Forget the store-bought dishwasher rinse aids. Most of them contain harmful chemicals that can be toxic to you and your family. Opt for these 4 Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Aid recipes instead that keep your dishes spotless without the harsh chemicals. Plus, they’re inexpensive and easy to make.
What is Dishwasher Rinse Aid?
Dishwasher rinse aid is usually found in liquid or pod form and helps to prevent the mineral deposits caused by hard water to leave your dishware spotless. It is usually released in the final wash cycle to help speed up the draining and drying process. This convenient cleaning product appears harmless, but there are many reasons why switching to a DIY dishwasher rinse aid instead of store-bought is better for your health and the environment.
Traditional Rinse Aid vs. DIY Dishwasher Rinse Aid
As mentioned, rinse aid is used to ensure sparkling dishes and speed up drying time however, for this to happen the rinse aid must remain on the dishes. This means, it is not rinsed off and so your family may be ingesting harmful chemicals every single time they eat.
There are two types of traditional rinse aid – liquid and all-in-one tablets. Despite their different appearance, they are generally made of the same ingredients. It is believed with prolonged exposure; these ingredients are indeed toxic. Not to mention, harmful to the environment and aquatic life when disposed of.
These are some of the toxic ingredients found in traditional dishwasher rinse aid:
- Zinc Chloride – a salt that can cause respiratory irritation and nausea
- Benzenesulfonic acid – the idea of consuming an acid sounds crazy, right? This ingredient can also cause irritation to the respiratory tract as well as eyes and skin.
- Isotridecyl Alcohol – not only is this chemical toxic to aquatic life, but it can cause skin and eye irritation
- Sodium Hydroxide – this is another salt that is particularly corrosive and can also cause severe burns and eye damage.
- Artificial colors & Fragrance – The use of artificial dyes and fragrances are often to blame for allergic reactions and skin irritation.
Why You Need a Rinse Aid
Depending on where you’re located, it’s likely the water your dishwasher uses is hard water. Hard water has minerals in it that combine with the fat and grease on dirty dishes resulting in a cloudy film and streaky dishware. Rinse aid helps reduce this as it is a “surfactant” which means it prevents water droplets from forming. This not only speeds up drying but reduces marks and makes dishes shine.
No one wants to eat off dull and streaky dishware, so many families add rinse aid to their carts not realizing the effects it could have on their health. However, there are natural alternatives that are equally effective without harming your health or the planet.
Benefits of a Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Aid Substitute
- Natural – First and foremost, a homemade dishwasher rinse aid uses biodegradable ingredients such as citric acid that will not harm the environment.
- Toxic Free – Forget those hard to pronounce ingredients listed above, these DIY rinse aid recipes are chemical free with no artificial fragrances or phosphates.
- Cheap – Store bought rinse aid is expensive so you can save time and money by skipping it from your shopping list.
- Effective – There is no need for those nasty chemicals to ensure spotless dishes. These natural alternatives are just as effective, without the harmful side effects.
4 Homemade Dishwasher Rinse Aid Recipes
Do you have a bottle of vinegar in your pantry? It is not only a much cheaper alternative to rinse aid, but a safer, natural option. Vinegar is an ideal DIY Dishwasher rinse aid as it effectively removes residue from your dishes as well as helps to clean your dishwasher naturally at the same time. All without a harsh chemical insight.
While there are some areas of the home you should never clean with vinegar by adding white vinegar to the rinse aid compartment in the dishwasher you’ll be amazed by the results.
Note, if the vinegar is more than 5% acetic acid it can corrode the rubber parts of some dishwashers over time, so stick to less than 5% for best results.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a non-toxic bleach alternative. It is often used in homemade cleaning products as a whitener and disinfectant. It is an ideal homemade dishwasher rinse aid as it helps to combat smells while leaving your dishes (and dishwasher) sparkling.
While you can use hydrogen peroxide as a rinse aid on its own, for best results I recommend adding essential oils such as lemon. Lemon is one of the best essential oils for cleaning as it is a great natural cleaner and degreaser. It will also leave your dishwasher smelling amazing without artificial fragrances.
Other options include orange, pine, and Thieves essential oil. To use, add 5 drops of essential oil alongside the hydrogen peroxide to the fill line of the rinse aid compartment in the dishwasher. Then use your usual cleaning program and admire naturally spotless glassware and dishes.
Note, although a safer bleach alternative, hydrogen peroxide can bleach some fabrics and weaken fabric fibers so keep in mind when adding certain items to the dishwasher.
3. Lemons or Lemon Juice
Lemons are one of my best tools when it comes to natural cleaning hacks. They contain citric acid, which can help to break down the mineral deposits on dishes and glassware. Lemons also help to naturally cut through grease and limescale, not to mention leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.
There’s some debate on whether lemons are the best homemade Dishwasher rinse aid as the lemon wedges and lemon juice may leave pulp particles on dishes. I did not experience this myself but it’s worth noting before giving them a try.
To use, add half a lemon or lemon wedges on the top rack during a wash. Alternatively, you can add lemon juice to the rinse aid compartment.
4. Citric Acid
Citric acid is a great toxic-free alternative and my preferred natural rinse aid agent for the dishwasher. It helps to break down hard water, balances pH levels, and encourages soap in dishwasher detergent to work better. Overall, citric acid is great for disinfecting, descaling and is known for helping to kill bacteria, mold, and mildew.
Citric acid is odorless so it is best to combine it with essential oils when used as a rinse aid. Essential oils such as lemon or orange will also help to clean and degrease the dishwasher. It can be found in most supermarkets and is sold in crystal or liquid form. To use, add to the fill line of the rinse aid compartment in the dishwasher, followed by 5 drops of essential oil.
Note, when used in this way it can leave behind clumps. To avoid this, mix 1 tbsp citric acid with ¼ cup boiling water. This will create a liquid that is easier to add to the rinse aid compartment and will minimize any residue.
How to Clean Your Dishwasher Naturally
An important step to ensure the effectiveness of your homemade dishwasher rinse aid is to make sure your dishwasher itself is clean. Again, you may be tempted by the claims from store-bought cleaners, but it is super easy to clean your dishwasher naturally.
In fact, appliance companies such as GE suggest using citric acid for cleaning the dishwasher. Here is how to do so safely and effectively:
- Empty out the dishes so the dishwasher is empty.
- Clean out debris on the bottom of the dishwasher and the utensil holder.
- Fill the detergent cup in the dishwasher with citric acid.
- Run a deep clean wash cycle.
- Repeat a rinse cycle if there’s clumps from the citric acid.
- Repeat steps 1-5 if there’s mineral deposits and build up in the dishwasher.
In addition, you can remove the filter at the bottom of the dishwasher and clean it with hot soapy water to remove food, debris, or build-up. Be sure to replace the filter before you use the dishwasher again.
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