No more cloudy glasses, dull plates, and water spots with this DIY dishwasher rinse aid! The homemade rinsing agent fights the effects of hard water and ensures that your dishware dries streak-free. Formulated with natural, eco-friendly ingredients, it will keep dishes sparkling and spotless.
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Why make homemade dishwasher rinse aid?
I live in a region of Ireland with extremely hard water. When I use the dishwasher, I’ll always end up with hazy glasses and a chalky white film all over my plates. The white residue is mineral deposits from hard water, such as calcium and magnesium.
These deposits aren’t harmful, but I find them incredibly annoying. If your area has water, too, you know exactly what I mean.
Like me, you might be enlisting rinse aid to combat the effects of hard water. But have you ever read the ingredients on the label? Many potentially toxic chemicals and questionable materials like artificial fragrances, EDTA, phosphates, sodium troclosene, and whatnot.
The Environmental Working Group tested 19 rinse aids and rated 11 of them with a D or F, which asserts that these products are potentially hazardous for your health and the environment.
But fret not! It’s super easy to create your own homemade rinse aid – all-natural and non-toxic!
After sharing recipes for homemade dish soap, a dishwasher detergent recipe, DIY detergent booster, homemade dishwasher pods, and liquid dishwashing detergent, we’re adding another helper to this list: DIY dishwasher rinse aid. Let’s get into it!
What is rinse aid?
Dishwasher rinse aid, aka rinsing agent or dishwasher drying agent, is a liquid formula that reduces water spots + filming on dishes and improves drying.
How does rinse aid work?
Rinse aid works by lowering the surface tension. It’s released in the final wash cycle and encourages water to drain from plates, glasses, and cutlery instead of forming droplets that turn into water spots and filming.
Doing so also washes away the minerals in water (that would otherwise accumulate on the surface of your dishes) and promotes shininess.
Is rinse aid necessary?
Unlike detergent, rinse aid isn’t absolutely necessary. You can dishwash without it, and depending on the mineral makeup of your water, you may not even need it in the first place.
Rinse aid is beneficial in areas with hard water as it can help remove mineral deposits and dry dishes without spots and streaks. Your dishes will come out cleaner and shinier with rinse aid compared to using detergent alone.
Benefits of DIY rinse aid
If you’re still on the fence, let me list you all the reasons why creating DIY rinse aid is a fantastic idea:
- Streak-free shine: This DIY dishwasher spot-free removes hard water deposits for sparkly, spotless dishes.
- Drying aid: The recipe also acts as a dishwasher drying aid and helps dishes dry faster.
- All-natural: My rinsing agent is formulated with natural, biodegradable ingredients such as citric acid and essential oils that don’t impact the environment and sea life.
- Non-toxic: You won’t find any synthetic fragrances, phosphates, phthalates, or unpronounceable materials in this liquid rinse aid recipe.
- Septic safe: This dishwasher rinse agent is safe for septic and greywater systems.
- Easy: You need zero experience in green cleaning and just 5 minutes to whip up this DIY jet dry.
- Frugal: Making your own homemade cleaning products will save you money, which is always a win!
What is rinse aid made of?
I’ve been working on this DIY natural rinse aid for months, and the recipe has gone through a few iterations. After vigorous testing, I’m convinced that you need the following ingredients to make the best natural rinse aid for dishwasher:
- Distilled water is purified water that has mineral ions removed. It’s the main component in this dishwasher drying agent and functions as a solvent for the other ingredients.
- Citric acid is a mild, biodegradable acid. The ingredient removes hard water deposits and residue from the dishwasher detergent. It ensures that it doesn’t settle on your dishes. Citric acid is a must-have ingredient to achieve brilliant glasses and sparkling dishes.
- High-proof alcohol (recommended) dries out liquids. It makes water slide off better, which is important to keep your plates and glasses streak-free and spotless.
- Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside is a mild surfactant and solubilizer made from sugar and vegetables. It’s an integral component of natural rinse aid. The surfactant lowers the surface tension and flushes away any leftover cleanser and other debris, and prevents them from clinging onto your dishware.
- Essential oils (optional) provide a delectable natural scent to this dishwasher drying aid. Their antibacterial properties make EOs an excellent addition to supercharging natural cleaning recipes. I used a blend of lime essential oil and litsea essential oil. Of course, feel free to customize the oils according to your personal preferences.
Do I need to add a preservative?
Water is the main constituent of this DIY dishwasher rinse aid. And as you may know, water-based formulations need a preservative to inhibit the growth of microbes, bacteria, and mold.
Citric acid and alcohol act as preservatives. Citric acid lowers the pH to a level that is uninhabitable for bacteria. High-proof alcohol is highly effective in eliminating germs and mold.
Including citric acid and high-proof alcohol in my rinse aid recipe allows us to skip any additional preservatives and keep the ingredients to a minimum. Both are safe and potent natural preservatives.
Do I need to use an emulsifier?
This DIY rinse agent contains water and essential oils, 2 substances that don’t mix. However, Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside and alcohol function as emulsifying agents and keep essential oils solubilized in the solution. So, you don’t have to add any additional solubilizers.
Tips for the best rinse aid
- It’s vital to prepare the spot free rinse with distilled or deionized water, not tap water. Otherwise, it won’t be as effective. Tap water is often chemically treated and contains minerals that will deposit on dishware, especially in regions with hard water.
- I prefer citric acid over vinegar in homemade rinse aid because it’s cheap, easy to find, and doesn’t have that pungent vinegar smell. However, you can substitute the citric acid with 1/4 cup / 60 ml / 2 fl oz distilled white vinegar if you want. I also talk more about using vinegar as rinse aid at the end of this post.
- Coco glucoside, cocoamidopropyl betaine, and decyl glucoside are good substitutes for Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside in case you can’t find it.
- The availability of high-proof alcohol sometimes depends on where you live. For this dishwasher spot remover, I recommend Spirytus vodka, 190, Everclear, Golden Grain, Gem Clear 190 Proof, Alchocol-95, 151-proof Everclear, and 150 proof vodka. You can also use rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) if none of the other options are available to you.
How to make rinse aid
This unique citric acid rinse aid is super simple, which means all you really do is combine the ingredients and fill your spot free rinse into a dispenser bottle. Takes less than 5 minutes, and everyone can do it!
Step 1: Add
- Add the distilled water, citric acid, high-proof alcohol, coco glucoside, and essential oils into a large glass measuring jug or mixing bowl.
Step 2: Mix
- Using a whisk, gently stir until everything is combined and the essential oils are well distributed throughout.
- The citric acid takes a little time to dissolve and will do so on its own.
- You may see some bubbles and suds from the Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, which is fine.
Step 3: Store
- Transfer the eco-friendly rinse aid into a glass bottle and store sealed in a dark, cool place.
How to use rinse aid
DIY dishwasher rinse aid is really easy to use. Let me walk you through the steps:
- Open the rinse aid reservoir by pressing the latch and pulling the lid open.
- Pour the rinse aid into the dispenser until the liquid reaches the max line or the indicator says “Full.” Be careful not to overfill the chamber as the product may leak when you close the drawer.
- Firmly close the dispenser by pushing down the lid, so the compartment is sealed.
- Wipe away any spilled rinse aid that may have puddled around the compartment.
- Load up your dishwasher and run a wash cycle as usual.
- Add more rinse aid when the indicator drops to the “Add” level.
Where do you put rinse aid in the dishwasher?
The rinse aid dispenser is located inside the dishwasher door, next to the main detergent drawer.
What about a dishwasher without rinse aid dispenser?
If your dishwasher doesn’t have a rinse aid receptacle, fill a small cup with rinse aid in the upper rack during the last wash cycle.
How much rinse aid to use?
Difficult to say since every dishwasher is different. Simply add product until the rinse agent dispenser is full. Most dishwashers have a gauge where you can see how much rinse aid is in the compartment.
Inside the dispenser, indicator lines point to “Add” when the rinse aid is depleted or “Full” when the rinse aid reservoir is filled up.
How often do I top off the rinse aid?
You don’t have to add rinse aid to every cycle. Refill only when the rinse aid dispenser is empty. It will last for several cycles, and your dishwasher will automatically portion the necessary amount of rinse aid.
Rinse aid dispensers can hold 4 oz to 5 oz of product, which should last for a month if your run your appliance often.
Is rinse aid a substitute for detergent?
No, rinse isn’t a substitute or alternative for dishwasher detergent. Both products are meant to be used together for the best cleaning effect.
Other uses for rinse aid
Aside from keeping your dishes free from water spots, you can use rinse aid in other areas of your home that you want to keep spotless and shiny. Apply it to any surfaces prone to filming and spotting, like mirrors, windows, porcelain tiles, bathroom fixtures, showers doors, sinks, and the tub.
- Add rinse aid into a spray bottle.
- Spritz onto the area you want to treat after cleaning it and while the surface is still wet.
- Wipe dry with a cloth.
Avoid calcium-based stones, like travertine tiles or marble countertops. The dishwasher drying liquid contains citric acid, which can damage these stones.
Shelf life and storage
Store your DIY dishwasher rinse aid in a dry, cool place at room temperature. A place protected from the sun is best, e.g., a kitchen cupboard.
To maintain the integrity of the product, pour the natural rinse aid into a glass bottle. Avoid plastic vessels because essential oils and citric acid can extract chemicals from plastic.
Your best option is an amber glass bottle. I wanted to show how the rinse aid looks like and opted for clear glass. Of course, you can do that, too. Just be sure to keep your rinse agent out of direct sunlight as UV rays can degrade the ingredients and impact the quality of the dishwasher spot free.
Stored correctly, the dishwasher dryer liquid will keep for 6 to 9 months.
Vinegar rinse aid
Before signing off, I want to touch on using vinegar as a rinse aid substitute. Lots and lots of DIY recipes suggest vinegar as an effective rinsing agent. Yet dishwasher manufacturers warn against it, claiming that vinegar damages rubber seals on the appliance.
Does vinegar ruin the dishwasher?
Maybe, but most likely not, and here is why:
- All commercial rinsing agents contain citric acid (and I mean every single one).
- Citric acid and vinegar are similar acidic. The pH of citric acid ranges between 2.2 and 5, depending on the concentration. Vinegar clogs in between 2.4 and 3.5.
- Vinegar is safe for natural rubber, silicone, polypropylene, fluorocarbon, and synthetic rubber seals.
- Claiming that citric is safe, but not vinegar makes no sense.
- So, is it just marketing and companies trying to sell their products? That’s for you to decide!
So, can you use vinegar as rinse aid?
Yes, but it won’t be as effective as my dishwasher rinse aid recipe. Vinegar will soften the water and remove some of the mineral deposits from hard water. But it doesn’t work as a dishwasher drying aid, meaning you may still experience some water spots.
How do you make vinegar rinse aid?
Anyway, if you want to use vinegar as rinse aid, you can do so. Either use pure distilled white vinegar or try this super simple vinegar dishwasher rinse aid recipe:
Mix everything together and store in an airtight glass bottle.
How to use vinegar as rinse aid
Don’t fill it into the rinse aid dispenser compartment to eliminate any chances that vinegar sits on rubber seals. Do this instead:
- Fill 1 to 2 tablespoons homemade rinse aid into a small cup or bowl.
- Place the cup in the top rack of your dishwasher.
- Let your dishwasher run as usual.
I hope you find my DIY dishwasher rinse aid tutorial helpful. Please let me know it works out for you!