When you have hard water, your dishes can come out of the dishwasher looking worse than when they went in. Hard water leaves your glasses cloudy or spotted, and can even prevent your dishes from getting as clean as they should. Of course, some dishwashers are better at handling hard water than others. Fortunately, finding the best dishwasher for hard water is a simple matter of looking for one key feature – a built in water softener.
Hard Water Problems in Your Dishwasher
The reason dishwashers are especially prone to hard water problems is because they use a lot of hot water. Hard water contains high levels of dissolved minerals, which form deposits everywhere the water runs – but especially when it’s hot. If you have gunk buildup in your dishwasher, this is why. But in addition to clogging things up, the minerals in hard water also inhibit the effectiveness of soap, so you need to use more dishwasher detergent to get your dishes clean.
To clean out your dishwasher, you can use vinegar or a specialty dishwasher cleaner for hard water. However, this is really just treating the symptom. To actually solve the problem, you need a water softener system – either one that’s included with your dishwasher, or a whole house system.
Dishwasher Water Softener Systems
In Europe, water softeners come standard with dishwashers. But in the United States, it’s a different story. There are precious few models that include this feature, and you generally have to pay a lot to get them.
For the absolute best dishwasher for hard water, look no further than Miele dishwashers. The Germany based Miele makes a lot of high end kitchen appliances, but in the United States, they’re particularly known for their top notch dishwashers. While a lot of other dishwashers with water softeners require you to test your water and configure the system manually, Miele dishwashers adjust to your water hardness automatically.
Of course, you have to pay a premium price to get a premium dishwasher. If you don’t need a lot of fancy options, you may find that a more basic system is a better buy for the money. A more affordable option would be one of the Kitchenaid models that includes a water softener.
Better Yet – Get a Whole House Water Softener
Given the price you have to pay for a dishwasher with a built in softener, it usually makes more sense to spring for a whole house water softener. Of course, a lot of homeowners are in the market for a premium dishwasher precisely because they want to avoid the expense and hassle of owning a whole house system. These homeowners should think carefully about their decision – there are a lot of reasons to prefer the whole house option, despite the hassle.
If you have hard water deposits in your dishwasher, you have them elsewhere in your home as well. You may not see them, but they’re there. If you don’t treat your hard water, one way or another, it’s going to cost you. It could lead to reduced water pressure as pipes get blocked, or worse, an inefficient water heater caked on the inside with calcium buildup.
The only really compelling reason to buy a dishwasher with a water softener is if you want a different level of softening for your dishes than for the rest of your house. For some people, highly softened water can leave etches on dishes. In this case, it might make sense to have the whole house system bypass the dishwasher, which can include a softener with its own settings.
But regardless of whether you go with a dishwasher water softener, a whole house water softener system, or both, the important thing is for you to address your hard water problem. Leaving these issues to fester will only cost you money in both the short run and the long run.