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How Much White Vinegar Do You Use to Disinfect in the Washing Machine?

Updated February 21, 2017

A major frustration on laundry day is the sense that, no matter what you have added to the washload, your laundry just does not seem to be clean. Perhaps it's a faint lingering odour or a greyish tinge that stimulates your concern. Increasing concerns about the effects of long-term exposure to chemicals raise questions about whether you want to add anything more to assure cleanliness. One simple strategy is the old-fashioned practice of disinfecting with vinegar.

Support for Disinfection Claims

Even old-fashioned housekeepers varied in their enthusiasm for vinegar as a disinfectant. Some preferred chlorine bleach; others swore by ammonia as the path to real cleanliness. Especially as the disinfectant uses of vinegar became mixed with its uses in diet, health and even pet care, scientifically minded critics lumped vinegar in the old-fashioned alternative health quest file. Recent studies, like the work of the Good Housekeeping Institute reported publicly in 2000, have reconfirmed the reliable disinfection properties of white vinegar at the normal 5-percent acidity sold in grocery stores.

Quantities for Disinfection

Depending on water temperature and load size, vinegar seems to be most effective in amounts between 1/2 cup and 1 cup per single load, with larger amounts reserved for potentially high-infection loads of laundry. Bed linen and pyjamas used by a family member with stomach flu may require 1 cup of vinegar or a second wash cycle with a second 1/2 cup of vinegar added at the start of the wash cycle. The hottest water setting will enhance vinegar's disinfectant properties.

Maximising Disinfection

In addition to adding vinegar to individual wash cycles, the disinfection capacities of laundry day can be enhanced by regular disinfection of your washing machine using hot water and vinegar. For best results, run your machine on a clothes-free cycle regularly once a month.

Other Vinegar Benefits

While vinegar and chlorine or oxygen bleach should never be used together for any reason, pretreating of soiled coloured clothing with vinegar may enable those who rely on chlorine bleach for disinfecting to get the results they want. A first wash of soiled coloured clothes with vinegar and water sets the dyes in coloured fabrics, thus preventing bleeding or colouring other clothes in the washload. Those who require chlorine or oxygen bleach as a final step may wash clothes a second time, after vinegar has been drained out.

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About the Author

Janet Beal has written for various websites, covering a variety of topics, including gardening, home, child development and cultural issues. Her work has appeared on early childhood education and consumer education websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University and a Master of Science in early childhood education from the College of New Rochelle.