How to Dissolve Hard Water and Lime Buildup in a Dishwasher

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There are a few ways to solve the hard water and lime buildup in a dishwasher.
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Spots on dishes and dull glassware can mean that lime and mineral deposits from your home's hard water have built up. A simple dishwasher cleaner can make the wine glasses sparkle and the silverware shine, but there may still be a problem with hard water buildup in the dishwasher. Mineral deposits in a dishwasher can lead to issues if not attended to properly and in good time. There are a few ways to dissolve scaly hard water and lime buildup in the dishwasher so it runs well and dishes are clean.

Hard Water Stains in the Dishwasher

The tap water that flows through your home's water lines typically contains minerals and lime scale. This is a common problem and doesn't take much to maintain or control. Hard water deposits will show up around the edges of faucet spouts, showerheads and in rings around the toilet bowl.

It can be more difficult to see hard water buildup in the dishwasher. More than likely it will make itself known as white spots on dried dishes and possibly as a white, scaly area around the bottom of the appliance or its filter. A dishwasher cleaner can reduce hard water buildup if used regularly.

Hard water buildup in the dishwasher can reduce the appliance's ability to clean dishes well and shorten its lifespan. Mr. Rooter notes that leaving hard water deposits to build up in appliances such as the dishwasher can wear them out 30 times faster than normal wear and tear. Removing hard water stains with a thorough cleaning every two months can help to maintain a clean interior while extending the life and improving the daily operation of the dishwasher.

Cleaning the Dishwasher Filter

The dishwasher filter should be cleaned out annually if not monthly on a busy dishwasher. Consult the owner's manual to locate the screws, clips or other hardware holding the filter in its place inside the dishwasher.

Sansone recommends cleaning out the filter with a toothbrush, hot water and dishwasher detergent. Don't use abrasive cleaners or steel wool, which can damage the delicate fibers of the dishwasher filter. Never clean dishwasher parts with dish liquid that's not meant for the appliance. This can create problems with sensors.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

The combination of vinegar and baking soda can soften and dissolve hard water deposits in the dishwasher. It's a two-step process that requires a few cycles, so be prepared to have the dishwasher out of service for a good part of the day and possibly overnight.

Pour two cups of vinegar into a dishwasher-safe bowl and place it in the top rack of the empty appliance. Run the dishwasher on a full cycle on the normal or regular setting. Lime-A-Way works just as well as a dishwasher cleaner at this step.

Once the cycle has finished, sprinkle baking soda in a healthy layer along the bottom of the appliance. Run a quick clean cycle to let the baking soda get into all the areas where hard water deposits have built up. Leave the machine open for a few hours or overnight to remove any odors from the cleaning process that can cling to the dishes in a future cycle.

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Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.

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