Where to put vinegar in a washing machine – to clean the machine and ace your laundry

Laundry experts share where to put vinegar in a washing machine to brighten whites and clean your machine

A stacked washer and dryer in a laundry closet
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We all know vinegar is great for both laundry and cleaning, but where exactly is it supposed to go in our appliances?

It turns out that where you put white vinegar is different depending on whether you are doing laundry or if you are looking to clean a washing machine – and getting it wrong could have adverse effects on your prized garments or even your washing machine's mechanics. 

Below, laundry experts have explained where to put vinegar in a washing machine for cleaning and laundry so you can get the desired results every time and avoid irreparable damage. 

Where to put vinegar in a washing machine  

Cleaning with vinegar is extremely effective for a whole range of household cleaning tasks, but using it in the wrong places will often have little to no effect, or even do more harm than good, cleaning experts warn.  

Gray laundry room with built ins

(Image credit: Alex James)

Putting it in the wrong compartment means it may not be distributed properly and effectively, says Karina Toner, cleaning expert at Spekless Cleaning, meaning that, ultimately, it does not work as well for laundry or for cleaning the machine.

More worryingly, putting vinegar in the wrong compartment can damage your clothes when doing laundry, cautions Matthew Connelly, CEO and laundry expert at ihateironing dry cleaners in New York. ‘When you add vinegar to your fabric softener compartment, your machine will dilute it with water so that it isn’t too harsh or overpowering on your clothes. Skipping this step and adding vinegar straight onto clothes can cause discoloration, especially for delicate materials.’ 

Karina Toner
Karina Toner

Karina is the Operations Manager at Spekless Cleaning, a trusted maid service based in Washington D.C. The team has over five years of experience providing top-quality cleaning services for both residential and commercial clients. Karina oversees every aspect of the business, ensuring that every client gets the same top-notch service and a spotless clean every time.

Where to put vinegar for laundry

How you use white vinegar for laundry will depend on the type of machine you have, continue Matthew Connelly, a laundry expert. Front-loading washers and top-loading washers have different compartments, so they require slightly different operating instructions. 

Front-load washer: Vinegar is usually used as a fabric-softener alternative when it comes to laundry, and for that reason, should be put in the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine.

Top-loader washer: If you have a top-loader washing machine, Matthew recommends waiting until your clothes cycle reaches the ‘rinse’ step of the cycle. Open your machine and add half a cup of vinegar straight into the dispenser before allowing the machine to run through the full wash cycle. 

Where to put vinegar for cleaning washing machines

White utility room with washing machine

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

When cleaning a washing machine or washing machine seals to remove mold, putting the vinegar in the right spot will ensure you get a deep clean and deodorize your machine. It also helps to know how much vinegar to add to a washing machine

Laundry expert, Matthew Connelly, explains that excess vinegar can lead to corroded plastic and rubber parts on your machine, which creates long-term damage: ‘We recommend half a cup of vinegar for a full load of laundry, and one cup or so for cleaning, and to not use it too frequently to avoid corrosion to your appliance.’

Regardless of your washing machine type, you can add the vinegar directly to the drum and run it on a hot cycle. This will help remove any soap or odors from your machine. For limescale build-up, add lemon or a commercial descaling product.


Can I use vinegar and laundry detergent together? 

You should not mix laundry detergent and vinegar together when doing laundry. While it may sound like it will offer a better clean, the pH of the acidic vinegar will prevent the detergent from working correctly, leading to a worse clean than if you had used one product or the other independently. The same goes for using vinegar with fabric softener.  

Do you need to rinse after washing with vinegar?

If you have used vinegar in your washing machine to clean or do laundry, you do not need to run a rinse cycle afterward. A standard laundry cycle runs a plain water cycle towards the end anyway to remove any residue left behind.

Can cleaning with vinegar make your clothes smell?

'Thankfully, most of the time, cleaning with vinegar won't leave your clothes smelling like the substance,' says Simon Allen, Co-Founder of Fountain Filters. 'The strong smell generally fades away during the rinse cycle and drying process. If any smell lingers, you can always try running an extra rinse cycle to get rid of any lingering smells.'

'After each wash, it's a good idea to leave the washing machine door open to let air circulate and prevent mold growth,' says Simon Allen from Fountain Filters. 'You should also wipe down the drum and door seal regularly and use the right amount of detergent to avoid residue buildup.'

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.

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