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Do I Need a Rinse Aid for My Dishwasher?

Open dishwasher full of clean dishes.
Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock

Dishwasher detergent is, naturally, a must when using your dishwasher, but what about rinse aids? Here’s how to determine if you need one.

What Are Rinse Aids?

If you’ve ever paid a few extra dollars for a “spot-free” car wash, you’ve experienced the wonderful world of surfactants—compounds that lower the surface tension of water droplets, so they roll off the surface.

This same technology is at work in the “rinse aids” you use in your dishwasher. Rinse aids typically contain alcohol, citric acid, and other compounds that break up water surface tension. This ensures the water rinses, cleans off your dishes, and improves drying.

Do You Need One?

Just because your dishwasher has a reservoir for a rinse aid doesn’t necessarily mean you need one. If you have soft water (either naturally, due to your location or because of a water softener), you might find that your dishes, glasses, and flatware already come out of the dishwasher spot-free. In which case, you don’t need a rinse aid.

Do note, however, that some detergents (especially pod detergents) have rinse aids added to them. If you switch to a detergent that doesn’t have a built-in rinse aid, you might need to start using one.

Soft water or not, if your dishes are coming out with water spots, it might be time to try a rinse aid. Grab one like Finish Jet-Dry, fill up the reservoir, and then monitor your dishes.

Many dishwashers have small dial or slider you adjust to increase or decrease the amount of rinse aid dispensed. Start with the lowest setting, and then adjust it until your dishes are spot-free. Typically, you need to refill the reservoir once a month.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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