There's Great Drying Out!

Why I Don't Use Detergent or Fabric Softener

A while ago, I was chatting with a friend about articles I read online regarding washing your clothes using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. To my surprise, he told me that he had been doing it for ages due to an intolerance he has with strong cleaning chemicals. 

I quizzed him about the results and the steps he take because most of the articles I found online were written from an American perspective and frequently mentioned products like Borax and Castile soap as other additives that people use. I’ve never seen either one of those in Irish shops but turns out you don’t really need them. 

I decided to give it a try and started using just bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to wash my clothes. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I now believe the environmental and health benefits of a more natural wash are better than using the detergents you buy in supermarkets. 

Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda

How to Wash Your Clothes Using Baking Soda and Vinegar

Firstly, a few technical points. Baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and bread soda are all commons names for the same thing – sodium bicarbonate. A slightly salty, white powder that is commonly used in baking as a leavening agent. Bicarb is alkaline so when it comes into contact with anything acidic it reacts to produce carbon dioxide. This is what makes your bread light and airy. It has many practical applications around the house for cleaning and it is really effective at deodorising fabrics.


Add the Bicarbonate of Soda

You can see from the picture how much baking soda I use in a wash. Here I am using a scoop that was left over from a tub of vanish powder. I add one heaped scoop to the powder section of the washing machine drawer. I was curious to find out what that was in grams so I dropped it into a weighing scales. 100 grams of bicarbonate of soda. I have no idea if that is more than necessary; is possible I need less per wash.

Add the Vinegar

I then fill the fabric softer section up to the top of the indicator with vinegar. Pro tip! If you are using the 5L bottle, it has a tendency to “glug” ( is there a word for the way liquid comes out of a bottle in that back and forth motion?)

Anyway, the point is, if it “glugs” you will spill it everywhere and you risk getting it in contact with the bicarb (which, as I explain below, you don’t want). So you can either add the vinegar to the drawer first and try to not spill it or simply pour enough into a glass and then pour from that into the drawer on your washing machine. Simple.

Don't Mix the Bicarb and the Vinegar!

I am very careful not to mix the two when adding them to the machine drawer. If you get vinegar on the soda it will cause a chemical reaction. They will fizz and a annihilate each other in a bubbly release of carbon dioxide. You want that reaction to happen inside the washing machine after the soda has been mixed with the water and has gotten around the clothes. Generally the “fabric softener”, in this case, our vinegar gets added during the rinse cycle so

What I Wash and How?

So, I’m a bloke and, being a bit of a minimalist, I have a very simple wardrobe. I don’t have delicates or dry-clean only items because that’s just hassle. I wash  cotton t-shirts, shirts, jersey hoodies, trousers, jeans, socks and boxers. I also wash my gym gear which includes polyester shorts and vests. All of that goes in together on a 40 degree wash for two hours with just the bicarb and the vinegar. 

Other than that I wash my bed sheets separately at 60 degrees. The other programme I occasionally use is a boil wash for things like dishcloths, tea towels, hand towels and shower mats. For the boil wash, I will normally add a little bit of bleach if some items are heavily stained (dish clothes!) along with bicarb and vinegar. 


Do the Clothes Smell of Vinegar?

No. Granted, during the rinse cycle the kitchen smells like a chip shop for a few minutes but that vanishes quickly. The clothes come out smell of nothing at all. There just isn’t a smell of anything from them after the wash. 

I will admit that there have been a few times when I hugged someone who obviously uses the scented variety fabric softener or when I have stayed over in my parents house and my mam had just changed the sheets. Yes that brief, pleasant smell is very nice and enjoyable but honestly I don’t miss it enough to switch back. 

But what if you wanted your washing to smell nice? Well, from reading around online you hear of some people who add a few drops of essential oils for a nice smell. I have yet to try it myself.

Where Can I Buy Baking Soda and Vingear in Bulk in Dublin?

There are probably lots of places around where you can but bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in bulk all around Dublin. One I have used in the past is called Caterway, they are a food wholesalers. My best mate is a chef so I often order stuff from them through his job and just pay him the cash.  But my regular spot is the Asian Market on Drury Street in Dublin (Google Maps)

  • A 5L bottle of white vinegar will cost you €3.50 
  • A 3KG bag of bicarbonate of soda costs €4.95
You can also bulk buy vinegar and bicarbonate of soda on amazon, however, they seem to be more expensive and you might need a prime account to get the delivery to Ireland.

Are there any drawbacks to washing your clothes this way?

  1. Vinegar isn’t great for some of your washing machine parts?
    I did come across an article against adding vinegar to the washing machine. It claimed that the acidic nature of the vinegar would damage the rubber connections inside the washing machine. I’ve been using vinegar in my machine for close to a year now and I have not had any problems so far. If that changes I will update this post.

  2. Clean but not super white and bright?
    I have been happy with the results. Some people are obsessed with achieving the whitest of whites. I’m ok with not being perfect.


  3. Some People Think You’re Weird, Some People Think You’re Wonderful
    When you discuss this with other people sometimes people react in different ways. Many people think its great and some people just don’t believe it would work. I am sure that’s what Unilever would like them to continue thinking 
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