I use this vinegar trick to prevent my laundry from fading – and keep it unbelievably soft

Vinegar's cleaning power is no secret, but its use in the laundry feels slightly less known – here's why I won't wash without it

built in laundry room shelving
(Image credit: Scott Davis / The Fox Group)

Laundry is one of my least favorite jobs, but I admit that achieving fresh, soft clothes makes the process feel worth it. So, you can imagine the extent of my sadness when I would endure the chore, only to be left with faded clothes that were not as soft as I had hoped. 

I had heard about using white vinegar in laundry to deodorize and brighten my clothes, but (while I do want bright whites) faded clothes were always my biggest nemesis. However, after researching vinegar's acidic qualities (which I will explore more later), I was sure that I was hopeful that I could clean with vinegar and achieve soft, colorful clothes easily. 

This is what the process involved – and why vinegar is the surprising substance that your colored laundry craves. 

Using vinegar to encourage softness – and prevent fading

laundry room cabinet ideas

(Image credit: Eye for Pretty Design)

Though I was confident in vinegar's ability, I wanted to seek encouragement from home-care experts who could reassure this laundry room idea further. 'Vinegar is used for reducing fading because it is an acidic substance [pH about 2-3],' says home improvement blogger Pulkit Damani. 'When applied to fabric, it helps to set the dye in the fabric, making it less likely to fade.' 

The expert adds that the acid serves as the mordant, which encourages the fabric to absorb dye in the dye bath and consequently leaves the clothes looking bright and colorful.

With this in mind, I poured one-half cup of vinegar into my detergent dispenser (alongside my detergent). I use this one from Amazon, which is great for all cleaning purposes, but I'm sure you can use any kind that you're familiar with. 

After the wash, the strong vinegar aroma disappeared, so you don't need to worry about any lingering scents. 

Washing machine

(Image credit: Future / © Tom Meadows)

After airing my laundry (this is how I dry clothes quickly without a dryer), I will admit that I was amazed at how soft my clothes felt. And the best part? The colors looked as bright as they had before the cycle.

Pulkit had already explained how the vinegar's acid encourages the colors not to fade, but  I also had to ask: what made my clothes so soft? 

'Vinegar is used as a fabric softener because it is an acidic substance that can help break down the fibers in fabrics,' he says. 'Because of its acidic properties, it helps in breaking down the fibers in fabrics. This makes fabrics softer and less likely to wrinkle.'

I never fail to turn to white vinegar when washing my colors, and its softening ability is perfect for my best bedsheets, too. Will you give this trick a try?

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.