Ethanoic Acid as Fabric Softener

I might be on to something, here.

An article in Wikipedia states that ethanoic acid (or acetic acid, the 'active' ingredient in vinegar), has a pungent smell. It doesn't say whether this 'smell' is the same as vinegar. I would like to know, and here's why:


I've read many accounts at ThriftyFun of vinegar being a cheaper and safer alternative to fabric softeners. Most also state that the vinegar leaves the clothes nice and fresh smelling. Against my better judgement, I gave it a try.

I found that vinegar 'softens' fabrics as well as any commercial fabric softener I've ever used. It goes further and gives fabrics a 'hand' or finish you won't usually find on a garment after it's first laundering.

So now, I use vinegar, instead. Right? In a word, No! As it turns out, that nice, fresh smell, smells just like the vinegar it is. I refuse to 'go around' with my clothes smelling like a jar of Del Monte gherkins. I tried diluting the vinegar with the same amount of my regular fabric softener. My duds still smelled like a kosher deli. My closet and drawers took on a 'pickle power' pungency. This 'fresh' smell hangs around for a while. It does not readily dissipate.

You can buy a quart of food grade ethanoic acid online for ten dollars. When diluted to the 'table strength' of vinegar, it should go a long way. There's just one hitch. Is that 'smell' the Wikipedia article describes as 'pungent', the same as vinegar? If not, food grade ethanoic acid may just be the perfect fabric softener. If 'yes', then I've wasted ten dollars plus shipping.

I just may take a chance and order a bottle of the 'E' acid. The scent can't be much worse than my own clothes after the 'perfume' in my fabric softener fades. In the meantime, I'm sitting here wondering, 'How many of those people who think the lingering scent of vinegar is 'nice and fresh', have been tempted to gussy up and go 'round sporting a sprig of dill weed in their hair' ?


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June 7, 20150 found this helpful

I have no vinegar smell when I use it as a softener unlesss I don't let something dry completely. My laundry does smell fresh with a vinegar rinse.

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June 7, 20150 found this helpful


Maybe it's me. When I was in grade school, audiologists determined my sense of hearing was quite a bit above normal. I was told very few people could hear the frequencies I heard. My family and friends agreed that my sense of smell was above normal, too. My hearing is not as sensitive as it used to be. I think maybe my sense of smell still is.

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June 12, 20150 found this helpful

You might want to have your water tested for high mineral or iron (or other things) because with sufficient rinsing, vinegar is the best additive bar none for laundry. I've been using it for decades - whiter whites, brighter colours, and no other odour other than 'fresh and clean'.


I've done laundry from Alaska to the Florida Gulf Coast and most points in between and now I'm in the UK - and vinegar is the only softener/brightener I'll use.

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June 15, 20150 found this helpful

Frugal Sunnie

I detest corporate greed. I was excited when I first read tips for using vinegar as a fabric softener. I was disappointed by it's lingering scent. You tell me it also whitens and brightens. That, I didn't know. Now, I am really disappointed.

My city/county water quality rates at 80 points. Far above the national average and some of the best in the nation. I do rinse my clothes, thoroughly. I still had a lingering vinegar scent on my clothing, towels and bed linens. Just my luck (or my nose).

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July 26, 20150 found this helpful

I promise you the vinegar smell does linger. On a hot summer day when you start sweating, the smell is awful. It will make you smell like a walking jug of vinegar!


I'm not the only one who has this problem. Everyone whom I know who has tried it says the same thing about it. I think that maybe the few people who like it just don't realize what they smell like, but I bet I could pick them out of a crowd!

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February 23, 20160 found this helpful

Praise be, I am not alone!

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June 17, 20162 found this helpful

Hello there! I have been using white vinegar based dryer sheets, that are soaked in a jar, for a few weeks now, and the smell of the vinegar is not on the clothes when they come out, or anywhere for that matter. I was sure the first time I used them, that My family, and I too would smell like pickles. I have not made a liquid fabric softener, for the washer though.


Maybe that is the difference? I am wondering if the heat of the dryer has something to do with it? If you look around you will find recipes for liquid softener, that also has hair conditioner added it to it for scent. Also I put essential oils in my dryer sheets. I think this kind of softener really does work our clothes are softer than ever!!

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September 8, 20160 found this helpful

I made fabric softener too, and the vinegar smell stayed with my clothes and towels. Tel me if the other stuff work any better.

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April 2, 20190 found this helpful

That's funny, because I've been using plain, old White Distilled Vinegar as my fabric softener in my laundry for years. There is NEVER any vinegar smell whatsoever when I remove them from the washing machine.


Are you sure you aren't using Apple Cider Vinegar instead of White Distilled Vinegar? Just asking! There shouldn't be ANY residual odor. Maybe using too much? Very odd.

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July 21, 20190 found this helpful

I wash my childrens clothes in vinger all the time and I dont have that issue and it does get rid of the odor very well instead is masking it because I have a bed wetter and this works very well for me and vinger also prevents clothes from bleeding out in the washer

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