6 Methods to Fight Hard Water in Your Dishwasher


Most American homes run some strength of hard water through their taps. Hard water contains harmless-to-consume minerals like calcium and magnesium that occur naturally in the local rocks – therefore seep into the groundwater. While hard water is harmless to drink or cook into food, it is harmful to your pipes and appliances. It is also the source of “water spots” on your dishes when they come out of the dishwasher.

Water spots are chalky whitish rings or splotches on otherwise clean dishes. Those chalky rings are actually minerals that were in the water but remained when the water evaporated during the heat-dry cycle. To fight hard water from marking your dishes and slowly damaging your dishwasher, there are seven smart methods you can put to use. 

1) Use Rinse Aid

Start with a commercial rinse aid. For mildly hard water, these rinse aids prevent the formation of water spots and help to keep the dishwasher relatively clear of hard water clogs. Rinse aid is loaded into your dishwasher next to the soap. There is usually a reservoir container designed so that one application of rinse aid lasts for several loads.

Many regions have water too hard for rinse aid, so you may want to try other tactics. 

2) Wash with Hotter Water

The hotter the water, the more minerals will dissolve down the drain instead of remaining on your dishes. If you need to clean your dishwasher with hard water minerals, run it empty with very hot water and mildly acidic, non-toxic solvents. 

3) Poke Your Sprayer Arm Nozzles

Take a paperclip or safety pin and bend out the pointy end. Now poke each and every one of the nozzle-holes in your dishwasher sprayer arms. Hard water forms little mineral plugs that can clog the small nozzles inside a dishwasher. If your dishwasher has been losing efficiency, just clearing the sprayer arm nozzles with a paperclip can significantly help the problem and your fight against hard water damage. 

4) Cup of Mineral-Cleaner in Every Load

  • Lemon Juice
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar

Mild acids, along with baking soda, make a powerful cleaner. Vinegar, in particular, is great for dissolving the minerals that are left behind from hard water. Place a cup or shallow bowl in the center of your top dishwasher rack. Fill the bowl halfway with vinegar or lemon juice (vinegar is stronger) and then run the dishwasher. Do this with an empty and hot load first, then use the same trick to keep the mineral buildup at bay during normal dish loads. 

5) Scrub the Cabinet with CLR

If you have bad hard water buildup inside of the dishwasher, you can tell because the walls are chalky instead of smooth to the touch. Before your dishes can get clean, the dishwasher needs to be clean. Grab a sponge or cloth and an appropriate cleaner. CLR (calcium, lime, rust) is a reliable commercial cleaner for mineral buildup, while a bowl of vinegar is a good fallback for emergency dishwasher maintenance. 

6) Install a Home Water Softener

If hard water is an ongoing maintenance problem in your household, it may be worth considering a water softener. This household-sized unit uses salt or resin beads to pull the mineral content out of your tap water before it reaches the household pipes, taps, and appliances. 

For more dishwasher maintenance or repair services, contact us today!

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