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Soft Water Problems With Dishwashers

Sean Russell

During the dishwashing process, the water in your house is just as important as the detergent and the dishwasher itself. There are a few common problems that can occur if your water is too soft.

Soft Water Problems With Dishwashers

It's crucial to know what kind of water you have in your home. Although the dishwasher and detergent play a large part in the dishwashing process, your water is just as important. The characteristics of tap water change from place to place and time to time. Although some water is hardened with heavy calcium and magnesium deposits, other water is soft and almost mineral-free. This difference in water type also affects the proficiency of your dishwasher and detergent.

There are a handful of problems that can happen during the dishwashing process if your water is too soft.

Problem #1: Sudsing

During the wash cycle, the detergent cup releases detergent into the water, and the soap becomes soap bubbles in a process called “sudsing.” Detergent is for water of a normal hardness; water that is too hard or too soft can cause improper sudsing. Although hard water often fails to dissolve all the soap properly, softened water dissolves the soap too readily. This creates more suds than the dishwasher can handle, and can lead to leaks and residual soap bubbles on the dishes after a wash. Prevent this by hardening the water or by using less detergent in the wash.

Problem #2: Spots and Film

While hard water leaves deposits of calcium and magnesium on dishes, soft water leaves soap spots, streaks and film. These spots are an eyesore, though they are easily removable compared to hard water effects. Adding a rinse aid to dishwashers with softened water helps remove soap spots and film.

Problem #3: Negative Effects of Over-Softening

Often, homeowners who have hard water in their pipes soften it in dishwashers by using dishwasher soap. However, if you're using a water softener, it's important to be careful about over-softening. When too much softener is used, the water becomes too soft for washing and does not rinse dishes clean, even when shot from the jets of the spray arm. Instead, the water simply coats the dishes, dirt included. Reduce the amount of softener added to the dishwasher if you find dishes are not clean at the end of a cycle.

In addition, some softeners are better than others. Granular salt is the proper salt used as a softener in dishwashers, but some manufacturers supply dishwasher salt such as Dead Sea salt and other types of crystalline salt. This salt can actually eat away at the resin in a dishwasher over time, weakening its overall strength like rust undermines metal. Check with the manufacturer on the origin of the salt in a softener before use.

Final Considerations

Knowing what type of water you have in your home is important, so you can determine the type and amount of detergent to use. This will result in fewer problems with your dishwasher and cleaner dishes.