Baking Soda and Vinegar in my laundry (and a tiny bit of soap)

It’s like a school science project volcano in your washing machine.

I used to be addicted to some of the more popular brands of detergent. And when they came out with scents like Vanilla Lavender, of course I bought the detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets. I started to notice my work out clothes weren’t really doing their “stay dry” job and then did some research.

For me, the detergents weren’t as bad as the fabric softener. Softener gets inside your clothes and stays there. It’s great for static cling and for keeping that “fresh” scent in your laundry, but that’s the problem: it stays there. Workout clothing seems to retain fabric softener really well and it eventually it loses any moisture-wicking properties.

And… a lot of conventional fabric softeners have animal byproducts in them. Since softener smooths the fibers, the lipids and fats from an animal do a pretty good job. I enjoy a steak occasionally, but I don’t want to go around wearing a cow’s entrails.

There are all kinds of “sports” detergents out there and most of them are pretty expensive. I wanted something simple that would keep the stank out of my laundry. Baking soda to the rescue! It’s very gentle when used in a proper amount. About a half cup to one cup of baking soda is great for a large load of laundry in my space saver washer. I initially wanted to do baking soda only but the surfactants in laundry detergent really penetrate clothing fibers to get your clothes clean. So I tried a few different brands and started using Biokleen laundry liquid. I probably use a tablespoon per load of laundry, which means I only need to laundry detergent about once a year!

I was then looking for a remedy to get deodorant stains out of my shirts. I haven’t made the leap to natural deodorants since I really like my antiperspirant so I was stuck with a lot of chalky residue on my black shirts. Vinegar is the answer! Initially, I treated some of my shirts with a paste made from baking soda and vinegar and worked it into the stain with an old toothbrush. It didn’t fix my shirts 100% but it made it a lot better. From then on I soak my laundry in the baking soda and soap for about an hour and then use 1/2 cup of vinegar in place of the fabric softener. Using vinegar as a fabric softener will help dissolve the baking soda you used in the wash. It doesn’t take much for these two substances to cancel each other out!  I think this has really helped keep the deodorant stains away. The true test is the smell test: if your shirts still smell like deodorant after you wash them, it’s still in there 🙁

Baking soda, when mixed with a mild dish soap to form a paste, is fantastic at removing fresh grease stains. Simply scrub the mixture into the grease stain with a toothbrush and let it sit for 10 minutes. I had to do this on a place mat stained with bacon grease and it worked wonderfully.

Even if you line-dry your clothes, the vinegar smell will not stay in them. Promise! It will also make your towels nice and fluffy. Fabric softeners also reduce your towel’s ability to absorb water, so it’s yet another reason to use vinegar. Your towels might not smell like Heavenly Cherub Breath or Vanilla Cupcake Violet but they’ll dry you off after a shower. The choice is yours!

Let’s talk money. It may seem like baking soda and vinegar would be cheaper than conventional detergent and fabric softener, but it’s not always the case. It really depends on how much you use. If you have a high efficiency washer, you can get away with using 1/4 cup baking soda since your washer uses so little water. Same goes for the vinegar. For any/all of us who have top loaders, a half cup or 3/4 cup is needed. This is one of those things that you can test out on your own and it’s not going to be a huge inve$tment. Vinegar has more than tripled in price in the last five years since the uses of distilled white vinegar are seemingly endless. It’s the base for several of my homemade cleaners and now it’s my fabric softener. I haven’t actually done the math but even if it’s slightly more expensive, my laundry turns out much better. Now when I smell other people’s laundry it almost is offensively strong!

10 Comments on "Baking Soda and Vinegar in my laundry (and a tiny bit of soap)"

  1. Lydia says:

    Hi LA Lady,

    Can you give the actual ‘recipe’ for how you use the vinegar and baking soda + laundry soap?
    I am wondering, if using a washer and dryer, when the vinegar gets added. I live in an apartment, and it is not feasible to soak my clothing for an hour and then wash, as I cannot carry sopping wet clothes to the shared laundry room. Would you add vinegar to the washing machine? Or ‘drizzle’ over the damp clothes after I throw them in the dryer, before I press ‘start’?

    Thanks for the info! Any more natural way to wash my clothes is a bonus.

    • LALady says:

      I used to have to do the same thing. The neighbors weren’t stoked on me letting my laundry soak.

      I use 1 tablespoon (no more) of laundry soap and about 3/4 to 1 cup of baking soda. If the laundry is particularly gross, I might use a full cup. My laundry soap only calls for 1 tbsp per large load, but when I was using regular detergent I put in no more than a 1/4 cup. The soap is really just to get some surfactants into the wash so the baking soda can do its job.

      You use the vinegar just as you would use regular fabric softener, except I use a half cup. It goes in when the regular fabric softener goes in, so during the final rinse. A lot of washing machines have a fabric softener dispenser in the center of the agitator or, in the case of front loaders, along side the detergent dispenser. I’ve seen people use as little as 1/4 cup but I think the deodorant stains come out much easier with 1/2 cup.

      Good luck!

  2. Alissa says:

    A quick tip that could work:
    I use essential oils in place of fabric softener (as the main reason I used to use fabric softener was the great smell) and that gives a nice aroma both to the clothes, and to the room where the washing is done 🙂 I think the oils could be added to vinegar as well. Just 4-5 drops is usually fine. I think you could also add your favourite perfume for the same results, but I haven’t tried it..

    Anyway, essential oils tend to give a faint but more natural scent to the clothes. I especially enjoy washing bedsheets and towels with a strong eucalyptus scent to make them smell super-fresh. For clothes I use something a bit less strong.

  3. Tiffany says:

    Question….. I have a front load washer, do I mix the 1/4 cup of baking soda in the same compartment as the laundry soap? And how much soap do I add? I will put the vinegar in the fabric softener spot. But just curious if the baking soda and tide get put in together??!!

  4. Gloria-Lise says:

    Dear LAlady,

    Great article! I personally love the combination of baking soda & vinegar for targeting many cleaning and odor issues around the home. I was using vinegar in the wash and baking soda in the dry as a fabric softener but I do see how adding baking soda to the wash is beneficial as well especially with the detergent surfactants in there to help penetrate the clothing! I thank you for this great read and I offer you an article (the web link is down below) that I stumbled on to not too long ago related to those terrible sweat/antiperspirants stains. Those aluminum based antiperspirants are nasty business, not only for your clothing but especially your health! My husband and I were introduced into making our own deodorant and we love it so I offer you the receipe for this amazing alternative to commercial deodorants and antiperspirants which has worked wonders for my husband and I. The following receipe makes a fairly large batch; In a medium curved plate or bowl mix together 1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of corn starch or arrow root powder then gradually add liquid coconut oil while mixing with hands until the mixture can be molded into a ball without falling apart or being too full of coconut oil (the consistency of playdoh almost) and the last step is to add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for scent (I personally used vanilla & lavender essential oils in my batch) then vóila! Your homemade deodorant is ready to simply rub under your arm pits! You can put this batch in a deodorant container or a little glass jar for later use. This receipe is credited to Lyndi Cavett & Corey Troiani from their “Simple Home Chemistry” guide. When switching from commercial antiperspirants to homemade deodorant, you have to keep using the homemade version until the commercial junk is out of your system if at first you do not notice a significant difference. I swear by this recipe because it’s more natural and safe for you and your family so I hope everyone gives it a try!

  5. Josh says:

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    this web site, this website is truly awesome.

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