7 Ways to Stop Cloudy Residue on Dishes from Dishwasher

Have you noticed a white film/residue on your glassware and other dishes, as well as the inside of the dishwasher after a washing cycle? It is very irritating and it just defeats the logic of having a dishwasher in the first place.

A white chalky/cloudy residue on your dishes from a dishwasher is mostly caused by hard water, especially calcium. It could also be caused by the use of too much or the wrong type of detergent.

Low water pressure, running the dishwasher on a short cycle and using cold water worsens the situation. This problem started when phosphates were banned in dishwashing detergents.


In 2010, phosphates were banned in dishwashing detergents across the United States. While phosphate-rich detergents were very effective in cleaning dishes, they were catastrophic on the environment.

Phosphates in cleaning detergents were banned for polluting rivers, lakes, bays and other water bodies. Their presence in the water bodies acted as a fertilizer that created algae blooms, which starved fish and other marine animals of oxygen.

Phosphate-free dishwashing detergents are safe for the environment but are less effective. This pushed people into use more of them, and they don’t always rinse off completely from the dishes and hence the soapy/white residue on the dishes after pulling them from the dishwasher.

To get rid of the white residue/film from dishes from a dishwasher, consider installing a water softener, or using ½ cup vinegar in every dishwasher cycle. Using hot water, less detergent and running the dishwasher on the heavy load cycle will also helps.

Tablets, gel and packet detergents are more effective in residue elimination that powder.

How to Get Rid of White Film/Residue on Dishes from Dishwasher?

There are several methods to remove the white residue from your dishes and dishwasher, some temporary and some permanent. Other methods involve a change of process, of how you have been using the dishwasher in the past.

The following are the different ways to prevent residue/film in your dishes/glasses from a dishwasher:

1. Install a Water Softener

If you are in area that has hard water, installing a water softener will help remove minerals like calcium, manganese, magnesium and others that make your water hard.

Soft water is more effective for cleaning than hard water because it lathers rather easily. To counter the resistance offered by hard water, most homeowners result to using more detergents in the dishwashers.

The downside to this practice is that the soap will in most cases not rinse off completely, and you will end up with a gritty/soapy residue on the dishes. Using less detergent on the other hand will have calcium deposits in form of a white powdery film on the dishes, or the dishes will not be clean, leaving a food residues.

A water softener is not cheap but it will solve the problem. If you have also noticed calcium buildup in faucets and showerheads then you indeed hard have water in your house (especially if you use water from a well) and you will need to install a water softener.

2. Use Vinegar in the Dishwasher

This a temporary solution that works fantastic and is cheap too. If the inside of your dishwasher has lots of this residue, you will need to clean it, as some of it will be transferred to the dishes. Vinegar is a fantastic cleaner that is both safe (if you have a septic system) and effective too.

Remove dishes from your dishwasher and start a cycle. Once water has filled the dishwasher, open the door and pour 2 cups of distilled vinegar at the bottom of the tub. Resume the cycle.

Note: Some people recommend starting with the vinegar before filling the dishwasher with water and starting a cycle. The reason that is the wrong approach is because dishwashers starts a cycle by draining away the water already in the tub. The vinegar would therefore be drained out even before cleaning the dishwasher.

Once that is done, make it a point to always be adding half or even quarter cup of vinegar every time you are using the dishwasher. You will not have the white film on your dishes and glassware again.

3. Use a Packet or Tablet Detergent


According to a video by GE Appliances, the choice of detergent can be the difference between having sparkling clean dishes, and dishes with a white residue after using the dishwasher. Apparently, research by a top consumer magazine shows that packet or tablet detergents are far more effective in cleaning dishes and eliminating film.

If you have been throwing the detergent at the bottom instead of the dispenser of the dishwasher then you have been doing it the wrong way. For best results, add it to the detergent dispenser and latch the lid, to prevent wasting it away as it will wash out quickly and the dishes will not be properly rinsed.

Using these detergents ensures that you are using less detergent as well. When phosphates were banned in dishwashing detergents, most homeowners resulted to using more detergent to offset the low efficiency of the phosphate-free detergents. And sometimes that is what causes the white film on glassware in dishwasher.

4. Turn on the Hot Water

Hot water is just more effective in cleaning dishes than cold water. That is just how it is. It breaks down gunk easily, and it also dissolves detergent better than cold water hence you don’t need to use a lot of detergent.

Make sure that the water flowing into your dishwasher has the proper temperature (check by turning on the kitchen sink hot water faucet). Also, check if your dishwasher has the “ADD HEAT” option. Utilize it.

The problem is that if you have not run your dishwasher for some time, the water in the water supply pipe to the dishwasher will be cold. This is the water that will fill the dishwasher when you start a cycle.

There are 2 methods you can us to make sure that only hot water fills your dishwasher. The first one is to open the kitchen sink hot water faucet and let the cold water run out and then shut it off. Start a dishwasher cycle immediately.

The second method is to install a hot water recirculation system in your house. This method is more expensive, but it will ensure that you have instant hot water in your shower and all of your faucets and other appliances. Read more about it here.

5. Use the Heavy Load Option

Does the white residue only appear on dishes after running a short cycle? Selecting the heavy load option is then a better option as the short cycle may not be getting rid of the residue out of the dishes, or having them rinsed properly.

This method will however work well when combined with other methods outlined in this post.

6. Check the Water Pressure to the Dishwasher

Are you having low water pressure in the house? If that is the case, the water coming to the dishwasher might not have the required pressure to rinse off detergent from the dishes. When that happens, the detergent will dry off on the dishes and hence the white residue/film.

The water pressure in the house may be good, but the one getting to the dishwasher may be low due to a clog in the dishwasher water supply house or a blocked dishwasher water inlet valve screen. In that case you would need to unclog or replace the hose or the screen.

I have written a detailed article on how to replace or unclog a dishwasher water supply hose and water inlet valve screen. Read it here.

7. Scrape off the Plates


I know the reason for having a dishwasher is to do all the dirty work for you, but scraping off plates into the garbage disposal/trash before putting them in the dishwasher ensures that you use less detergent, which means better rinsing and no white film on the dishes.

Not only is scraping plates good for avoiding white residues on dishes, it also prevents clogged and smelly dishwasher drains.

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