Hard Water and Clean Dishes, Can We Have Both?
November 29, 2010 4:02 PM   Subscribe

HardWaterFilter: My mother is frustrated because she now has to soak her dishes in lime-away to get them as clean as they used to get in the dishwasher. She believes this is because the amount of phosphates in diswashing soap has recently been lowered. She is on well water and it is pretty hard water. Is there anything she can do to get her dishes clean in the dishwasher again?

Obviously a water softener is an option. But I'm hoping there might be something else she can add to the dishwasher or dishwashing process.
posted by Mozzie to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
LemiShine. This stuff is A-MA-ZING. My silverware is shiny, my glasses are no longer etched, and I don't even have so much hard water build-up on the heating element in the dish washer. I love this stuff; I buy it by the case, just in case the store runs out.
posted by headspace at 4:05 PM on November 29, 2010 [6 favorites]

I've had to add vinegar to each dishwasher load because the detergent I'm using (using up, that is, until I switch back to the old kind) just doesn't work with the local water.

Google search gives the same suggestions for hard water. Cheap and effective, at any rate!
posted by mireille at 4:20 PM on November 29, 2010

LemiShine is the bomb - we have well water and it's the difference between disgusting looking dishes and normal, clean dishes. I feel like a commercial but it works great and we also buy it by the case. Painless to use - it's a powder that goes in one of the detergent cups in a dishwasher.
posted by leslies at 4:28 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use white vinegar and Cascade (NOT the evil reformulated stuff). Has her usual detergent been reformulated to lower the phosphate count?
posted by Ideefixe at 4:31 PM on November 29, 2010

It it really is a problem with phosphate reduction then a pinch of tri-sodium phosphate added to the wash cups would restore the balance. A 1L carton is a few dollars and would last a good long time.
posted by Mitheral at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2010

You could try chucking a bit of ordinary cooking salt in with the dishwasher powder. If you want to soften water and you don't care what it tastes like, any sodium is good sodium.
posted by flabdablet at 4:48 PM on November 29, 2010

Finding a honest water treatment contractor is like buying a good used car. Tough. If she has no system at all then I would start at a local independent lab to test your water FOR YOU. Then take that report to your local Kenico dealer. See what they say. If you feel that they are trying to "sell" you .....move on. But kenico is the best way to go. I had it for years with the worst water known to man till we got county water.
posted by patnok at 4:57 PM on November 29, 2010

Lemi-shine. For all the reasons stated above. The stuff really is amazing.
posted by Mr.Me at 5:25 PM on November 29, 2010

buy big bag of softener salt; add 1/2 cup to each dishwasher load
posted by yesster at 6:15 PM on November 29, 2010

I bought a large container of Alconox from Amazon.com because of the exact same problem; and because I was unwilling to forgo phosphates. Alconox is not formulated for dishwashers so if you add too much it will foam. Just use the usual amount of detergent and add in 1/2 to 1 tbsp of Alconox. More than that and your dishwasher will foam over.

Phosphates in effluent are demonstrably bad for the environment. Large companies - textiles, fertilizers, you name it - will discharge more in one second than I will discharge in my entire lifetime using this method. If, however, you are still troubled about the effect of your incremental phosphate discharge on the environment, don't use Alconox.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 7:15 PM on November 29, 2010

Our new combination is a Finish Powerball Tab with Lemishine. We don't use as much as the Lemishine bottle says to--just enough to fill in the soap holder around the detergent tab. Seconding the comment above that our heating element is cleaner now, too. We've also tried Cascade + Lemishine, but it didn't work as well as the Powerball tabs + Lemishine.
posted by BlooPen at 7:16 PM on November 29, 2010

We pour 1/2 C white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher before each load. The soap dish is filled only halfway with a citric-acid based soap & our rinse agent is also white vinegar. Our water is ridiculously hard & this seems to do the trick for us.
posted by muirne81 at 7:18 PM on November 29, 2010

I have hard water and had to replace my glassware every year or so due to the mineral build up. The glasses would look cloudy and have an opalescence shine to them.

Purely by accident I figured out how to prevent this from happening. Turn off the heat for the dry cycle of the dishwasher. Let the dishes air dry without baking the minerals of the water on them. I usually run my dishwasher in the evening and unload it in the morning, the dishes are dry by that time.

My dishes and glasses have been clear and sparkly ever since!
posted by JujuB at 10:31 PM on November 29, 2010

Consumer reports tested various detergents, and Finish Quantum Powerball (which is different from and more expensive than Finish Powerball) came out the winner. I've been using it and am very satisfied.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 12:20 AM on November 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great, varied answers. I'm going to call my mom and go through them with her. She lives in a state which rolled out a legislated lowering of phosphates over the summer, so she can't go back to her "normal" formula unless I send it to her. Which I guess I could.
posted by Mozzie at 4:19 PM on November 30, 2010

Mozzie, in case it was ambiguous from my post, Consumer Reports tested the lower phosphate detergents, not all detergents. So of those, Finish Quantum should be the best.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 4:55 PM on November 30, 2010

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