Drop the bleach. This is the all-natural solution to cleaner, brighter and fresher clothes.

The road to whiter whites and brighter brights lies not in your laundry detergent, but in a common pantry staple. Distilled white vinegar is the secret ingredient in many household cleaning hacks, and its unbeatable power works in the laundry room too. Vinegar helps to clean and soften your clothes without the having a lingering acidic smell. It actually deodorizes dirty laundry, as well as removes stains and reduces wrinkles in your garments.

Vinegar is a natural and affordable product that most consumers already have at home and it’s about to transform the way you wash clothes. Trust me, your clothes will come out of the dryer fresher and softer than ever before. The only catch is that you can’t sub out white distilled vinegar for another vinegar such as apple cider or red wine vinegar, because you won’t enjoy the same outcome. White distilled vinegar has a lower alcohol content for a milder wash and does not contain tannins, which can leave a dingy overcast on your clothes.

If your load of laundry is heavily soiled, add a cup of vinegar along with your regular laundry detergent to the wash cycle for optimal effectiveness. Vinegar can also be used as a fabric softener replacement by adding it to the rinse cycle. (Who still uses fabric softener anyways?) Use about ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle for a regular load and ¼ cup of vinegar for a small load. No matter the quality, towels usually lose their plushness over time, but take comfort in knowing that not all is lost. You can revive towels to supreme fluffiness by adding vinegar to the load when you wash them. The vinegar will be gentler on your clothes across the board, enabling them to have a longer and softer life.

When you are washing heavily pigmented clothes for the first time, such as jeans or a red garment, soak them in a diluted vinegar solution (½ cup vinegar to 1 gallon water) to reduce the color from running before adding them to the washer. Give it a try and your colored clothes will remain bright and vibrant for many washes to come. This pre-soaking trick will also help remove large perspiration stains from under the arm or on the collar garments. In the case of smaller stains, such as a drink spill, directly dab the spot with vinegar until it’s soaked through and wash as normal. For delicates, add a few tablespoons of vinegar to a large container of water to hand-wash. The vinegar will also remove tough odors like cigarette smoke that you’re bound to pick up while out and about. It works wonders to remove a wide variety of yucky smells without leaving an odor itself.

The lasting effects of washing with vinegar even help in the drying process. As you pull your clothes out of the dryer, you won’t have to worry about that pesky static—vinegar reduces this, along with the amount of lint that your clothes deposit. That’s a two-for-one special, folks; save yourself a few dryer sheets.