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Can I put vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser?

Quick Answer

Yes, you can put vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine. The acetic acid in vinegar works as a natural fabric softener and can help soften clothes, reduce static cling, and give laundry a fresh scent. Just pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar into the fabric softener compartment at the start of the rinse cycle. Vinegar is a mild acid that is safe for most washers.

Explaining Vinegar as a Fabric Softener

Vinegar has been used as a natural fabric softener and cleaning agent for centuries. The acetic acid in vinegar gives it mild acidic properties that help make clothes feel softer and fluffier. Here is how vinegar works to soften fabrics:

  • Removes detergent residue – Vinegar helps rinse away any leftover detergent or hard water mineral deposits from the rinse cycle. This helps prevent fabrics from feeling stiff or crunchy.
  • Neutralizes static cling – The acetic acid neutralizes the electrical charge that causes static cling in clothes. This helps reduce lint attraction and wrinkling.
  • Acts as an antistatic – Vinegar coats the fabric fibers to make them resist static build up. This effect lasts through several wash cycles.
  • Softens fibers – Vinegar alters the pH level of the fabric. This causes the fibers to swell and allows more water to penetrate. Softer, more absorbent fibers feel less stiff.
  • Adds a fresh scent – The light vinegar scent dissipates as clothes dry. It leaves behind a faint, clean fragrance.

The acidic nature of vinegar also helps brighten colors and disinfect laundry. It’s an all-natural, non-toxic, and economical option compared to commercial fabric softeners.

Is Vinegar Safe for Washing Machines?

Using vinegar as a fabric softener is safe for most washing machines. Here are some key points on the safety of using vinegar:

– Vinegar is mild and non-corrosive at the 5% acidity of household vinegar. It won’t damage or corrode machine parts with regular use.

– Front and top loading machines can both handle vinegar without issues. HE high-efficiency models are also fine with vinegar.

– The rubber hoses, gaskets, seals, and internal tub material in most machines won’t degrade with diluted vinegar.

– Vinegar is safe for septic systems since its biodegradable and environmentally-friendly.

– White distilled vinegar has lower acidity than cider or wine vinegars. Distilled is the best choice.

– Start with 1/4 cup vinegar and increase to 1/2 cup if needed. Don’t exceed 1 cup vinegar per load.

– Flush the washer monthly by running an empty hot water cycle with 2 cups of vinegar to prevent any buildup.

Always check your machine’s cleaning guidelines first. If unsure, try a small test spot on an inconspicuous area before doing a full load. But vinegar has been widely used in washers for generations without problems.

How to Use Vinegar as Fabric Softener

Using vinegar in your washing machine is simple. Just follow these steps:

1. Add clothes and detergent to the wash cycle as usual. Use your regular amount of laundry detergent.

2. During the rinse cycle, pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar directly into the fabric softener dispenser. Check the owner’s manual if unsure where it’s located.

3. Run the rinse cycle as normal. The vinegar will automatically dispense at the right time.

4. If needed, add an extra rinse cycle to remove any strong vinegar smell.

5. Dry clothes as normal. No vinegar scent will remain.

6. For heavy scent removal, soak clothes in a vinegar solution before washing. Use 1 cup vinegar per 1 gallon of water.

7. Clean the washer monthly by running an empty wash cycle with 2 cups of vinegar on the hottest setting.

That’s all there is to it! The vinegar will soften clothes, reduce lint, and leave a light, clean scent. Vinegar can replace liquid fabric softeners or dryer sheets.

Vinegar Fabric Softener vs. Commercial Products

Vinegar is an economical, eco-friendly alternative to commercial fabric softeners. Here’s how it compares:


Vinegar Around $0.05 per load
Liquid fabric softener Around $0.20 per load
Dryer sheets Around $0.12 per load

Vinegar is clearly the budget-friendly option at only a nickel per load! A bottle of distilled white vinegar costs between $1-3 compared to $4-6 for a jug of Downy or other liquid fabric softeners.


Vinegar contains only one ingredient – acetic acid made from fermented corn or wheat. Commercial fabric softeners have a complex mix of chemicals, fragrances, colors and preservatives. These can irritate skin or cause allergic reactions. Vinegar has no harsh chemicals.


Vinegar is non-toxic, plant-based and won’t trigger asthma or allergies. Many liquid softeners contain carcinogenic solvents like benzyl acetate and chloroform according to EPA studies. These pose health risks with long-term use. Vinegar breaks down quickly and won’t harm the environment.

Fabric Protection

Vinegar softens as well as dryer sheets or liquid softeners without leaving a greasy chemical residue. Your laundry will come out soft, static free, and bright whites with vinegar. It cleans and deodorizes too.


Liquid softeners must be measured while vinegar can be poured directly into the dispenser. No spills or bottles to store. Dryer sheets can tear in the dryer and need replenishing. Vinegar is always on hand.

So vinegar offers a cheaper, safer, and equally effective fabric softening option compared to commercial products. It’s the green choice that cleans and protects clothes.

Tips for the Best Results

Follow these tips to get the best results when using vinegar as a fabric softener:

– Use white distilled vinegar – cider and wine vinegars can stain.

– Always add to rinse cycle – vinegar needs to be dispensed with the rinse water.

– Use proper dosage – start with 1/4 cup in a full load and increase as needed.

– Reduce detergent – use less detergent, so vinegar can rinse better.

– Line dry – air drying maximizes softening and reduces static.

– Flush machine – run monthly vinegar only cycle to prevent any buildup.

– Soak dingy clothes – let heavily soiled clothes soak 30 mins in a vinegar solution before washing.

– Soft scrubs – rub full-strength vinegar on collars, cuffs, or hems to soften and whiten. Rinse thoroughly.

– Scent boosters – add 5-10 drops lemon or essential oils to vinegar for an extra fresh scent.

With a little trial and error, you’ll find the right vinegar dosage for different load sizes and water hardness. Softer, fresher laundry awaits!

Potential Drawbacks to Know

Vinegar fabric softener is generally safe, but there are a few potential drawbacks to be aware of:

– Vinegar scent – Can linger on clothes if you use too much. Test small amounts first.

– Skin irritation – High concentrations of vinegar may irritate sensitive skin. Rinse clothes thoroughly.

– Discoloration – Vinegar can lighten or yellow some fabrics or whites over time.

– Rubber degradation – Not common, but long-term vinegar use may degrade washer door gaskets or hoses.

– Clogged dispenser – Hard water deposits can clog dispenser if not flushed monthly.

– Corrosion – Very high vinegar concentrations could corrode metal parts. Don’t exceed 1 cup per load.

– Septic systems – Large amounts of vinegar kill beneficial bacteria in septic tanks. Stick to 1/2 cup or less per load.

These aren’t common problems if vinegar is used correctly. Start with 1/4 cup in your dispenser and increase slowly if needed. Flush the machine regularly to maximize results and minimize drawbacks.


Get answers to some frequently asked questions about using vinegar as a fabric softener:

Does vinegar really soften clothes?

Yes, vinegar is an effective fabric softener! The acetic acid interacts with the fibers to make fabrics feel softer and fluffier. It also eliminates static cling.

What kind of vinegar should you use?

White distilled vinegar is best. Apple cider and wine vinegars can stain clothes. Always use non-colored distilled vinegar.

How much vinegar do you add to the rinse cycle?

Start with 1/4 cup of vinegar for a regular load. Increase up to 1/2 cup for very hard water or large loads. Too much can leave a smell.

Does vinegar brighten whites?

Vinegar helps restore whites and brightens faded clothes. The mild acid dissolves detergent residue that dulls fabrics. Use vinegar soaks or booster cycles to brighten whites.

Can vinegar damage the washing machine?

No, vinegar is safe when used properly in the rinse cycle. It won’t harm hoses or seals. High concentrations over time could degrade rubber. Flush machines monthly to prevent any buildup.

Will my clothes smell like vinegar?

There may be a faint vinegar scent right after washing. But it will disappear as clothes dry. Too much vinegar can leave lingering odors, so use the proper 1/4 – 1/2 cup per load.


Vinegar is an economical, environmentally-friendly alternative to commercial fabric softeners. Simply add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle for soft, static-free laundry. Vinegar softens fibers, brightens colors, reduces odors, and protects your washing machine. With proper use, vinegar can replace dryer sheets or liquid fabric softeners with great results. Give it a try for an easy, non-toxic way to keep clothes fresh and soft!