What Causes White Residue on Dishes from the Dishwasher?

This is one of the most misunderstood issues. Many service professionals even struggle resolving the issue or understanding what is going on. Having white residue or cloudiness on dishes can cause distress and embarrassment when giving a glass to a visitor while entertaining. Most people condemn the dishwasher, throw away the cloudy stuff and buy new dishes. This article will detail how this issue can be resolved.

There are two main reasons why white residue or cloudiness accumulates in the dishwasher and on the dishes.

The first is widely known; hard water. We have very hard water here in Ogden. To obtain an estimated hardness of your water, you can call the city in which you live, give them your address and they can tell you your estimated water hardness. Knowing this number will help you in your selection of detergent and setting on a water softener.

The second reason is corrosion. Corrosion can be caused by over softening water. Corrosion can manifest itself in etching and iridescence (the rainbow look you see on clear glass). It can also be caused by very hot of water, water that isn’t hot enough and running the dishwasher on unnecessarily long cycles.

Hard water is water with a high dissolved mineral content. In Ogden, our water is primarily from runoff and ground water. As the water percolates through the various levels of soil and stone, it absorbs various minerals including calcium, lime, and magnesium. These minerals are what we see stuck to our various plumbing fixtures, appliances, and shower glass.

Is Hard Water Reversable?

Fortunately, hard water issues are reversible. First, the buildup in the dishwasher needs to be removed. The easiest way to accomplish this is to pour between .5 and 1 gallon of white distilled vinegar in the dishwasher but do NOT run a cycle. Most older units will take the full gallon. Dump enough vinegar in that it touches the float in the bottom of the dishwasher. Allow the vinegar to sit at least 3-4 days. After the 3-4 day period, run a cycle on the hottest and longest cycle with no dishes or detergent. This will clear the buildup in the pump motor assembly. If needed, repeat. Now that the motor is clean we need to clean the spray arms, tub and racks. This is done by using a dishwasher cleaner solution. We recommend finish brand. 

Finish Dishwasher Cleaner

Follow the instruction on the bottle for use. If after the cleaning cycle there are still deposits and clogged spray arms, repeat until clear. It may take 2-4 bottles. These steps will strip the dishwasher of the buildup.

Now the big question, how to clear the white residue on the dishes?

First, we need to find out if the dishes have hard water or if they are corroded and etched. This is done by getting a paper towel and wetting it with white distilled vinegar. Put part of the paper towel inside the glass and part on the outside. Proceed to scrub dish in a small area. After scrubbing the dish, wipe it dry. Is the white residue on the dishes clean and clear? If so, the white residue on the dish is due to hard water. Now if you are like me, you don’t want to scrub all the dishes with vinegar. You can use a great product that will do it for you called Finish Booster.

Finish Booster

This product will strip off all the white residue on dishes from the dishwasher. It will not however, fix etching. This is not a product that needs to be continually used. It is only needed when you need to strip off the white residue. It may take several loads but each time you should see improvement. Follow instructions on bottle for use. If the paper towel and vinegar test did not work or the white residue remains it has been corroded and etched which is permanent and irreversible.

How do you prevent future damage to our dishes?

You now have a clean dishwasher and know if your dishes can be saved. How do we prevent this from happening again? First we need to verify how hot your kitchen sink inlet water is. Water that is too hot or too cold can be the cause the white cloudiness. The optimum temperature is 130 degrees. If water is 130 degrees it will cool to 120 by the time the water goes into a cold dishwasher.  Water needs to be at least 120 degrees to activate the parts of the detergent immediately after dispensing. In a high-quality detergent, there are enzymes and bleach. The enzymes dissolve the proteins and starches which makes them water soluble, whereas the bleach takes care of the stains by oxidation. The enzymes peak activation is at 122 degrees and the bleach at 140 degrees. If the water is too cool the enzymes never reach peak activation and are not as effective. If the water is too hot the bleach activates and bypasses the peak activation of the enzymes and the dishes won’t get clean. So yes, if your water is too hot, your dishes won’t get clean.

Finish QuantumFinish Max In 1

We recommend using Finish detergents. Any of the Liquid or Gel detergents from any brand do not work. Most people also use way too much powder detergent. Using a tablet will ensure the correct amounts of all necessary products go in and dissolve at the right rate. These tablets or gel packs need to be put into the detergent dispenser so it is introduced at the proper time in the cycle. The best detergent on the market is Finish Quantum. It is a more expensive detergent but it works wonders. Finish Max in 1 Powerball is also an extremely effective detergent. Buying it at Sam’s Club or Costco or in bulk will get you the best price.

What about a dishwasher rinse aid?

Finish Rinse Aid

Rinse aid is also extremely important. Rinse-aid contains surfactants which reduce surface tension and let water and detergent run off the dishes. With new dishwashers, there are energy and water restrictions placed on them causing them to operate differently than what we are used to, they run longer and dry worse. A separate rinse aid is a needed component of the dishwashing cycle. With the technology used in newer dishwashers they are completely dependent on rinse aid. This is because the heaters are now internal and can’t be used for the dry cycle. Jet Dry is a product made by Finish and is what we recommend.

Turbo Finish

Jet Dry by Finish is also recommended by most manufactures. This is a good standard product that will suit most needs of homeowners. If you use lots of plastics, it is recommended that you use Jet Dry Turbo by Finish.

This will assist in the plastic drying performance. Jet Dry Turbo gives up to 9x the drying results with plastics. The polymers in the Jet Dry are what make the dishes shine and sparkle, which gives the plastic a clean look.

How should I use my dishwasher?

Each time you go to start the dishwasher, run the hot water to purge out any cool water. This will allow your dishwasher to start and fill with hot water. Scrape your dishes of anything solid or of large chunks, but put the dishes in dirty. Yes, put the dishes in dirty. Do not clean your dishes before you load them. Putting in dirty dishes will get the dishes cleaner and help your dishwasher operate properly.

Have you ever seen your detergent sitting in the bottom of the dishwasher after a cycle? That is because the detergent door was blocked. Ensure your detergent door is free from dishes, pans or utensils and can hinge freely. Make certain that spray arms are clear and can rotate freely. Do not overfill your dishwasher. The idea is to have clean dishes, so load it properly to allow it to do its job. For further loading instructions consult your operating manual that came with your product.

About iFix

iFiX is here to serve you! This article will likely help many of you solve your issues without incurring a service call charge. That’s great! If your appliance is operating properly, that makes us happy. We know that as we develop a relationship of trust, you will eventually have something out of your area of expertise you will hopefully give us a call to resolve your problem with the confidence that we have your best interests in mind. Here at iFiX we put our customers first, not their wallets! We are in the people business, helping them resolve appliance issues.

If you need help, we are happy to help. Please call with any questions, 801-731-iFiX (4349) or e-mail at customerservice@ifixutah.com or just use our contact formWe service all major brands of kitchen and laundry appliances. iFiX, so you don’t have to!

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