DIY Dishwasher Rinse Aid

What the heck is rinse aid and why do we need it? If you have hard water, you might want to get rid of the those residue spots left over by the drops of water on your glassware. A rinse aid has a surfactant in it that prevents your water from leaving droplets on your dishes. But you should know that many rinse aids have toxic ingredients that I doubt you’d want to have on any surface that holds your food and drink. I’ll quote Treehugger here to outline the ingredients in question:

 

  • Sodium tripolyphosphate: High concern for general ecotoxicity.
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone: High concern. The US EPA reports the LC50 value is very toxic to aquatic life.
  • Antiredeposition agent: Moderate concern for cancer, respiratory effects, kidney and urinary effects, general systemic/organ effects; and some concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, skin irritation/allergies/damage.
  • Troclosene sodium, dihydrate: Moderate concern for chronic aquatic toxicity, acute aquatic toxicity, respiratory effects; some concern for general systemic/organ effects, developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects, cancer, kidney and urinary effects, nervous system effects, digestive system effects, skin irritation/allergies/damage, damage to vision.
  • Oxybenzone: Moderate concern for developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects.

 

It turns out, you might not even need rinse aid. If your water isn’t hard, the little droplets left over on your dishes won’t leave a residue on them. Test your water, or better yet, go without rinse aid for some time and see what happens. But first, if you have residue on your dishes and glassware, cut the amount of detergent you use by half. Chances are you’re using too much.

If you have hard water, I sympathize. Ours is, too. Want to save some money, still have spot-free dishes, and do the right thing for the environment at the same time? Try this secret ingredient in that little rinse aid spot near where the detergent goes:

White vinegar.

Distilled white vinegar as a rinse agent in your dishwasher will render your glassware shiny and streak-free. Photo © Liesl Clark

That’s all you need. Replace your rinse agent with vinegar and you’ll get the same if not better results. But a word of caution: if you have rubber parts in the slot where the rinse aid goes, don’t put the vinegar in there. Apparently, vinegar can corrode rubber. I know of some people who skip putting the vinegar in that special slot for the rinse aid and just put it in a small cup in the upper shelf so it can splash out over time. Either way, you’ll save a bundle, reduce your plastic footprint and keep chemicals off your plates and out of your gray water.

Distilled white vinegar to the rescue! Use this instead of expensive rinse agents. Photo © Liesl Clark

The interior of our dishwasher is metal and we’ve used vinegar now for over 3 years with no problems to the parts. I’m not sure how a plastic-interior dishwasher will take to vinegar in the reservoir and would love to hear from others who have used it.

We buy our white vinegar in bulk and then put the vinegar for our rinse aid in a plastic bottle that squirts.

Find a good squirt bottle to convert into your rinse aid dispenser. Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s stored under the sink right next to the dishwasher. You’ll likely find a good bottle in your own trash to reuse as your vinegar rinse aid dispenser, or simply reuse your rinse aid bottle.

Crystal clear dishes again. Photo © Liesl Clark

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