Why does my dishwasher leave a white residue on my dishes?

Updated February 21, 2017

Simple changes in how you use your dishwasher can eliminate the chance of white film and spots appearing on dishes after they've been cleaned. White residue usually indicates a problem with the water the machine uses or too much detergent. In either case, the problem is easily solvable. Once you understand how to prevent film and spots, you'll save yourself the trouble of having to rewash dishes.

Hard Water

Hard water frequently contains a lot of mineral deposits, which can interact with the chemicals in detergents and produce a layer of film on dishes. Fill your rinse dispenser with a rinsing agent, which you can obtain from the grocery store. The rinsing agent works to rid dishes of mineral deposits and soapy film by improving the water's sheeting power during the rinse cycle.

Water Temperature Too High

Adjust the water temperature gauge on your hot water heater so that it's no higher than 60 degrees Celsius. When water is too hot, it has a tendency to dry detergent on the dishes, making them appear cloudy. If film residue is an issue, don't run your dishwasher on high heat settings, which are more likely to produce a powdery film and spots.

Excess Detergent

Although you might think that more detergent gets dishes cleaner, too much detergent is what causes white film on dishes. When you use more detergent than necessary, the dishwasher can't generate enough water to rinse dishes completely free of soap. As a result, a certain amount of soap stays on the dishes even after the wash cycle ends. Reduce the amount of detergent you use by about half and see whether that has an effect on the cleanliness of your dishes. If the residue remains, try switching to another detergent brand, and follow the directions on the product label for the correct amount to use.

Tips to Remove Film

If film build-up is the result of too much detergent, you can generally wash it off with soap and water. However, if soap and water doesn't remove it, try using white distilled vinegar. Pour a small amount on a damp, clean cloth and wipe the dish until the film is gone. For more persistent etching, submerge the dish in white vinegar for about 15 minutes. Vinegar removes temporary stains, but not permanent ones. There's no cure for eliminating permanent film on dishes other than to buy new dishes.

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About the Author

Christie Gross has been writing since 1998. Her work writing public policy platforms for elected officials nationwide has been featured in national and local newspapers under various client pen names. Gross has a Bachelor of Arts in English and political science, as well as a Master of Public Administration from the University of Delaware.