The Great Dishwasher Controversy

White vinegar for clean dishes

A shot glass holds a little white vinegar for spot-free dishes

You might think that a blog about simple living wouldn’t get ensnared in scandals, but you’d be surprised.

I’ve penned two posts that generated lots of debate and mostly-negative comments. Both of these articles were written about that most contentious of subjects:


Since 2012 when I wrote these articles I’ve stayed silent on the subject — hoping that with the passage of time, the public would find someone new to focus on and the negative publicity would pass. I think the time has finally come to publicly apologize for my past mistakes.

My first wrong-minded post in July 2012 was gleefully entitled:

A Green, Clean and Cheap Way to Enjoy Spot-Free Dishes

In this post, I innocently wrote about how I’d stopped using rinse aid in the dishwasher dispenser and replaced it with white vinegar. Not only was vinegar much less expensive, but I was concerned about the chemicals in commercial rinse aid. Here’s the actual label from the product I formerly used:

Rinse Aid at Happy Simple Living

One reader insisted that the ingredients were “PROVED, HARMLESS substances” and called me out on my “wrong-headed conspiracy thinking.”

I later went back and updated the post, after hearing comments like this one from our helpful reader Kelsey:

“DO NOT PUT VINEGAR IN THE RINSE AID COMPARTMENT!! I came across an article about dishwasher tips and homemade detergent. The woman suggested putting vinegar in the rinse aid department. She posted an update saying that after a few years of doing this, she started having problems with her dishwasher and called a repair man. During the home visit she told him that she had been putting vinegar in the rinse aid department. He said vinegar is helpful but itโ€™s BAD to put it in the rinse aid compartment because it wears down and destroys the rubber and internals. Instead, he told her to put a small cup on the top rack of the dishwasher and put in small amount of vinegar in the cup.”

I decided to heed her warning. I, too, began pouring a little white vinegar (about 2 teaspoons) in a shot glass and putting it in the top rack of the dishwasher.

Vinegar shot glass

Yes, that is a Hooters shot glass — which happens to be the only shot glass I own.

This method works great, and the dishes come out sparkling clean with no spots, no chemical smell, and no worries about delicate rubber dishwasher gaskets and the like.

History Repeats Itself

Fast forward to November of 2012, when I for some reason decided to slosh back into the subject of washing dishes. Some of us never learn.

This time, my post was:

A Simple, Time-Saving Dishwasher Tip

In this most-controversial post, I naively suggested grouping silverware together in the basket so it was pre-sorted and took less time to put away. What was I thinking?

Loading the dishwasher at Happy Simple Living blog

One comment neatly sums up readers’ thoughts on this idea:

“Just look at the spoons in the picture above, a lot of them are bunched together, and they might not get any water or soap and would come out cruddy. The silverware takes 2-3 minutes as it is, not a huge amount of savings.”

Chastened, I had to agree that the potential time savings wasn’t worth the possibility of cruddy spoons (although just between us, I do still group the forks and knives together that way. )

How about you?

Have you tried white vinegar in lieu of rinse aid?

Do you use a Hooters shot glass or something more classy?

Do you secretly group the spoons together in the silverware basket?

Have you ever been accused of being a conspiracy theorist?

Do you have any dish washing tips to share?

When are they going to invent a dishwasher that unloads the dishes for us?

Hugs and happy Presidents’ Day,

The signature for Eliza Cross



About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

The Great Dishwasher Controversy

  • Wow, people get their knickers in a wad over the strangest things. When I do use the dishwasher (w/ company) I separate the spoons too – the tip is to put half of them right-side up and the other half up-side down. This mixes them up a bit. I know this is an older post, but giggles indeed.

  • Dishwashing is certainly a science! I love perfectly clean dishes with no spots. And the more eco-friendly the process is, the better. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • I too have always heard to put vinegar in the rinse compartment! On a more serious note, I worry a lot about having to own up to mistakes I make blogging and I’m glad to have found someone who has modeled how to handle it graciously. Who knew dishwashers were such a controversial topic!

  • Gloria

    I returned to handwashing my dishes after 8 years of using a dishwasher in my new house. Then with the drought here in California, I began to get concerned about how much water it uses. I know it’s said handwashing uses more water than a dishwasher. But, if you don’t let the water just run down the drain while washing and instead wash all the dishes in a large pot of very hot water you’ve heated on the stove, then do a quick rinse of all the dishes you’ve just washed (and are still nice and hot), I believe you’ll save water and I know the dishes are nice and clean. I used to always have at least one or two dishes and some silverware come out of the washer still dirty or casserole dishes or pans that needed to be redone but not when I handwash of course. Plus, I never run out of dishes as they are all done and put away right after each meal. It’s really much simpler than using a dishwasher though you do have to discipline yourself (or your kids) to do them right after each meal.

  • Lois

    I have a dishwasher for the first time in many years and had considered using vinegar in the rinse compartment, guess I won’t. I wouldn’t group my utensils together it makes sense that they couldn’t possibly come clean that way.

    Good for you sharing your learning curve on the dishwasher. I shared my story of using garlic on myself and my child when he was about six to heal warts. So many people commented that it burned their skin and some used it in some private places on their bodies causing much irritation that I too had to rewrite my post and put disclaimers on it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • GE

    Ah, yes, such controversy. But I love your white vinegar idea and will try it out with suitably tacky shot glass. I’m fairly certain a ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish” glass will work just fine. Don’t have any Hooters ones. I’ll let you know how I go.

  • My oh my! It is a very controversial topic isn’t it? I bought a new dishwasher a few years back and wasn’t very happy with it until I started using the Finish powerball tabs that the manufacturer suggested. Seriously, it was night and day in terms of clean dishes. But holy moly! I blogged about it and was lambasted for using such a wasteful product since they come individually wrapped like candy bars. I guess I figure that using the tabs lets me get clean dishes without any pre-rinsing or re-washing and I’m hoping that makes up for the eco-sin of the plastic wrapper! (Plus, having a dishwasher that actually gets the dishes clean has done wonders for my sanity – and that’s gotta count for something!)

    I’ve actually been putting vinegar in the rinse aid compartment since I bought the thing – perhaps I should switch to the shot glass method! Though, to be honest, the tabs supposedly contain the rinse aid built in, so perhaps I could just skip it. Oh the dilemmas of domestic life!

  • Well, silverware does need to have some separation so that stuff can get clean. I can see the ‘issue’ on that one. When we load the dishwasher we tend to put every other spoon and fork right side up and upside down. We split everything across all the caddys. I don’t think groupoing them together really saves more than a few seconds unloading.

  • Stacy Boone

    Totally made my day – I needed a good giggle. Much to the chagrin of many, I still hand wash my dishes and not with the three tub, are they really sanitized method. Wash with soap, rinse with hot water. Knives never go into the sink waiting to be washed and instead are the final cleaned item. Dishes are put away the old fashioned away. One at a time. And, if my spoons are spotted, I wipe with a damp cloth.

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