For a long time, I've known about how to clean my dishwasher once a month using vinegar. The process is simple, really: in an empty dishwasher, pour 1 cup of undiluted white vinegar inside and run a normal cycle. It's supposed to break down those hard-water deposits so common in this part of the country.
A couple of weeks ago, though, I took my use of vinegar a step further: using it in the rinse-aid dispenser. Crunchy Savings gave me the idea. I had to use up the rest of the "blue stuff" first before I could try it out. Now that the vinegar has been used to rinse several loads, I can give my opinion on how the dishes turned out.
I will admit, sometimes the dishes aren't quite as sparkly as they were with the "blue stuff." And they're less likely to be 100% dry when I open the dishwasher, even after letting them sit overnight like I normally do. The plates and glasses are usually fine; some of the silverware and the little bit of plastic in there are sometimes still a bit damp. Letting them air-dry on my counter isn't a big deal. Will I keep using vinegar as a rinse aid? Probably--but since I'm so Cheap, I'll probably use up the rest of my "blue stuff" first so I won't be wasting it. Just won't have to buy it again. Given the cost of those little bottles, even with coupons, using vinegar will be a whole lot Cheaper and Greener as it's all-natural; I don't have to wonder what's in it.
As for detergent? I'm still using Finish Powerball Tabs. Haven't quite gotten brave enough to try either a Greener option or make my own. Our current dishwasher, pictured above, is only about 2 months old (had to replace one with a $700 problem to fix), and its manual states that those concentrated pacs give the best results in this dishwasher and that liquid or powder detergent should not be used. If someone knows of a suitable alternative that's both Cheaper and Greener, I'm open to suggestions! I can get Finish for pretty Cheap after BOGOs at Publix combined with coupons, but even Cheaper would be nice. :)