Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Anyone who has ever owned a dishwasher can relate to this problem: You run your dishwasher and open the door, expecting a trove of pristine dishes. But what you find is a mess of water stains and mineral deposits—annoying little blemishes covering every glass and dinner plate. WTF?
Usually, dishwasher spots form because of hard water. Excessive mineral content in your water supply leaves visible residue as water evaporates during the drying cycle.
Are these spots unavoidable if you have hard water? No. There are measures you can take to thwart them, and most are pretty simple. So stop settling for an imperfect wash, and start using your dishwasher the way it's supposed to be used!
1. Use Less Detergent
The easiest way to prevent dishwasher spots is to simply cut down on detergent. Using too much detergent can leave a soapy residue, not unlike the mineral stains caused by hard water. This makes your dishes look dirty.
If you've been having issues, try using a bit less than usual. Then, gradually work your way down from there until the spots are gone. If that still doesn't work, read on...
2. Try a Different Detergent
Maybe it's not the amount of soap you're using, but the choice of soap! This is probably only the case if the source of your dish spots is hard water.
There are detergents and additives you can purchase that are specifically designed to work around hard water. Finish Power Up, Glisten, and Lemi Shine are all concentrated detergents intended for homes dealing with this issue.
3. Turn on the High Temperature Setting
If you're still having trouble getting rid of dish spots, it may be because the water temperature is too low. The cooler the water, the less it evaporates. That makes it easy for soap or mineral deposits to form on plates, glasses, and silverware.
Using hotter water can prevent this from happening. Try turning on your dishwasher's Hi-Temp setting. If you don't have one, run the hot water on your kitchen sink—or whatever outlet your dishwasher is connected to—for a few minutes before running a wash cycle.
Finally, avoid running the dishwasher while hot water is running elsewhere, such as showers or washing machines. If that still doesn't work, you may need to look deeper...
4. Use Rinse Aid
What is rinse aid? Put simply, it's an additive that helps remove water from your dishes, making it more of a "dry aid" than a "rinse aid." (But hey, "rinse aid" just sounds better).
By removing excess water, rinse aid helps prevent mineral buildup and, therefore, spots. Finish Jet-Dry Rinse Aid is the most recognizable brand, but Cascade and Seventh Generation also offer their own versions.
If you're more of the DIY type, white vinegar and citric acid are effective alternatives to commercial rinse aid, helping to sweep water off the surfaces of plates, glasses, and silverware. As a bonus, these natural solutions serve to neutralize odors, helping to preserve the clean smell of your dishes and maintain the cleanliness of your dishwasher.
Just add a bit of one or the other to the rinse aid dispenser at the beginning of each cycle, and voila!
5. Consider a Water Softener
If all else fails, you may need to consider investing in a more permanent solution.
That sounds ominous, but it's not: You just need a water softener. These devices attach directly to your water main and may require a professional to install. They work by trapping calcium and magnesium (the minerals responsible for causing hard water spots), producing cleaner, purer tap water.
Water softeners cost a few hundred dollars, but they'll fix your problem without a doubt. As an added benefit, you may find that your tap water tastes more crisp and clean.
Get Reviewed email alerts.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.