There is this wierd coating on almost all of my dishes after having washed them in the dish water. I am using an automatic detergent (powder), highest how water setting.

More details:

Only some dishes get this coating. It seems like they are more dirty coming out than going in. The coating is like... white/clear. I can use a sponge, soap and warm water to remove it. Overall it feels like none of my dishes are being cleaned at all and I am just washing everything by hand now. This seems to have gotten worse and worse.

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    Have you tried to load it less? Mine only makes the plates clean if I load every second slot. When I load every slot, they remain dirty. Also, use powdered detergent, not all-in-one tabs. – rumtscho Jul 19 '11 at 18:04
  • Tell us what type of coating. Is it a dry whitish streaks or spots? Is it clear but has a texture? – Tremmors Jul 19 '11 at 18:48
  • @rumtscho: I'd say that means your dishwasher is broken, or your detergent doesn't work. Loading every slot should work. And it does for me (and I don't have an expensive dishwasher or anything, and I load it full of quite dirty dishes). – derobert Jul 21 '11 at 21:28

This is (most likely) a hard water issue. There are trace levels of minerals (calcium) in the water and when it dries the minerals are left behind. This leaves a white film that is not dangerous but is unsightly.

There are commercial products that will help with this. 'Jet Dry' is the most common of these and I have found that it works quite well. There are competitive brands out there which report to do the same.

You may also need to "clean your dishwasher" (sounds odd, I know). Again I point you towards a commercially available product, CLR. Basically you put some CLR in your empty dishwasher and run it. The exact instructions are on the bottle.

(This is not a paid endorsement of either Jet Dry or CLR)

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  • I live just barely in Baltimore, would hard water be much of an issue there? – Zombies Jul 21 '11 at 19:55
  • @Zombies: Your local water utility can probably tell you how hard your water is (assuming you're on public water, of course). They probably already do in the annual water quality report they send. – derobert Jul 21 '11 at 21:22
  • As Baltimore is a port city, Rikon may be on to something. I too used a local Culligan distributor and was very happy with service provided. Their equipment may offer you the relief, but you can buy a LOT of Jet Dry for the price of a Water Softener. So you may want to try the Jet Dry first... – Cos Callis Jul 22 '11 at 0:24

There are a few solutions:

1) You could try loading fewer dishes (if it's food-related residue) or 2) Add a liquid rinse aid to the wash cycle (your dishwasher should have a separate compartment for it).

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As Cos Callis mentions, it's likely a water chemistry problem that a good water treatment company should be able to diagnose for you for free. Hard water is from hard elements like calcium.

What we had was this odd white film and sliminess around faucets; it never hardened into calcium, what happened to us was this:

  1. We live close to the ocean;
  2. There are too many people living in our area for the aquifer to keep up;
  3. The excessive draw on the freshwater aquifer causes salt water from the ocean to leach into the aquifer;
  4. The local water authority adds chemicals to help the aquifer;
  5. Those chemicals cause the white slime described above;
  6. Culligan adjusted the resin bed in our water softener to counteract the chemicals that our county water authority added.

Either way, this is a free test that someone like Culligan will do for you.

By the way, one way to tell if this is your problem is that Jet Dry did little to nothing to help us...

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I had a friend who had something like this happening, and it turned out it was because of a change in the formula of the powdered detergent she was using (I think it was a reduction in phosphates). What happened was that she suddenly got a white residue on everything in the dishwasher after buying a new box of the same stuff she'd been using for years. The manufacturer had changed the formula to comply with regulations, and hadn't got things quite right.

If it's the same thing, you might try switching to a gel detergent--apparently they don't have the same issues.

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