How to Use Baking Soda and Vinegar in Your Laundry

Vinegar and baking soda, two pantry staples, double as laundry room must-haves. Read on to find out why.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Did you know some of the best laundry detergent add-ons can be found right in your pantry? Baking soda in the laundry can be a great addition for a natural fabric softener or controlling excess suds, while vinegar in laundry can be an amazing agent for getting those whites extra sparkling and banishing mildew odor. They help even the best laundry detergents to be more effective.

“Keeping a jug of vinegar and a box of baking soda in the laundry room goes a long way—they help to get your clothes and washing machine clean,” says Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space, a blog about cleaning and organizing. There’s one very important caveat, she notes: “Both vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean your washing machine and clothing, but they should not be mixed together because they neutralize each other.”

Read on to see how you can get the most of your laundry by using baking soda and vinegar to deeply clean your clothes—and check out the best baking soda and vinegar cleaning solutions for other areas of your home, while you’re at it.

New to doing laundry? Don’t worry we’ve all been there. Be sure to read up on how to hand-wash your clothes and how to separate laundry. This shirt folding board will also come in handy for quick and perfectly folded laundry every time. Before you know it, you’ll be a laundry pro!

Why you should use vinegar and baking soda in the laundry?

Adding baking soda or vinegar to your laundry can help you clean both your washing machine and your garments better. Both of these pantry staples are an effective and inexpensive way to remove mildew odors, soften fabrics, and even brighten your whites. Not to mention, given they’re natural ingredients, they’re safe for the environment, too.

Gettyimages 1243399063 Ad Edit didecs/Getty Images

What it does and how it works

Whether you’re washing clothes or cleaning your washing machine, here’s how baking soda and vinegar help your laundry become squeaky clean.

  • Baking soda: Putting baking soda in laundry has three functions: 1. It deodorizes. 2. It whitens/brightens. 3. It provides mild abrasion. “When used to clean a washing machine, baking soda can help to slough off buildup and can also help to deodorize the interior,” Baker explains. A scoop of baking soda added to laundry in the wash helps fabrics come out looking brighter and smelling fresher.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar in laundry has some powerful cleaning properties, too. “Vinegar is a mild acid, so it can help to break down mineral deposits from hard water as well as help to break down and loosen dirt, grease, grime, and product build-up from both the machine and garments, depending on when used,” Maker explains. This process helps to leave fabrics a little softer, too. Another benefit is that vinegar helps to break down bad odors. And yes, washing clothes with vinegar is safe and won’t ruin your wardrobe.

However, while baking soda and vinegar in laundry are powerful additions, they are no replacement or substitution for detergent. To actually remove dirt and stains, you’ll need the power of detergent to launder your clothes.

Benefits of using baking soda or vinegar in laundry

  • Deodorizes
  • Removes bad odors
  • Dissolves detergent residue
  • Cleans clothes
  • Cleans washing machine
  • Brightens clothes
  • Softens clothes

Washing your clothes with baking soda and vinegar offer several benefits. Both deodorize by removing bad odors and clean the insides of your washing machine as well as your garments by breaking down any product build-up. Baking soda also helps brighten faded clothing, while the acetic acid in vinegar Is strong enough to dissolve soap and detergent residues which can leave clothes feeling softer—but don’t worry, it’s still mild enough that it won’t harm your fabrics.

How to use baking soda in laundry

  • For laundry: Add 1 cup of baking soda into the drum, before putting in your dirty clothes and linens, Maker instructs. Then, add your favorite detergent and launder as usual. Though she typically recommends this for whites because baking soda is a natural brightener, if you have a smelly load, you can add a scoop to any type of clothing since it won’t fade or bleach your items, Maker says.
  • For cleaning the machine: Add 1 cup of baking soda into the drum and then run your machine on the hottest possible cycle. For extra cleaning power, “You can also put some baking soda on a sponge or microfiber cloth and scrub the inside of the drum prior to running the cycle,” Maker says.

How to use vinegar in laundry

  • For laundry: Add up to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar into the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine and run the load on a regular cycle, says Maker.
  • For cleaning the machine: You can use either baking soda or vinegar to clean your washing machine, but using both will give you a one-two punch, Maker says: “Do the baking soda first, as the baking soda will help to scrub, then the vinegar will melt away any excess debris and help to deodorize.” First, pour a cup of baking soda directly into the drum and run the washer’s hottest, longest cycle. Then follow it up with vinegar: “Add vinegar to the detergent and softener compartments (up to 1 cup each) and run the machine on the hottest possible cycle,” Maker says.

What you should know before getting started

  • Don’t use vinegar and baking soda in laundry together. Even though no harm will come to your clothes if you put both baking soda and vinegar in the laundry at the same time, you should use them separately for the best results. That’s because when they’re used together, vinegar and baking soda in the laundry will neutralize each other, effectively canceling out the benefits of vinegar’s low pH and baking soda’s high pH.
  • Add vinegar to the rinse cycle for best results. Although it will cause no harm to your clothes, there is a risk that the vinegar’s pH may cancel out the detergent’s cleaning power if you add vinegar to the start of the wash cycle. For best results, add vinegar to the rinse cycle after the detergent has done its job in the wash cycle.


Maryn Liles
Maryn Liles is a home and travel expert who’s covered everything from the best robotic vacuums to the most remote destinations around the world. She's also the founder of Connected Content Co., an SEO and creative content agency that's done work for Reader's Digest along with other companies and publications. When she's not writing, you can find her working on her latest home DIY project, out for a hike or dancing around the house to '80s jams.