Can You Mix OxiClean and Vinegar? No! (Here’s Why)

I always feel better when I’m in a tidy, clean-smelling home. It makes me feel good to provide a healthy, safe environment for my son.

In our search for the most eco-friendly, non-toxic multi-purpose cleaner, we may consider combining items found in our pantry with commercial products. 

OxiClean is a wonderful, oxygen-based bleach capable of removing tough stains, dirt, and grime.

But can you mix OxiClean and vinegar?

No, you cannot mix OxiClean and vinegar as it produces a toxic chemical reaction and renders the two products ineffective cleaners.

Let’s explore what happens when OxiClean and vinegar are mixed, what to do if you’ve accidentally mixed the two, and some cleaner alternatives.

The Chemical Reaction When Mixing OxiClean and Vinegar

OxiClean’s ingredients include sodium percarbonate (Na2CO3·H2O2), sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), surfactants, polymers, and other potentially hidden ingredients.  

When OxiClean is dissolved in water, its main ingredient, sodium percarbonate, breaks down into its components, sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). 

Vinegar’s main component is acetic acid (CH3CO2H). It also includes water and other trace elements. 

When OxiClean breaks down into highly reactive hydrogen peroxide and is mixed with vinegar, it creates peracetic acid, a colorless and highly corrosive liquid.

The reaction between acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide is as follows:

H2O2 + CH3CO2H = CH3CO3H + H2O

The result is peracetic acid (CH3CO3H) and water. Due to vinegar’s and OxiClean’s other components, the reaction also produces salts and carbon dioxide (CO2). 

Furthermore, when the released carbon dioxide reacts with water, the reaction produces a foam.

Related: Can You Mix OxiClean and Bleach?

What Happens When You Mix OxiClean and Vinegar?

When OxiClean is added to water, it releases hydrogen peroxide, which when mixed with vinegar reacts with the acetic acid in it to release peracetic acid, rendering the new solution ineffective as a cleaner. 

Let’s explore what this means.

Peracetic Acid

Peracetic acid (also known as peroxyacetic acid or PAA) is produced when the hydrogen peroxide released from dissolving OxiClean in water and the acetic acid in vinegar are mixed. 

Peracetic acid (CH3CO3H) is a colorless liquid with a low pH and a strong, vinegar-like odor.

Although peracetic acid is used in the food industry and hospitals as a disinfectant, combining cleaning products, such as OxiClean with vinegar yields a highly corrosive chemical.

Peracetic acid is also unstable, meaning it is highly reactive and potentially explosive.

Because peracetic acid can be harmful to the eyes, lungs, nose, throat, and skin, individuals with a preexisting health condition should be particularly cautious around it.

In extreme cases, peracetic acid can result in hemorrhage, edema (swelling of the body’s tissues), and consolidation of the lungs (where air is replaced with pus, blood, or fluid).

Long-term or repeated exposure to peracetic acid can also affect the liver and kidneys.

An Ineffective Combination

OxiClean and vinegar are effective household cleaners on their own. 

Vinegar is a non-toxic, eco-friendly acid that can eliminate some bacteria, viruses, and mold.

The main active ingredient in OxiClean, sodium percarbonate, makes this oxygen-based bleach an effective stain remover and cleaner. 

As OxiClean dissolves in water, it releases sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide, which further contribute to OxiClean’s cleaning power.

However, when the acetic acid in vinegar and hydrogen peroxide react, they each break down to produce peracetic acid. The reaction thus decreases vinegar’s and OxiClean’s cleaning powers.

I Already Mixed OxiClean and Vinegar

If you’ve already mixed OxiClean and vinegar and think you may have been exposed to peracetic acid, open your windows and doors, but do not attempt to clean up or remove the chemicals first.

Evacuate the area immediately. Find a safe, well-ventilated area, preferably with fresh air. 

If you find someone exposed to toxic fumes or with chemical burns, help them to an area with fresh air and call your local emergency services right away.

Because fumes from chemicals can be trapped in your clothing, it is important to remove them right away. Place your clothes in a plastic bag to avoid continued exposure to them.

Seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid long-term side effects. If you have trouble breathing, call your local emergency services immediately.

Make Sure it’s Safe Before Cleaning Up

Check the area every hour for lingering fumes. 

When safe, using rubber gloves and a mask, throw away any cleaning supplies that came in contact with the chemical, including brushes, sponges, and rags.

Wipe or wash every surface with clean water to remove any potential residue. Discard all rags and sponges.

Your local poison control center can also provide additional clean-up and disposal instructions.

Accidentally Mixed Vinegar and OxiClean in Washing Machine

If you’ve accidentally mixed vinegar and OxiClean in the washing machine, your clothes will not be cleaned properly, and you may produce peracetic acid, a highly corrosive and unstable chemical.

It is unlikely that any stains on your clothes will be removed due to the reaction between acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide, which renders the two cleaning products less effective.

Furthermore, peracetic acid may remain in the garments, which can irritate your skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. 

To ensure your laundry is peracetic acid-free, you may need to run the rinse cycle several times. Be sure to wear a mask and rubber gloves when handling any exposed items.

Don’t Mix Them, But Use Them Separately 

If you want to take advantage of the benefits of OxiClean and vinegar when doing your laundry, the best thing to do is to use them in separate loads.

Otherwise, your clothes will not be clean, and the stains will remain. Additionally, you run the risk of producing peracetic acid fumes, which can linger in your clothing and cause irritation.

If you want to use the two products for cleaning surfaces, it is best to also use them separately. Allow one to dry, rinse with clean water, then apply the other product. 

OxiClean Cleaning Tips

To remove stubborn stains, such as yellow sweat stains on white garments or grease stains, I like to pre-treat with OxiClean. 

First, I heat about 16 ounces of water until it boils. I let it cool down just a bit, then I add OxiClean, up to ¼ of a cup. 

The mixture will bubble right away, so be careful – I like to do this in the sink or the bathtub, depending on the size of the item. 

Add the mixture to the stain, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and wash the item with detergent as normal.

Don’t use cold water to mix with OxiClean as it may not completely dissolve. If cleaning an item calls for cold water, make your mixture with ambient or warm water, then allow it to cool before applying.

Don’t make solutions ahead of time to store. Make your OxiClean mixture as you need it.

Vinegar Cleaning Tips

There are three most common types of cleaning vinegar: distilled white vinegar, cleaning vinegar, and industrial vinegar.

Distilled vinegar can be used for food preparation as well as cleaning. Cleaning vinegar should never be consumed, and industrial vinegar is for outdoor use only, mainly as a weed killer.

Although vinegar is not officially considered a disinfectant by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) because it does not kill 99.99% of germs, its acidic properties can kill some bacteria, viruses, and mold.

Therefore, it is safe to use to clean appliances, such as coffee makers, and smooth surfaces and items that come into contact with food, such as glass (to remove mineral deposits).

Beware of using it to clean dishwashers and washing machines, however, as it can damage their rubber seals and hoses. Never ever use vinegar to clean electronic devices or porous surfaces, such as wood.

Alternatives to Mixing Vinegar and OxiClean

Since combining OxiClean and vinegar can produce harmful substances, there are a few alternatives to using the potentially toxic combination.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is an old-fashioned, powerful abrasive perfect for deodorizing, lifting stains, neutralizing acid spills, and softening water.

Related: How to Mix OxiClean and Baking Soda

Colorless, odorless hydrogen peroxide is an excellent stain remover and oxidizing disinfectant that can kill most bacteria, viruses, and mold. As a bleaching agent, it causes less damage to clothing than chlorine bleach.

Another abrasive cleaner readily found in your pantry is salt. When combined with lemon juice or vinegar, it can make a powerful cleaning paste. 

Additionally, you can add salt to half a lemon and use it to scrub difficult-to-clean surfaces, such as cutting boards and oven racks. It works great!

FAQs

Can you use vinegar with OxiClean in laundry?

Mixing vinegar with OxiClean for any type of use, including laundry, is not advised as it can produce peracetic acid, a highly corrosive and harmful chemical.

Additionally, mixing OxiClean and vinegar breaks down the active ingredients in each product resulting in a mixture with minimal cleaning properties.

Can I mix OxiClean powder with vinegar?

No, you cannot mix OxiClean powder with vinegar. In addition to acetic acid, vinegar also contains water and other trace elements. 

Mixing water with OxiClean powder produces hydrogen peroxide, which reacts with acetic acid to produce the toxic chemical peracetic acid.

To Wrap Up

Mixing cleaning products may seem like a smart idea when tackling tough-to-clean surfaces or items. However, doing so could have adverse reactions.

OxiClean and vinegar are an example of two products having a toxic reaction when mixed.

Additionally, blending the two products also renders them ineffective as cleaners.

Therefore, it is important to understand each product’s formulation before combining them.