Do not use vinegar in your dishwasher. here’s why


This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

You may have been told that putting vinegar in the rinse aid or detergent compartment of your dishwasher is good for getting your dishes spotless. And while it can keep water spots at bay and give your glasses the desired shine, white vinegar can actually ruin your dishwasher.

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Yes, we understand that vinegar is only a fraction of the cost of rinse aid. However, do you really want to drop $800 instead when your dishwasher stops working?

We’ll explain why you shouldn’t use vinegar as a rinse aid below. If you’re determined to use it anyway, we’ll tell you the best method so you don’t ruin your dishwasher. (You can also read our final version guide to the correct way to load a dishwasherand how to properly clean your dishwasher.)

White vinegar can destroy your dishwasher

White vinegar is ideal for your daily cleaning, unclog your kitchen sink at clean your shower head. It is also ideal for removing hard water stains from your dishes. But there are places it just doesn’t belong, and your dishwasher’s rinse aid compartment is one of them.

Distilled white vinegar is an acid with a pH of around 2 to 3. In comparison, sulfuric acid – which destroys many substances it comes into contact with – has a pH of around 1.

So be aware that vinegar can break rubber seals and hoses in your dishwasher, leading to costly damage. On top of that, if the vinegar mixes with salt that has been left on your dishes, it can discolor metal pans, cutlery, and mixing bowls.

The Bottom Line: We recommend using rinse aids designed for use in a dishwasher, such as Finish or Cascade. Although they may also contain vinegar, the acidity is low enough not to harm your dishwasher or dishes.

If you must use vinegar, do this

If you’re still set on using vinegar in your dishwasher, you can — but don’t put it in the rinse aid dispenser. Instead, follow these rules for cleaning your dishes in the dishwasher with vinegar to cause as little mess as possible.

  • Use white vinegar with as little acidity as possible. Most come with 6% acidity but if you can, try to find 5%. This is the lowest concentration of acidity for household white vinegar and will cause the least damage.
  • Pour vinegar into the bottom of your dishwasher during the rinse cycle so that it is diluted with water.
  • Better yet, pour a cup of vinegar into a bowl and place it on the bottom rack of your dishwasher.

How to avoid water spots on your dishes

If you’re using rinse aid — or vinegar — and you’re still noticing water spots or other heavy buildup on your dishes, there’s another problem. Chances are you have hard water and need to invest in a water softening system to prevent these stains.

Water is considered “hard” if it contains high levels of dissolved magnesium and calcium compounds, which cause mineral buildup on dishes, faucets and tubs. Water softeners are systems that remove calcium and magnesium ions that cause water to be considered hard. Once the water is “softened”, it won’t stain your dishes and you’ll never need to use vinegar in your dishwasher again.

For more cleaning tips, see this hack that quickly unclogs your shower head. Also, here how to unclog your toilet without a plunger.

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