When you go to the grocery store you'll see several types of vinegar. The two basic vinegars are apple cider vinegar and white distilled vinegar. You'll also find gourmet vinegars - raspberry, basil, balsamic - but leave those for salads and cooking.
All vinegars contain acetic acid. The amount of acetic acid in vinegar determines its acidic strength. It is the acetic acid that works to brighten, soften and kill odors in your laundry.
Cider vinegar is made from juices of apples and has an acidity in the range of 5 to 6 percent. It is yellow or golden amber in color. Distilled, or white vinegar, is produced from the second fermentation of dilute distilled alcohol. The alcohol could be made from grain or the starch from corn, potatoes, rice and barley. Distilled vinegar is usually less acidic than cider vinegars and range from 4 to 7 percent acidity.
When buying vinegar to use in the laundry, choose white distilled vinegar. It contains no tannins - natural plant dyes - that can stain clothes. If you must use cider vinegar, use less and dilute it before pouring directly on clothes.
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