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Dishwashers are often ground zero for hard water problems, from spots and stains on the dishes to soap scum and limescale buildup in the interior. Many people actually contemplate scrapping their dishwasher due to these problems, when the real culprit is hard water. Getting a whole house water softener is the surest way to solve these problems. But for those who can’t afford an expensive new appliance, a dishwasher cleaner for hard water will at least fix the immediate problems of hard water.
Hard Water and Dishwashers
Once you understand the nature of hard water, it’s pretty clear why it often causes problems with dishwashers. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium. These minerals were dissolved in the water as it passed through the ground, eventually to make its way into your home. As the water flows through your plumbing and appliances, the minerals tend to gradually precipitate out, forming scale.
So why does hard water pick on dishwashers in particular? For the same reason it picks on water heaters – because heat makes the hard water minerals precipitate out and form scale. Your dishwasher uses more hot water than any other appliance.
What is the Best Dishwasher Cleaner for Hard Water?
There are a lot of different home remedies for dealing with dishwasher hard water stains. Some people suggest running a cycle with vinegar or apple cider in the machine. Others suggest spraying down the interior with all purpose hard water stain removers. Some suggestions are so strange and possibly dangerous that we won’t even repeat them here.
A better idea is to use a dishwasher cleaner that’s specifically intended for hard water stains. Though these cleaners might not be available at your local grocery store, you can find them online for a reasonable price. One highly rated product is Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner, which can be found online.
Dishwasher Water Softeners and Whole House Systems
Using a dishwasher cleaner for hard water is easy and inexpensive, but for a permanent solution, you need to treat the hard water itself. If you’re willing to pay, you can buy a dishwasher with a water softener built in. The softener in these washers is essentially just a smaller version of a whole house ion exchange system. They typically use their own special type of salt, which you have to add to the dishwasher periodically.
Unfortunately, using a dishwasher cleaner or point-of-use water softener ignores one important fact – if you have hard water problems in your dishwasher, you likely have them elsewhere as well. As mentioned, hard water also affects hot water heaters, where you often can’t see the problem until it’s too late. Scale buildup inside a water heater can run up your utility bills and eventually force you to replace it earlier than you planned.
That’s why the best solution to hard water problems is almost always a whole house water softener. Whether you get a traditional salt-using system or a salt free alternative, these systems are designed to solve hard water problems everywhere your home – whether you can see the evidence or not.