Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Get Stains Out of Clothing?

Got stains? The right type of vinegar can be your lifesaver.

Photo: James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images

Vinegar has long been a savvy girl's go-to for everything from cooking to cleaning. But when it comes to removing pesky laundry stains, not just any old vinegar will do. With its rich color, courtesy of tannins or natural plant dyes, apple cider vinegar may do more harm than good by creating -- rather than removing -- stains. Luckily, another kitchen staple can tackle those unexpected spots and spills.

What is Vinegar?

Where does vinegar come from? Vinegar is created naturally as a product of fermentation. The process kicks off when bacteria and yeast convert the sugars in a food into alcohol. Then, if the alcohol is allowed to ferment further, viola! Vinegar. Anyone who has ever left an open bottle of wine sitting around too long has unwittingly experienced this process firsthand. In fact, the name comes from the French, meaning "sour wine." While vinegar can be made from just about anything with sugar -- many fruits, grains and veggies -- apple cider vinegar comes from, you guessed it, crushed apples.

Choosing the Right Vinegar

Nothing ruins a good day more than finding a stain on a favorite outfit. Luckily, white distilled vinegar, a.k.a. the stinky stuff you use to dye Easter eggs, also makes for a quick and easy stain remover for everything from coffee and wine to grease and sweat. White distilled vinegar is gentle enough to be used on cotton, wool, silk and linen but should not be used to remove stains on acetate. Not sure what kind of fabric you're working with? A quick glance at the garment's care label will spell things out.

Stain Removal 101

The main ingredient of vinegar is acetic acid. It is this acid that works to naturally remove clothing spills and mishaps. While each stain is different, the general spot removal protocol is the same. First, saturate or flush the soiled area with white distilled vinegar and wait a few minutes. Rinse the spot with water and repeat the process, if needed. Launder the garment as usual. Again, look to the fabric care label for washing instructions. For best results, always treat a stain as soon as it appears.

Apple Cider Vinegar Uses

While apple cider vinegar does not make for an ideal stain remover, it does have many uses, from kitchen condiment to folk medicine. The pungent liquid contains minerals and several trace elements, such as iron, calcium and magnesium, and is regarded by followers of alternative medicine to do everything from cure acne to improve digestion and promote weight loss. Its popularity as a health tonic first gained momentum in the '50s-era book, "Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor's Guide to Good Health," by D.C. Jarvis. Unfortunately, there is little, if any, scientific evidence to support claims of apple cider vinegar's health benefits.

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