Dishwasher Leaving White Residue – Five Causes & Four Solutions

dishwasher residue

Whether you clean glasses, plates or utensils in your dishwasher, a white coating can sometimes be noticed on whatever you wash. A dishwasher leaving white residue is not a healthy dishwasher. This white film may have multiple causes and while most people believe it has something to do with the dishwasher detergent, there are many other more common reasons wherefore your dishes do not look perfectly clean. Here are the causes and solutions to this problem.


Dishwasher Leaving White Residue – Hard Water

This is the most common cause and it depends on where you live. However, the truth is most tap water is hard and the minerals in its composition are responsible for the residue – which is likely to clog other water using appliances too.

The solution is fairly simple – get a water softener. Opt for a whole home unit that will soften water all over the property.


Too Much Dishwasher Detergent Causing A White Film


Different types of detergents have different strengths. Even if you fill the actual compartment – without overspilling, the strength might be too much for what your dishwasher can handle.

Try reducing the amount of dishwasher detergents you use. Fill the compartment halfway through – if the problem persists, reduce the amount to 25%.


Not Enough Hot Water

While often caused by hard water, the film can also be caused by lukewarm water. Depending on your system, the water may take more than half a minute to become hot – up to a few minutes. If the water is lukewarm, it will not be enough to dissolve your detergent.

Fix the issue by running hot water through the kitchen faucet. Turn the tap on and wait until the water is steaming hot. You can then turn the dishwasher on.


Food Stuck On Your Dishes

You are supposed to get rid of all the food remains before running a wash cycle. Whether it comes to the olives in your glassware after a few cocktails or food remains, make sure you take the food out. Do not let it dry – instead, rinse dishes straight away. You can throw them in the dishwasher after – dry soiled sauces can be cleaned, but dry food might cause white food residue.


Water Heater Is Not Hot Enough

Many homes rely on water heaters – useful for any appliance that requires hot water. If the heater is not high enough, the water will not be hot enough. Sure, you may not always need steaming hot water for everything, but there are certain applications that require steam.

Your dishwasher is one of these appliances, so make sure the temperature is high enough on the home water heater.

Now that you are aware of the main causes of residue on your dishes, how do you get rid of these white spots?


How To Get Rid Of White Spots

Using citric acid

Citric acid has numerous benefits over your appliance and makes one of the healthiest and most efficient dishwasher additives. It makes a good cleaning agent for the kitchen faucet and other water using appliances.

Pour enough citric acid to fill up the detergent cup. Run a washing cycle and make sure the water is hot enough. Keep in mind that this is an empty cycle – there should be no dishes or utensils in the dishwasher. The acid will clean the appliance and prevent the white film from showing up again.


Using vinegar

Vinegar is one of the universal cleaning agents out there – it is suitable for more appliances and your dishwasher makes no exception either. Unlike the citric acid, you will need a relatively high quality of vinegar. Ideally, you should stick to a whole gallon of it.

Use it in the dishwasher, but make sure there are no dishes in it. Run a whole washing cycle and give your unit a proper cleaning procedure. It will break down stubborn residue responsible for the white spots. If you have to, you can perform more such cleaning cycles one after another – or every once in a while.


Cleaning the dishwasher by hand

Sometimes, citric acid or vinegar will simply not work. There are times when you need to get your hands dirty and get the job done manually. You need to go down on your knees and scrub the dishwasher yourself – this option is highly recommended if you have never cleaned the dishwasher or if you barely do it every now and then. Insist on the area between the actual dishwasher compartment and the door.


The inside of the dishwasher is not to be overlooked either. Gently wipe the spray arms and go down in the sump too. Sometimes, small food particles are stuck in there and can cause the white residue. It is pointless to mention that food will also rot overtime and can cause unpleasant smells – not to mention the hygienic aspect.


Sticking to a liquid detergent

Most detergents have chemicals – safe for you though. Some of them may have rinsing agents in their composition – quite helpful. Other than that, opt for liquid detergent instead of powders, tablets or gel packs. Solid detergents – even gels – will need to be dissolved by hot water. It does not always do it properly, hence the white spots. On the other hand, liquid detergent is already in the desired state, meaning it will get to work straight away.


Will The White Residue On Dishes Make You Sick?

Generally speaking, the white residue left on your dishes will not really harm you, yet it depends on what it is.

Most commonly, the white film is calcium scale or lime. It is basically a white hard powdery film. Calcium is actually healthy – it is available in large quantities in milk and other foods and it helps the skeletal system. It is already in your water supply too, so you have it without even knowing it. Therefore, a bit of extra calcium will not cause any adverse reactions. Calcium can, however, be harmful for certain medical affections.

But then, the white residue may have other sources too. For example, if the water is not hot enough to dissolve hard detergents and they stick to your dishes without cleaning, such things can be harmful. Again, it depends on more aspects. If you use a bio detergent, it may not harm you in such small amounts. But if you use one with plenty of chemicals in its composition, it is likely to make you sick in large amounts – it depends on how sensitive you are.

As a short final conclusion, tackling the causes of white film on your dishes may prevent this problem. However, it takes time to identify the issue, as it might be difficult to identify – you have to try various ideas and see how they work.

Maintaining your dishwasher is highly recommended too – regular cleaning every once in a while. Even if you do not have the white film yet, it pays off trying to prevent it. On a more positive note, it does not pose any serious health related risks, but it is a matter of aesthetics – glasses and dishes with white coating do not seem too hygienic.

Wanna learn some more?

Recent Posts

Legal Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Additionally, also participates in other affiliate and advertising programs, such as AdSense, ShareASale, Awin, Etsy, and CJ among others, and is compensated for referring traffic and business to them.