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

Getting it wrong could have undesirable consequences, experts warn

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?

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 top-performing washing machine's mechanics. 

Here, laundry experts have explained where to put vinegar in a washing machine for cleaning and laundry so you can get the results you want 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.  

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

Gray laundry room with built ins

(Image credit: Alex James)

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 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, Matthew says.

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 cleaning washing machine seals to remove mold, putting the vinegar in the right spot will ensure you get a deep clean and deodorize your machine.

Karina Toner recommends putting one to two cups of white vinegar directly into the washing machine drum regardless of your washing machine type and running it on a hot cycle.

‘This will help to remove any soap, limescale build-up, or odors from your machine,’ she says.

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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 to do laundry, then you do not need to run a rinse cycle afterward as a standard laundry cycle runs a plain water cycle towards the end anyway to remove any residue left behind.

Knowing where to put vinegar in a washing machine for different purposes is essential to getting the results you want, however knowing how much vinegar to clean a washing machine or whiten laundry is just as important. Laundry expert Matthew Connelly explains that excess vinegar can lead to corroded plastic and rubber parts, which creates long-term damage to your machine, he explains.

‘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.’

Chiana Dickson

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, 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.