How often have you heard that question as your spouse stands peering in at the dishes still in the dishwasher with a puzzled look on his or her face? Many households across America fight with dingy dishes on a daily basis. The cause? Often it’s hard water. There are a few other factors that might need checking as well, but since a large portion of the United States has at least moderately hard water, having a simple water test is a likely place to start.
A recent article from Brainerd, MN caught our eye. It seems that an incredible number of good folks were coming into a local appliance store asking questions and shopping because they felt like their dishwashers were about ready to call it quits. Left unquestioned, Whirlpool and GE would have made a killing off this community. Fortunately, however, the store owner started asking questions and doing a little research. The area is not prone to excessively hard water, but the symptoms all seemed to point that direction – cloudy glasses, water spots on plates, and a haze on every item that came out of the dishwasher.
Probably sounds familiar to most of us on the west side of the country, but it was a shock to these folks. One interesting discussion came from this – how did the town suddenly have noticeably hard water? Could it be the sudden increase in rainfall they’ve had this year? Could it be a change in water source? Or perhaps road construction stirred up minerals that have been in the pipes for years? Turns out it was probably the road construction, but whatever the cause, they are having to pay attention to their dishwashers!
Dishes, perhaps as much as any surface in our homes, are affected by our water. Since most dishwashers are white on the inside, we often don’t notice the hard water minerals building up inside the appliance and think that the problem lies with the appliance’s ability to clean, the detergent’s quality, or our dishes simply not holding up to everyday use. Before you go shopping for a new dishwasher ($$$!) or a different brand of detergent (boring), let’s try an experiment. Take a glass that has the white film on it, and dip it in a little vinegar. Does that take the powdery film away? If so, then you’ve got hard water! What are your options? You can add a little vinegar to every load, you can purchase specially-formulated dish detergent additives, or you can invest in a whole-house water softener.
Regardless of which approach you take, we think you’ll probably not hear that familiar “Did you run the dishwasher” question again. Your glasses will sparkle, your silverware will shine, and your dishwasher will last a good while longer.