How Does Washing Clothes with Vinegar or Baking Soda Compare to Detergent?

Baking soda and distilled white vinegar are two of the most versatile products that people turn to for a multitude of household cleaning solutions. Let’s take a look at whether these solutions that have been passed down through generations are in fact effective for laundry!

Before going further, we have to warn you: adding vinegar or baking soda to the wash along with your laundry detergent increases the risk of poorer cleaning performance, as detergents are optimized for a specific pH level, which is altered by the presence of these two household additives in the wash.

The Watch-outs of Adding Vinegar and Baking Soda to Your Laundry

Although vinegar and baking soda are safe to use in both regular and HE washing machines, they are considerably less efficient than high-performance laundry detergents at delivering an outstanding and odourless clean.


  • Vinegar's low pH level can weaken cellulose fibers like cotton, linen, and rayon or nylon fibers and alter the colour of pH-sensitive dyes

  • Adding vinegar to the wash along with your regular laundry detergent might interfere with its cleaning performance

  • White vinegar purchased at stores is mostly made out of water and requires 5 or more cups per load to work effectively

Baking Soda

Although vinegar and baking soda shouldn't be harmful to your washing machine if used in moderate amounts, extreme use can impact some of the coatings on the drive shaft components, which are the parts responsible for switching cycles from agitate to spin.

  • Baking soda’s high pH can damage natural, protein-based fibers like wool, cashmere, and silk and can fade colours over time

  • Adding baking soda along with your laundry detergent can decrease your laundry detergent’s ability to clean away low-pH sensitive stains like coffee, tea, wine, and other stains

  • Some dyes in coloured fabrics are pH sensitive, so exposure to high pH of baking soda could fade their colour

  • Avoid using baking soda in the rinse as it can cause a reaction on fabric making them rough and stiff

  • Using baking soda under hard water conditions could lead to fiber breakage on some fibers like nylon and elastane

Vinegar and Baking Soda in Laundry

While vinegar and baking soda can sometimes offer benefits in pretreating small stains and odours, a real laundry detergent is always best for great whitening, brightening, odour-removing, pre-treating heavy stains, and fabric softening capabilities.

Vinegar’s main component is acetic acid, which helps make it an option to perform small laundry tasks. Baking soda can control overflowing suds and revitalize aged linens. But when battling with musty towels, dingy clothes, underarm odour, or stiff fabrics, there’s nothing better at getting rid of tough stains and bad smells than Tide’s laundry detergents.

Is Using Baking Soda and Vinegar Together a Good Idea?

The short answer is no. And the long answer goes like this: When used together, baking soda and vinegar will neutralize each other, effectively canceling out the benefits of low pH for vinegar and high pH for baking soda.

How Does Washing Clothes With Vinegar or Baking Soda Compare to Detergent?

Let’s get straight to the point: How do these household products compare to a detergent like Tide PODS when it comes to getting clean, fresh-smelling, soft clothes? The "vinegar and baking soda"-type methods were invented at a time when neither the machines nor the detergents were as advanced as they are now to clean larger loads in more efficient washing machines.

Even though vinegar and baking soda can help to loosen body soils and pH-sensitive stains by lowering or increasing the wash water’s pH level, to actually remove these stains you will need detergent action. Using vinegar or baking soda will only add to the time and cost of doing laundry; they cannot substitute for a high-quality laundry detergent. High-quality detergents like Tide are formulated with different kinds of ingredients optimized to clean a variety of stains such as food greases, which are not pH-sensitive, and eliminate odours while protecting clothes from damage in the wash.

Tide’s newer, innovative laundry detergents are equipped with powerful cleaning ingredients including surfactants, enzymes, specially designed polymers, builders, and chelants. They not only remove week-old smells in one wash, but they also hold on to all soil and odour types in the wash water preventing them from redepositing onto other fabrics—creating a more effortless and efficient clean. In addition to offering outstanding cleaning performance even in a cold wash, washing with Tide PODS and liquid detergents is easier and quicker than any laundry hack you might come across.