Use This Kitchen Staple To Keep Colors From Bleeding In Your Laundry

Multi-hued stripes, colored patterns, or exuberantly bright clothing can be expressive and even joyful, and you want to protect your fabrics' colors as much as clean them. If you've ever pulled a favorite shirt or skirt out of the wash only to find that the colors have noticeably bled into each other, it's disappointing. Short of dying the whole thing black, there's not much of a fix. However, you can prevent this from happening in the first place by adding diluted vinegar to your washing machine.

Vinegar is one of those household products that's attained near miracle-worker status. You can clean gardening tools with it, get plants to germinate, and wash wool sweaters with a touch of vinegar to deodorize them. As far as colored laundry is concerned, the good news is that the acetic acid in vinegar acts to prevent colors from bleeding. As long as you don't use it in every wash, it's the perfect preventive strategy and it's delightfully non-toxic.

How to use vinegar in the wash

First, Grandma's advice to separate colors still holds true today. Keep whites together, and for colors, match the intensity of the hues. Dark black and dark blue denim will wash well with your dark purple towels, for instance. If you've got a few pieces in a lighter or pastel range, wash those with each other. 

Distilled white vinegar is the best option for a washing machine, so please don't substitute another vinegar. If your washing machine has a separate fabric softener dispenser, add one-half cup of diluted vinegar (you can use one-quarter cup each of vinegar and water). If not, then temporarily stop your machine right before the rinse cycle starts. Add your half cup of diluted vinegar to the machine, restart it, and let the cycle complete.

There are some items you don't want to wash with vinegar — it won't work well on elastic workout clothes because the acid will wear those fabrics down. Never combine vinegar and bleach; always use one or the other. For best results, wash colors in cold water, turning your clothes inside out. Even though vinegar is a stain lifter, deodorizer, mildew remover, and prevents color bleeding, you want to use this technique only occasionally, as it can damage the fabric over time.