Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Aid

Vinegar in the Dishwasher

photo credit: tabor-roeder

Finding homemade cleaning options is both frugal and healthy! We tend to have hard water in our home and in turn we have to use a rinse agent in the dishwasher. But, then again, who doesn’t really? Otherwise you risk the possibility of getting goopey oatmeal stuck to everything in there.

Personally, I always bought the more expensive kind of conventional rinse agent offered (especially since I used to be a plastic jun – I wanted those containers dry). Now, I use only vinegar and I love it. It’s a super cheap option the any store-bought dishwasher rinse aid and works just as well. if you’re not a fan of the smell of vinegar, have no fear! It actually doesn’t smell at all.

How to replace your old rinse agent with vinegar:

  1. Use up all the conventional rinse agent in your dishwasher first.
  2. Unscrew the cap inside your washer and fill with vinegar all the way up to the full line.
  3. Screw cap back in.
  4. Close washer and run – then just keep refilling with vinegar.

So easy you’re thinking “Duh…even I can do that?!” Am I right or what?

By switching to vinegar you’re not using any harsh chemicals that can stay on your dishes and then get transferred to your food. This is probably one of the cheapest/most frugal things I’ve done to keep my home a healthy place to live and it takes absolutely no extra effort.  A few ounces of vinegar literally costs just pennies on the dollar and it lasts just as long as store-bought rinse aids.

I’ve used vinegar this way for almost 3 years now – if you’ve used vinegar as a rinse aid, what has your experience been?

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Is there no vinegary smell afterwards? Have contemplated to try it for myself, but I am a bit scared of the smell…

  2. Sharon J says:

    Funnily enough I was just telling my mum last night that she should use vinegar instead of the expensive commercial rinses.

    Did you know that you can halve the amounts of tablets/powder you use by adding 1 tbspn of soda crystals?

    Adrienne Reply:

    @Sharon J, What type of soda crystals do you mean?

  3. Sonja,
    I have not yet smelled any vinegar as of yet. Once it gets through the drying cycle, there is no scent left. And it doesn’t smell while running either. Others have added a few drops of essential oils when using vinegar to clean with. I’m sure you could try the same thing in the dishwasher if you ever did get a vinegar smell out of it.

  4. I read some where that the main ingredient in that ‘famous’ rinse agent (JD) is…vinegar! No kidding. Not sure it that’s true, but I’ve used vinegar as a rinse agent too and it works just fine. And my dishes never smell like salad, LOL!

  5. Wow- I should try this!
    I stopped buying the commercial rinses when we started putting baby bottles in the dishwasher last summer (paranoid about chemicals!) :)
    Michele :)

  6. I just used a baking soda, salt, vinegar, boiling water solution to clean out the drain in my bathroom sink, worked like a charm! Vinegar is the best for removing grease residue, I always use it to shine my ceramic top stove. I’ll try it as a rinse aid in the dishwasher next!

  7. Ha! We just got a new dishwasher and it came with a free bottle of JD. I wasn’t there when it was installed and by the time I got home the hubby had already put it in. No biggie. I figured it would use it all up pretty fast anyway since we run it daily. I knew it ran out b/c there’s a little red light but there was no connection in my mind to the sudden “overly wet” appearance of the dishes now. I feel so silly but I’m really looking forward to having one more place to add vinegar! 😉 I like salad. lol

    donielle Reply:

    @Sarah, Ever read the book 1000 uses for vinegar? It’s a good one. 😉

  8. Do you still use your regular dishwasher detergent in addition to the vinegar? Or vinegar alone?

    donielle Reply:

    @Katie, You do have to use a detergent – this just acts as the rinse aid. Personally i use seventh generation, but I’ve heard good things about BioKleen too, so I may try that next!

    Katie Reply:

    @donielle, Thanks!!

  9. I have never used a rinse aid, but now I can try it! We have been having issues w/ our dishes not getting clean enough…turns out that GE says it is because we need to really rinse them well since the modern dishwashers don’t have enough water in them as an attempt to make them more energy efficient.

    In any case, I just switched to Biokleen and it seems to be doing a nice job. We finally ditched the chemical-laden kind that initially GE had recommended. Yippee!

  10. So, I just finished unloading my dishwasher–complaining the whole time about how there’s stuff over all my glasses (we don’t use a rinsing agent because I’m cheap) and lo and behold I read this! I just dumped some in there a few minutes ago and am looking forward to seeing the results. Thank you so much for the advice! :)

    donielle Reply:

    @Mariposa, Hope it works well for you!

  11. I have recently started using vinegar for this purpose – it works GREAT!

  12. I use a mixture of Borax and baking soda as my detergent and vinegar as my rinsing aid and the combo works great. I’ve been doing this for many years now. I love not using chemicals and that I don’t have to remember to buy something special. I always have these on hand anyway.

    Thanks, Donielle, for always sharing common sense approaches!

    donielle Reply:

    @Shirley @ gfe, Hey Shirley – have you heard anything like this about borax? http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2009/05/borax-is-it-safe.html

    I still use it every once in awhile in the laundry, but since I tend to have hard water, I know not everything rinses off well enough.

    Shirley @ gfe Reply:

    @donielle, I had not heard about those concerns. I’ll investigate further.

    Thanks, Donielle.

  13. wow…great idea. i’m totally trying this! thanks girl!

    donielle Reply:

    @lisa @thebeadgirl, you betcha! :-)

  14. I’ve been doing this for over a year now, and it works great, and NEVER a vinegar smell–there’s not really that much used in a single cycle anyway. I HAVE noticed cleaner dishes, glasses in particular. We’re using up the last of the evil chemical detergent, then I’m switching to BioKleen or something similar.

    FYI, it has always been recommended to put vinegar in the rinse water for all your crystal–makes it sparkle and shine that much more, and spot less. Ya’ THINK it makes sense to use in the dishwasher? LOL

    Donielle, I hear ya on the wanting to buy and then use up something so you can have the empty plastic bottle after… my old rinse aid bottle lives in my sewing room–empty as can be. I use it to “puff” the lint out of my sewing machine, instead of the (CHEMICAL) canned air, and it works like a charm, even if I do have to puff a few more times than I would if I were to hit it with one shot from the can…

  15. I literally just bought a bottle of Rinse agent last night. It’s seventh generation, so maybe less toxic, but certainly not cheap! I’m not sure how long it will take to use up, but after that I’ll try the vinegar. I like using it to clean, but my husband hates the smell! I just won’t tell him that I put it in the dishwasher too…

  16. Great post Donielle! I’m passing this on to all of my readers. I’ve used vinegar for a couple of months now and I LOVE it. I don’t notice the smell and it gets my glasses nice and shiny. One tip I do want to share, which you probably already do… is that I run my dishwasher (empty) with about 1/2-1 cup of baking soda once a month. This gets rid of any buildup and makes it nice and white again. Hooray for natural cleaners!

  17. I have been using vinegar in my dishwasher for about 6 months now and love it!

  18. I too have been using vinegar as a rinse agent for a couple of years and works great with no smell what-so-ever! We have hard water here also and my dishwasher even has a dial so you can adjust how much rinse agent you use, I find with our water and using the BioKleen dishwasher powder I have my rinse agent turned up all the way, and it works beautifully.

  19. Hi Donielle,

    Missed you on Tues! I am going to try this w/ my next load. I have a newer dishwasher and it has been a real nightmare. I am hoping this will work! I was wondering if yours is a newer model or not and if this works well for you and your other readers even w/ newer, “energy efficient” models. I will certainly check back and tell you!

    Also, I just finished a post about 1 week ago on adrenal fatigue. It’s just a start for me w/ the blog and that topic, but thought you might be interested. Here is the link http://wholenewmom.com/health/adrenal-fatigue-the-new-epidemic/

    Take care,

  20. Just filled up the rinse aid reservior so here goes lets hope it can bring my glasses back to life instead of the dull cloud ones i currently get after the cycle is done.

    And yes I am a hetro guy that does the dishes lol

    donielle Reply:

    @nick, maybe you can teach my husband a thing or two….. :-)

    how’d it work?

    nick Reply:

    yep has worked a treat thanks great tip

    sorry cant help with ya husband might have to trade him in for a modern man model lol

  21. Hi,

    Do we need to use white vinegar only? Or even the balsamic vinegar will do?


    donielle Reply:

    Just plain white vinegar. :-)

  22. R A Bailey says:

    had to replace a very OLD dishwasher between Christmas and New Years (not what I asked Santa for, btw) – and a bottle of ‘rinse aid’ came with it. I added it to the dishwasher with the intention of finding a ‘natural’ rinse aid. I clean houses for a living and buy vinegar 10 gallons at a time to take care of everything I use it for – cleaning recipes, rinsing and defunking smelly clothes in the washer – shining glass on showers, etc and preventive maintenance on drains. Did my brain even connect the dots and think about it for my dishwasher – NO – so, thanks, Donielle – it will go in the little compartment just as soon as I finish what is in there – or figure out a way to suck it out of there!

  23. I will have a hard time seeing when the vinegar is gone. Can I add a drop or two of food coloring to the mix so that I can see when it gets low or will that stain my dishes/plastics?

    donielle Reply:

    @Cindy, Yea – I guess if your dishwasher doesn’t have a way to tell you (mine has a floating ball that shows me the level of the rinse aid) then I think a drop of blue food coloring should be just fine.

  24. fantanstic…i am from India just got IFB Neptune Dx…rinse aid is really expensive. Will try vinegar…for sure

  25. I just read on a blog where a girl used vinegar for a long time then noticed a grit on her dishes – had to call a repair man and was told that the rinse aid compartment has rubber components and the acid in the vinegar can erode it. Have you had any trouble or issues with this?

    donielle Reply:

    @HEather, Hmmm….I can kind of see how that might happen….. But no – I’ve never had any issues with that! I’ve been doing it for almost 5 years and haven’t had any problems yet.


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