Is vinegar harmful to washing  machine?

Is vinegar harmful to washing  machine
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For years vinegar has been hailed as the ultimate laundry disinfectant… that is not true. It has also be touted as a superb cleansing agent… this is true. But it comes at a price… your washing machine.

The use of vinegar in laundry is detrimental to washing machines. Acetic acid, a major ingredient in vinegar, corrodes metal and degrades rubber. This causes rusts in the a washing machine’s metal interior. Also the rubber around the door seal and drain begin to experience cracks that can result in leakages.

On the far end, the acetic acid in vinegar does not “dissolve” metal, that is an exaggeration.

How vinegar damages washing machine

Is vinegar harmful to washing  machine

Washing machines are broadly made up of two components:

  1. Metal and 
  2. Rubber

Vinegar on the the other hand has a major ingredient: Acetic acid

Acetic acid makes up some 4% of vinegar, making it a major component of vinegar, second only to water.

Acetic acid is a acid containing positive ions. You can compare it to the red wire in circuit.

When it comes in contact with metal, it act as a hydrogen ion “buffer”, triggering a cathogic reaction that results in reduction of the metal. 

The effect of the above reaction shows physically in the form of rust.

A cathodic reaction, in a most basic term, is a reaction between the positive and negative ions in a metal that results in the reduction of the metal

In other words cathodic reaction causes corrosion or rust.

Science Direct

Acetic acid on the other hand also reacts with rubber, another component of a washing machine.

It increases rubber’s hydrophilicity, (water assumption) and roughness. This reduces a rubbers elastic properties causes it to crack.

In summary the whole explanation above can be explained in two simple terms:

  1. Vinegar causes washing machine metal components to rust,
  1. It causes washing machine’s rubber components to crack, resulting in leakages.

Should you use vinegar on your washing machine?

Is vinegar harmful to washing  machine

A quick search of the above question on Google, will bring out seemingly contraction answers.

Some say, ‘don’t use it’ in your washing machine.

Others say: ‘10 reasons why you should use it’

Still other: ‘9 things you should never clean with vinegar’

Now the average reader is confused. Which should you believe?

Well if you take your time to read the articles, you’ll probably realize that they all have a point. 

Now some users can vouch that they’ve been using vinegar for years with “excellent result”. Their washing machines have not stopped working.

Others will say that they’re starting to notice some rusts, in their washing machine drum, but can’t figure the reason. Of course, there is no proof that it is caused by their use of vinegar.

Now here is the summary:

Using vinegar in your laundry will not cause your machine to rust in a short time. The acetic acid in vinegar is usually diluted by water during laundering, hence it does not pose immediate threat to your washer. In the time being, you might enjoy the cleansing effect of this powerful liquid.

However, with constant use, especially when used in large quantities, and for a long period of time. The acetic acid’s prolonged reaction with a washing machine’s metal and rubber components will become obvious in the form of rusts, cracks and leakages.

So, is it worth the use? That answer is left for each user to determine.

But if you want to benefit from using vinegar in your laundry, without eventually harming your appliance, there is a work-around.

Better way to use vinegar on laundry

This article is not vilifying vinegar. The liquid is a good cleaning agent. And is able good at removing stains. Hence it is a good chemical that can be added to your laundry cleaning box. 

However it is a weak disinfectant, hence should not be used in place of bleach or other ethanol-based disinfectant.

To harness its cleaning properties, clothes can be treated with vinegar before washing it in a washing machine.

For maximal effect, use 1:10 ratio in mixing vinegar to water.

Based on the above ratio, add a liter of vinegar for every 10 liters of water.

Soak your clothes in the mix for 5 – 10 minutes.

Rinse with clean water before running it in a washing machine.

Vinegar to water ratio

Washing Machine TypeWater Usage Per Load (Gallons)Water Usage Per Load (Liters)Vinegar/Water Ratio FormulaVinegar Needed for Disinfection (in Liters)
Front loader26.5 10/100 * 26.52.65
Top loader (Agitator)197210/100 * 727.20
Top loader (High Efficiency)1326.510/100 * 424.20


  1. Vinegar is a good cleansing agent.
  1. Acetic acid in vinegar can corrode metal, and weaken rubber.
  1. The effect of vinegar on washing machine takes long to manifest.
  1. You can use vinegar on your laundry without directly applying it in your washing machine.

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