3 Household Items That Make Great Dishwasher Rinse Aids

Plus, how to use them in your rinse cycle

Glass bottle of vinegar sitting on opened dishwasher door with tray of dishes behind

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

Dishwasher rinse agents are released during the rinse cycle to help dishes dry faster. By drying faster, there less chance for water to cling to the surface of the dishes and glasses leaving behind spots. Slow-drying water drops on dishes cause the most issues in hard water areas of the country where the mineral content of the water is extremely high. The calcium and other particles in the water leave white spots or scratch the surfaces of the dishes.

Commercial rinse agents contain surfactants to help prevent the water from clinging to the surface of the dishes as well as other ingredients like alcohol, citric acid, colorants, fragrances, sodium sulfonates, zinc chloride, and water. You can improve the performance of your dishwasher detergent and reduce spotting with some homemade rinse agents made from ingredients you probably have in your pantry.

How Often to Use a Dishwasher Rinse Aid

A rinse agent can be used every time you clean a load of dishes in the dishwasher. Many models have an adjustable level dispenser that can be filled monthly so the rinse agent is dispensed automatically. Or, you can add the rinse agent right before you start the cycle.

If you live in a hard water area, a rinse agent is recommended for every load.

Before You Begin

Always consult the manufacturer's user manual that came with your dishwasher before using something other than a commercial rinse agent. You don't want to do anything that would void the dishwasher's warranty.

If you have been using a commercial rinse agent in the automatic dispenser, do not add a homemade formula until the dispenser is empty. Do not mix products because they can cause toxic fumes.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 set Measuring spoons and cups
  • 1 Small funnel
  • 1 Air-tight storage container
  • 1 Label
  • 1 Small dishwasher-safe bowl

Materials

  • 1 bottle Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 bottle Hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 container Citric acid

Instructions

How to Use Vinegar as a Rinse Agent

Distilled white vinegar is an acid that will cut through any grease or detergent residue, and help dissolve minerals left by hard water. Do not use cleaning vinegar because its higher concentration of acid can cause dishwasher seals to deteriorate over time.

Glass bottle of vinegar added to rinse agent dispenser in dishwasher door

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Fill the Automatic Rinse Agent Dispenser

    Use a small funnel or a steady hand to fill the automatic rinse agent dispenser with undiluted distilled white vinegar. Run the dishwasher as usual. Refill the dispenser as needed.

  2. Use a Bowl of Vinegar

    If you don't want to fill the dispenser, place a small dishwasher-safe bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher. Add one-half cup of distilled white vinegar and run the cleaning cycles as usual.

How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide as a Rinse Agent

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild disinfecting and bleaching agent that will help remove any residue left on dishes. Be sure to use fresh hydrogen peroxide that still has some "fizz" when it touches a dirty surface. No fizz means the solution has reverted to plain water.

  1. Fill the Rinse Agent Dispenser

    Fill the empty dishwasher rinse agent dispenser with undiluted three percent hydrogen peroxide (the strength commonly sold in drug stores). Run the dishwasher as usual.

How to Use Citric Acid Powder as a Rinse Agent

Citric acid helps break apart stains so they can be flushed away, provides a gentle bleaching action, and acts as a bactericide and fungicide. Found in lemons, limes, and pineapples, you can also buy food-grade powdered citric acid online and in grocery stores in the food preservation aisle.

  1. Use Citric Acid in the Automatic Dispenser

    If you want to use citric acid powder in the automatic rinse aid dispenser, it must be dissolved in water to prevent clumping. Add one tablespoon spoon of citric acid powder to one-fourth cup of boiling water. Stir well until all of the powder is dissolved.

    Add the mixture to the automatic rinse aid dispenser and run the dishwasher cycles as usual.

  2. Use Citric Acid Powder

    If you don't want to bother with dissolving the powder in hot water, simply add one tablespoon of the powder to the extra detergent dispenser well or sprinkle it directly in the bottom of the dishwasher before running a cycle.

Tips for Using Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Aids

Glass container of homemade dishwasher detergent surrounded by dishes and utensils

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler
Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home. She's covered money-saving advice and tricks for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes, among others. She is the owner of "My Frugal Home," a money-saving, frugal living how-to guide.
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  1. Common Cleaning Products Can Be Dangerous When Mixed. Utah Department of Health.