How to Clean Hard Water Out of Your Dishwasher

Having a dishwasher at home is a convenient and time-saving appliance. However, if you live in an area with hard water, you may encounter issues with mineral buildup in your dishwasher over time. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can leave behind stubborn stains and residue on your dishes and inside the dishwasher. In this article, we will guide you through the process of effectively cleaning hard water deposits out of your dishwasher, ensuring optimal performance and sparkling clean dishes.

Understanding Hard Water and Its Effects

Hard water is water that contains high levels of minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. When hard water is used in a dishwasher, these minerals can accumulate and form deposits on the interior surfaces, spray arms, filters, and other components of the dishwasher. Over time, these deposits can affect the dishwasher’s performance, leaving behind residue on dishes and even causing clogs in the water jets.

Signs of Hard Water Deposits in Your Dishwasher

If you suspect hard water deposits in your dishwasher, there are several signs to look out for:

  • Cloudy or spotty dishes after a wash cycle.
  • Buildup of white or chalky residue on the interior surfaces.
  • Reduced water flow from the spray arms.
  • Unpleasant odor coming from the dishwasher.

Materials Needed for Cleaning

Before you start cleaning your dishwasher, gather the following materials:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Soft-bristle brush or toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Clean, dry towel
  • Dish soap

Preparing the Dishwasher for Cleaning

To begin the cleaning process, empty the dishwasher completely and remove any dishes, racks, and utensil holders. Check the drain for any food particles or debris and remove them. Now you’re ready to start cleaning the interior of the dishwasher.

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Cleaning the Interior of the Dishwasher

Step 1: Vinegar Rinse

Fill a dishwasher-safe container with one cup of distilled white vinegar and place it on the top rack of the dishwasher. Vinegar is an excellent natural cleaner that helps dissolve hard water deposits. Run a hot water cycle without detergent, and the vinegar will help remove mineral buildup from the dishwasher’s interior surfaces.

Step 2: Baking Soda Scrub

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that aids in removing stains and neutralizing odors. Close the dishwasher and run a short wash cycle on the hottest setting. Baking soda will help eliminate any remaining residue and leave your dishwasher smelling fresh.

Step 3: Wipe Down

After the cycle is complete, use a microfiber cloth dampened with vinegar to wipe down the interior surfaces of the dishwasher. Pay close attention to the corners, crevices, and rubber seals where hard water deposits tend to accumulate. For stubborn deposits, use a soft-bristle brush or toothbrush to gently scrub away the residue.

Cleaning the Filters

The dishwasher’s filters play a crucial role in trapping food particles and preventing them from clogging the drain. Over time, these filters can become clogged with hard water deposits and debris. To clean the filters:

  1. Remove the bottom rack of the dishwasher to access the filters.
  2. Check each filter for visible debris and rinse them under warm water to remove loose particles.
  3. For hard water deposits, soak the filters in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water for about 15 minutes.
  4. Rinse the filters thoroughly and place them back in their original positions.

Removing Hard Water Stains from the Spray Arms

The spray arms in your dishwasher can also accumulate hard water stains, which can affect their performance. To clean the spray arms:

  1. Remove the spray arms from the dishwasher.
  2. Soak them in a mixture of vinegar and warm water for approximately 30 minutes.
  3. Use a soft brush to gently scrub away any remaining deposits.
  4. Rinse the spray arms thoroughly and place them back in the dishwasher.

Dealing with Persistent Deposits

In some cases, hard water deposits may be particularly stubborn and require additional measures to remove them completely. If you’re facing persistent deposits, you can:

  • Use a commercial dishwasher cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Consult a professional dishwasher repair service for specialized cleaning solutions.

Maintaining a Clean Dishwasher

To prevent future buildup of hard water deposits in your dishwasher, consider these maintenance tips:

  • Run the dishwasher with a cup of vinegar on the top rack once a month.
  • Use a dishwasher cleaner specifically designed to remove mineral deposits.
  • Regularly clean and rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.
  • Check and clean the filters regularly.

Can I use lemon juice instead of vinegar to clean my dishwasher?

Yes, lemon juice can be used as a natural alternative to vinegar for cleaning your dishwasher. It has similar acidic properties that help break down hard water deposits.

Is it necessary to remove hard water stains from the spray arms?

Yes, removing hard water stains from the spray arms ensures optimal water flow and prevents blockages that can affect the dishwasher’s performance.

Can I use bleach to clean my dishwasher?

It is generally not recommended to use bleach in dishwashers, as it can damage the rubber seals and certain components. Stick to vinegar or dishwasher cleaners specifically formulated for removing mineral deposits.

How often should I clean my dishwasher?

It is advisable to clean your dishwasher at least once every three months to prevent the buildup of hard water deposits and maintain its performance.

Why are my dishes still coming out cloudy even after cleaning the dishwasher?

Cloudy dishes can be a result of several factors, including hard water, insufficient rinsing, or using too much detergent. Ensure that you’re using the appropriate amount of detergent and that your dishwasher is thoroughly rinsing the dishes.


Cleaning hard water deposits from your dishwasher is essential to maintain its efficiency and ensure spotlessly clean dishes. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively remove mineral buildup, enhance the dishwasher’s performance, and extend its lifespan. Remember to regularly clean and maintain your dishwasher to prevent the recurrence of hard water deposits and enjoy the convenience of sparkling clean dishes after every wash.

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