Handling Hard Water and Mineral Buildup in Today’s Dishwashers

by Samurai Appliance Repair Man on July 6, 2010

in Dishwasher Repair

The dishwashers being made today ain’t like yo mamma’s dishwasher. Dishwashers made as recently as seven to 10 years ago used big honkin’ motors that practically sandblasted your dishes clean and then reversed direction to pump the water out. They used a lot more energy and water than the delicate little dainties being made today. They also lasted much longer and weren’t as prone to having problems with mineral buildup inside of ‘em… but don’t get me started on that rant. Prodded along by the Beltway Bandits wielding the Energy Star stick, all the manufacturers are making their dishwashers with dainty little wash motors that drizzle the water on the dishes and a separate drain pump motor. So, for better or for worser, we’re all stuck with these limp-wristed dishwashers.

One of the consequences of using these low-wattage pumps and motors is that they have to run longer to get your dishes as clean as the old war horses did. Whereas yo mamma’s dishwasher would run for less than an hour, it’s not unusual for a new dishwasher to run for two or three hours. Although it seems counterintuitive (that’s one of those big words that we professional appliantologists use– please don’t try it at home as I cannot be responsible for your safety), the newer dishwashers are still using less energy than the older ones even when they run two or three times longer. It’s madness, I tell you, unmitigated insanity!

But, like with everything, there’s a downside to all this feel-good, Energy Star madness. If you have hard water (like most folks who get their water out of a well), the reduced water use and longer run times means you’re gonna get more mineral deposit gookus on your dishes and in the guts of your new fancy-pants, Energy Star dishwasher. This can cause all kinda washability and cleaning problems for your dishes, damage to the dishwasher’s dainty little innards, and increased energy consumption.

Hard Water Problems in Dishwashers
(click for larger view)

Four Ways to Handle Hard Water in Your Dishwasher:

Numero Uno: Use rinse aid! It’s not an option with today’s dinky dishwashers. Rinse aid allows the dishwasher to use less water with the same amount of cleaning and drying effectiveness. It does this by creating what we professional appliantologists call “sheeting action” of the water. By making the water sheet along dishes, rather than cluster into beads, it evaporates faster and with less energy. Look at the difference:

Rinse Aid in Dishwashers
(click for larger view)

Numero Duo: If a little doesn’t work, use MORE rinse aid!

Rinse Aid Settings in Dishwashers
(click for larger view)

Numero Trio: Regularly use a dishwasher cleaner (Affresh) and performance booster (Glass Magic) to clear out the gookus and keep the build-up down.

Numero Quattro: Install a household water softening system or buy a fancy-pants dishwasher with its own water softener built in, like a Miele.

To learn more about your dishwasher, or to order parts, click here.


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