Vinegar as a Dishwasher Rinse Aid

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Dear Home Ec 101,

Can white vinegar be used as a natural dishwasher rinse aid?  It seems that I remember reading that somewhere. White vinegar seems as though it would be more environmentally friendly and less expensive than the commercial dishwasher rinse aid products. Is there any harm in using white vinegar as a rinse aid?

Pickled Plates

white vinegar

Heather says:

There is no harm in trying white vinegar in your automatic dishwasher. The effectiveness of vinegar as a rinse aid is going to depend entirely on how hard your water is. To experiment, simply refill your rinse aid dispenser with full strength (undiluted) white vinegar, when it has run out of commercial rinse aid.

To get a true idea of whether or not vinegar will work as a long-term solution, you’re going to have to dismiss that first cycle as your indicator of success. The first few cycles will be clearing the last of the commercial rinse aid from the dispenser.

White vinegar may work well as a rinse aid.

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This will not be true for everyone, especially those in areas with very hard water. If after several washes you begin to see water spots, go ahead and switch back to a commercial rinse aid. It’s guilt-free, you tried.

While rinse aids aren’t generally environmentally harmful, some don’t list all of the ingredients, only the active ones. If this is a concern, Seventh Generation Rinse Aid, Free & Clear lists all of its ingredients and has been rated highly on Good Guide.

Have an additional question about dishwashing or vinegar? Send it to

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15 thoughts on “Vinegar as a Dishwasher Rinse Aid”

  1. I don't use vinegar as a rinse aid, but I do run a cycle with vinegar in it every couple of weeks…keeps the dishwasher free of mineral deposits, and that in turn helps keep them off the dishes. My dishes aren't delicate, so I just throw the vinegar in a regular wash load, about 2 cups worth. A much stronger cleaning a couple of times a year also helps if you live in a hard water area like I do.

  2. U use white vinegar as a rinse aid and it certainly does work! The biggest mistake people make with dishwashers is assuming the all-in-one tabs replace the need for granular salt in the salt reservoir. They don't! Using separate salt, powder and rinse aid (or vinegar) is the cheapest and best method!

      • I think it's a European thing. I only assume this as Martin has a .uk extension in his url.
        Salts are a big component of dishwasher detergent, its role is to make the minerals in hard water more soluble (softening the water). I think salt may be added separately in some countries.

  3. i have hard water and i think commercial rinse aids just do not work! since vinegar does not work well with hard water, what is a good rinse aid to use when you have hard water?? Thanks!

  4. Heather, I just stumbled on this post via a Google search on using vinegar as a rinse aid and must say I'm very impressed. Not just by your terrific original posting, which is one of the few to acknowledge that vinegar won't work well for everyone, but also by your very helpful replies to some great questions in the comments.
    Thanks for going the extra mile. I plan to come back here often now!

  5. I tried this and ended up with orange stains coming from the rinse aid dispenser. It took me over an hour to clean it all out using a turkey baster, scrubber, and elbow grease. Now I just use rinse-aid. REAL rinse-aid.

    • The same thing happenend tio me. I am trying very hard to get it all out of the rinse aid dispenser, but I cannot seem to get it all out. I used bleach water and kept flusing the dispenser out. It is better, but not totally gone. Did you experience this as well and if so—any suggestions?

      • Apparently a lot of dishwashers can’t handle vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser because it causes corrosion so maybe that orange sediment is rust? I’ve read that 3% peroxide is a better solution but I haven’t tried it yet. I will as soon as the rinse agent is gone!

  6. I just threw in vinegar , a out a cup, right in the wash and my dishes are more clean and sparkling than they have ever been. I am going to use it every time since I have hard water and vinegar is cheap.

  7. I’ve been using vinegar with my dishwasher for about 2 years now. I’ve been adding it with the detergent and I have also been adding it in the rinse aid dispenser. Prior to using vinegar, my dishes were not coming clean at all and the Cascade Action Packs were the only product that adequately cleaned my dishes. I often wondered if my dishwasher was functioning properly as I always seemed to have a white film on my dishes prior to vinegar use and at times I could even taste chemicals while eating meals! This led me to search the internet and discover vinegar. I was concerned what the effects of ingesting rinse agent chemicals were having on my health and body.

    In that time, I have learned a few things from this experience that I would like to share. First, my dishes have never been cleaner since using vinegar and I noticed the difference immediately. I am stubborn and feel that if the dish requires me to clean it by hand, it isn’t worth preserving so EVERYTHING goes in my dishwasher. Vinegar use has not had any detrimental effects on my dishes other than some Kitchen Aid pots and pans that were coated in enamel. The Vinegar immediately ate the clear coat off the enamel which pretty much ruined the pot and pan set. I purchased a new set of Paderno ceramic frying pans and Kitchen Aid stainless steel pots. I’ve been using then for about a year and a half and they have stood up very well. I have not had any other problems with any other dishes.

    My dishwasher stays very clean and still functions like a brand new machine. Vinegar use has not been an issue to the performance or caused any breakdown of my dishwasher. In fact, I think it will function for an extended period due to the lack of build up of hard water minerals because of the vinegar use. I highly recommend switching to vinegar!

  8. Just want to give a nod to Seventh Generation dishwasher soap in the box. And I like Trader Joes Dishwasher Show too… They both work better than the commercial CHEMICAL based cleansers!!! WAY BETTER than say cascade and such. No taste of bleach and stuff like that on the dishes and no harm to your septic and the environment! I use less too! Like the vinegar too!

  9. I would like to confirm I use vinegar in my rinse dispenser for past 2 years. Dishes all come out sparkly.
    Also I cut the dishwasher block in half and only use a half for each wash. Perfect and much cheaper.
    Ps. I live in Australia


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