said to use 2cups of white vinegar and a 1/2cup baking soda for a X-large load. Well….it worked! I now do this once a week with our lighter colored clothes and it works awesome!
    No more nasty rotten egg smell like the Iron Out used to leave behind and the cost is cut by 75%.

    My best friend as well as 2 of my coworkers now use this method faithfully. You can even put a couple drops of your favorite essential oils in with this mixture and it is absolutely amazing!

  11. I have just read that fabric softener is harmful and I was looking up all the ingredients because my daughter arm pit is really sore and this is the second time this has happened, anyway I’m going to try vinegar so do i just put a small amount into the drawer as I do with washing powder and is it harmful to clothes.

  12. I had a terrible time with my jeans getting horrible musty smelling, and I think it was from detergent buildup. I washed with vinegar, baking soda, basically everything I could think of and nothing got rid of the smell. Then I remembered I had some enzymatic laundry detergent from a direct sales company that specializes in cleaning naturally, and tried it. Lo and behold, my jeans finally came out smelling fresh again! I’ve noticed some detergent buildup smell on some of my other clothes, as well, but adding vinegar to every load has been enough to get rid of it, and I’ll continue adding it to every load every time I do laundry, and using the enzymatic laundry detergent periodically to really keep things fresh!

  13. When you use vinegar for your towels and sheets, are you using the same amount?  1/4 cup in the fabric softener dispenser?  We are on a septic system so I haven’t been able to bleach my machine.  I’ve tried adding a few drops of tea tree oil, which has helped a little…I’m thinking vinegar may do the trick though!

  14. Hi, we have an HE front load washing machine. I want to try this laundry tip. But reading through all the comments, i didn’t seem to find the answer to my question. Do I add the 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar on the fabric softener compartment at the same time as i add the laundry detergent before i start my washing machine?
    Thanks for your response in advance.

    1. Hi Gina,
      I have an HE front load washing machine, too. I pour 1/4 cup white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser at the same time that I add the laundry detergent before I start the washing machine. Hope this helps!

  15. That’s good to know that you could get less mildew smell from your laundry if you use some vinegar in the washing machine. I would have thought that it would have done the opposite of making it smell better since it smells pretty bad itself. I’ll have to give that a try and see if it makes my towels smell a bit better after a wash.

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