If you have an automatic dishwasher, chances are you have a little dispenser that you’re supposed to fill with “rinse aid” to help the dishes come out sparkling and spot-free. Rinse aid isn’t cheap, though; at our local grocery store, an 8.45 ounce bottle retails for $5.15, or about 61 cents an ounce.
Rinse aid has another little problem. Have you ever read the back of the bottle?
Many brands of rinse aid contain chemicals that can irritate the eyes and skin. Is it just me, or does it seem counter-intuitive that we’re instructed to coat our dishes and eating utensils with potentially harmful chemicals?
You may also wonder, as I do, about rinse aid’s environmental impact. According to Grist: “Conventional rinse aid is one of the mystery products wherein manufacturers only need disclose active ingredients. We can find Material Safety Data Sheets for these products on line, which say reassuring things such as “The manufacturer’s MSDS does not state whether the ingredients are considered carcinogens or potential carcinogens.” Rumor has it that conventional rinse aids do contain phosphates, the chemical compounds that can lead to marine dead zones.”
I tried running the dishwasher with just eco-friendly dish detergent, but the glasses came out spotty. Then someone told me you could use distilled white vinegar instead of rinse aid. So last month I experimented and filled the little dispenser with vinegar.
Eureka! After a dozen loads of dishes, I’m happy to report that the vinegar rinse works perfectly. The glasses are spot-free, and in case you’re wondering they don’t smell like we pulled them from a pickle barrel. In fact, I think the dishes and dishwasher actually smell fresher since we made the switch. Vinegar is natural, and we paid $1.29 for a 32-ounce bottle – or 4 cents an ounce.
If you feel hesitant to pour a non-approved product in the dispenser or if your dishwasher doesn’t have a rinse aid dispenser, you can instead just put a small glass (a shot glass works perfectly) upright in the bottom of your dishwasher rack and pour in about 2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar right before you run the dishes. The vinegar will get mixed in with water during the rinse cycle, and your glasses will be sparkling clean.
If you make the switch from a chemical rinse aid to all-natural vinegar, I’d love to hear how it works for you. Happy rinsing!