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Dishwashers

Don't use vinegar in your dishwasher to get sparkling dishes: Here's why

Hint: Your dishwasher may not last as long as it should.

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It's true that white vinegar has some truly amazing cleaning powers. That's why it's used in so many DIY cleaning products and store bought ones, too.

Have you heard that you can use white vinegar in lieu of pricey dishwasher rinse aid to get your dishes to come out shiny and dry? Before you pour it into the dispenser, stop. Here's why.

Vinegar can ruin your dishwasher

Vinegar is typically used in the dishwasher to remove spots and hard water buildup on plates and glassware. Hey, it works and it's all natural, so it's all good. Right? Not so much.

Vinegar is an acid with a pH of around 2.0. It's only one tick up the pH scale from sulfuric acid (which destroys most substances it comes in contact with).

Because it's is a strong acid, vinegar can break down the rubber gaskets and hoses in your dishwasher, eventually causing a costly breakdown. Also, if it mixes with salt, say from bits of food on your dishes, vinegar can discolor metal pans, flatware and mixing bowls.

Those rinse aids you can buy at the store are also acidic, and some even contain vinegar, but they are formulated in a lab to be used in a dishwasher. The acidity is low enough that most brands won't damage the rubber pieces in your dishwasher or discolor metals.

If you really want to use vinegar…

I know some die-hard vinegar fans out there will cry foul. You love your vinegar and don't want to let go. There are some ways you can keep your all-natural rinse aid while causing as little damage to your dishwasher as possible.

First, try to find a brand of vinegar that is only 5 percent acetic acid. This is the lowest concentration of acid for a household vinegar and will cause the least amount of damage.

Brands will either have the acetic acid amount on the label, or you can search for the information online.

Instead of subjecting your dishwasher's rinse aid dispenser to vinegar, pour it into the bottom of the dishwasher during the rinse cycle instead. Yeah, you'll need to do this while the dishwasher is running, but because the vinegar is immediately diluted with water, it won't cause as much damage.

Prevent water spots and build-up

If your dishes are consistently coming out of the dishwasher with spots, there's a bigger problem at play. It's probably your water.

GE recommends that if you need to use vinegar in your dishwasher more than twice in one month, you should invest in a water softening system instead of supplementing your loads.

Hard water is water that has a high mineral content, which causes mineral build-up on your dishes (aka spots), faucets and other fixtures. Water softeners are systems that remove calcium and magnesium ions, that cause the water to be considered hard. Once the water is "softened" it won't leave spots on your dishware.

Consider this before buying a portable dishwasher.

Here's what to look for as you shop for your next dishwasher.