Have you ever pulled a load of dishes from the dishwasher only to find white residue coating them? This problem can be frustrating and make your dishes appear unclean; it might start happening gradually or show up as a sudden, nevertheless an unwelcome issue.
The good news is that there are various reasons why this may be happening, and with a bit of knowledge, you can determine the cause and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.
Let’s look at some of the more common reasons for white, filmy dishes and how to stop them from reoccurring.
Why Is Your Dishwasher Leaving A White Residue?
Before trying to solve the problem, let’s first attempt to understand why it’s happening in the first place.
1. Hard Water
Hard water is one of the most common culprits behind white residue on dishes. This water has a high mineral content, specifically calcium and magnesium.
These minerals can bind with the soap used in the dishwasher, preventing it from properly cleaning the dishes and leaving a white film or spots from mineral deposits behind. Hard water is more common in areas where the water is sourced from a well or certain municipal water sources.
When hard water flows into your appliance, it can also lead to mineral buildup in your dishwasher over time. The buildup can clog the spray arms, preventing them from spraying water properly. This can result in dishes not being washed thoroughly and a white film left behind.
2. Detergent Residue
Another common cause of white residue on dishes is detergent residue. Using too much or the wrong type of detergent for your dishwasher is usually the main issue here.
When detergent residue sits on your dishes, it will create a white film or leave some spots. This is especially common if your detergent contains bleach since this is an agent known for leaving a white layer.
Many manufacturers recommend using a gel detergent or a liquid detergent instead of a powder detergent since these dissolve better and are less likely to leave marks.
3. Salt or Limescale Buildup
Your dishwasher might have a built-in water softener, which would require dishwasher salt to function correctly. If there’s not enough dishwasher salt in the softener, or if the softener is not working properly, it can cause the dishwasher to leave a white residue on your dishes.
Additionally, limescale buildup can occur if the dishwasher has not been descaled regularly. Limescale is a hard, white deposit that can build up on the heating element and other parts of the dishwasher, which can also leave a residue on your dishes.
4. Water Temperature
Water temperature can also play a role here. If the water temperature isn’t high enough, the detergent won’t be able to dissolve or clean the dishes thoroughly.
Most dishwashers are designed to work with water temperatures between 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dishwasher isn’t reaching this temperature, it might be time to have it serviced or to check your water heater to ensure it is functioning properly.
It’s important to note that water temperature can also affect the dishwasher’s drying cycle. A low water temperature might mean that the dishwasher won’t be able to effectively dry the dishes, which can also cause a filmy residue.
5. Unrinsed Dishes
A final common cause of residue left on clean dishes is not taking the time to rinse them before the cycle. If you don’t rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, food particles and other grime can get trapped in the dishwasher’s spray arms and other components of the appliance.
Your dishes don’t need to be thoroughly cleaned before going into the dishwasher, though. Just a quick rinse is enough – or simply scrape away any chunks of food before you put them in.
How To Fix A Dishwasher That Leaves A White Residue
Now that you understand all the common factors that contribute to a residue left on your clean dishes, we can take steps to solve the problem and prevent it from happening again.
1. Check Water Hardness
First of all, consider whether you live in an area with very hard water since this might be the culprit. To check if you have hard water, get a water testing kit from your local hardware store or simply contact your local water supplier.
If you find that you have hard water, there are a few options for how to deal with it. You could start by installing a water softener in your home; this removes minerals from your water supply, preventing buildup and residue.
Another solution is to use a rinse aid in your dishwasher. Rinse aid is a cleaning agent that can help prevent residue from forming by promoting proper water flow and drying – you can purchase this from any local grocery store, and it can be found with other dishwasher detergents.
2. Clean the Dishwasher
Another common cause of white residue on dishes is a buildup in the dishwasher itself. Over time, minerals, detergent, and food particles can accumulate in your dishwasher and clog the spray arms, leading to poor cleaning performance and an unpleasant residue on your dishes.
To clean your dishwasher, take out all the dishes and remove any debris or bits of food from the bottom of the dishwasher.
Next, remove the spray arms and rinse them under running water to remove any buildup. You can also use a toothbrush or soft-bristled brush with warm, soapy water to clean any crevices or hard-to-reach places.
Once the spray arms are clean, reattach them and run a wash cycle with a dishwasher cleaner or a mix of a cup of white vinegar and baking soda. This will help break down any remaining buildup and get your appliance squeaky clean.
3. Adjust Detergent Usage
If you’re using too much or too little detergent, this could cause problems. Too much detergent can lead to buildup and residue on dishes, but too little detergent may not be enough to effectively clean your dishes.
To adjust your detergent usage, start by checking the manufacturer’s instructions on the detergent package. You may need to adjust the amount of detergent based on the hardness of your water or the soil level on your dishes.
Additionally, make sure to use a detergent specifically designed for a dishwasher. Regular dish soap can cause excessive sudsing and leave marks on your plates and glasses; trying out a different type or brand of detergent might help solve your problem too.
4. Clean Filters
Your dishwasher has several filters that help to remove food particles and debris from the water. If these filters become clogged, your appliance’s performance will suffer, leaving you with dirty dishes or that nasty white film on dishes.
To clean your filters, remove them from the dishwasher and rinse them under running water to remove any debris or buildup. You could also use a brush or toothbrush to scrub away any stubborn residue.
Once the filters are clean, reinstall them and run a quick rinse cycle to finish the job.
5. Adjust the Water Temperature
If your dishwasher isn’t reaching the proper water temperature, the cleaning performance will suffer, so you’ll need to adjust it or call for repairs.
To adjust your water temperature, start by checking your water heater to make sure it’s functioning properly. You might be able to adjust the temperature setting on your dishwasher itself – check your user manual for details on this.
Additionally, make sure to use a rinse aid to assist in the drying process, as low water temperature can also affect the drying performance.
6. Run Hot Water Before Starting the Dishwasher
Another simple step to fix a temperature problem is to run hot water in your sink before starting the dishwasher. This helps ensure that the dishwasher starts with hot water, improving cleaning performance and preventing residue from forming.
To do this, simply run hot water in your sink for a few minutes before starting the dishwasher. This will ensure that the water entering the dishwasher is already hot.
7. Check for Unrinsed Dishes
Finally, give your dishes a quick scrape and rinse before packing them into the dishwasher. All you need to do is to remove large food particles from your plates and bowls to prevent the various components of your appliance from getting clogged up and lined with grease.
A dishwasher that leaves a white residue on dishes can be a frustrating problem, but luckily it’s one that can be fixed by following the above steps.
However, if you’ve tried all of these steps and are still experiencing issues with residue, it may be time to contact a professional for assistance. A qualified appliance repair technician can diagnose and fix any underlying issues with your dishwasher, ensuring that it works at peak performance and leaves your dishes clean and residue-free.