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How to Get Rid of White Film on Dishes in Dishwasher


How do you get rid of white film on dishes in the dishwasher?

It is really disappointing when you load the dishwasher only to find a white film on the dishes at the end of the cycle.

When this happens, you may ask yourself several questions such as what caused the white film? Is the dishwasher broken? Did I choose the wrong detergent for the dishwasher?

Once you pinpoint the problem, the next step would be to remove the white powdery film on the dishes and glassware.

In this article, we shall discuss the causes of the white film on dishes and how to get rid of it.

What is the milky film on dishes and glasses from the dishwasher?

There are several causes of the milky film on dishes in the dishwasher such as the type of detergent, hard water deposits, and the water heater not working properly. Let’s discuss these causes in detail.

What is the milky film on dishes and glasses from the dishwasher
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1. Type of detergent

Did you know that not all detergents are meant to be used in the dishwasher?

Initially, most cleaning detergents contained phosphates. Phosphates helped to prevent the formation of white film on dishes and glassware in the dishwasher by chelating calcium and magnesium ions. This resulted in sparkling clean utensils.

However, in 2010 the use of phosphates in detergents was banned since they were found to remain in wastewater. Once the phosphates drained into water bodies, they would provide nutrients to algae and cause them to grow in large numbers leading to harmful algal bloom (HBA).

For this reason, most dishwashing detergents are now phosphate-free. If you are using phosphate-free detergent, then it could be the cause of the white film on your dishes, glassware, and silverware.

So how do you prevent the formation of the white film when using a phosphate-free detergent? See our recommendation below.

2. Hard water and mineral deposits

A major challenge that people living in hard water areas experience is mineral deposits on their electrical appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and electric kettles.

Over time, the buildup of mineral deposits on the dishwasher may start coming off and sticking to your dishes during cleaning.

However, if there are no mineral deposits on your dishwasher, the white film on the dishes may be coming directly from the hard water. This may particularly occur when the hard water reacts with the detergents and forms scum, which may stick on dishes and glassware.

3. Water heater not working properly

You need hot water for the dishwashing detergent to dissolve properly. If your water heater is not making the water hot enough, the detergent may not dissolve.

Thus, after the cycle, you may notice a white film on the dishes that turns into powder after drying.

4. Etching of the glassware

Etching of the glassware
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Etching refers to scratches and tiny crevices on the surface of glassware.

After using your dishwasher for a while, you may start to notice your dishes and glasses have a cloudy appearance. If this cloudiness does not go away even after hand cleaning the dishes, then they may be etched.

Etching of glassware may be as a result of using too much detergent, too hot water, and pre-rinsing your dishes too many times before putting in the dishwasher.

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5. Using too much detergent

As much as you would like to ensure the dishes are thoroughly cleaned, using too much detergent may result in the formation of a white film.

This could be due to the leftover deposits of the detergent if the utensils are not rinsed well.

get rid of white film on dishes in dishwasher

How to Get Rid of White Film on Dishes in Dishwasher

If any of the above causes is the reason behind the white film on your dishes, you can try the following ways to get rid of it.

1. Change detergent

First and foremost, you need to change your detergent.

For your dishes and glasses to shine, you may need to choose a detergent that contains citric acid to prevent the formation of deposits on dishes especially when using hard water.

Glisten Detergent Booster

For instance, Glisten Detergent Booster is citric-based and prevents the white film from forming on dishware leaving them sparkling clean and clear.

If you can’t find a dishwasher detergent with citric acid, an additive like Lemi Shine dishwasher detergent additive may come in handy. Lemi Shine is made from citrus fruits and oils so adding just a little in your detergent can help to get rid of the white film.

However, changing the detergent or using citric acid may not work if you continue to use too much of it. Always follow the instructions indicated on the detergent packaging and the user manual of the dishwasher to know the correct measurements to use.

2. Use white vinegar

White vinegar is a readily available household product.

To remove the white film from the dishes and the dishwasher itself, simply add about 1 cup of the vinegar to the bottom of the dishwasher.  Then add about 3 drops of dish soap detergent and then run a hot-water cycle.

You can also put vinegar in a dishwasher safe container and place it on the upper rack of the machine and run the cycle as usual.

The vinegar easily dissolves any build-up caused by hard water including the white film, grease, and grime. It also removes bad odor leaving the dishwasher smelling fresh.

See also: Best pet stain machine for carpet

3. Rinse aid

A rinse aid is simply an agent that helps to reduce the surface tension of water so that your dishes can dry faster without leaving water spots.

If you have hard water, the water spots usually turn in to white residue when the dishes dry. Thus, a rinse aid prevents the formation of this white residue by ensuring that water droplets are not left on the dishes after the cycle.

So how do you use a rinse aid? If you have never used one before, then chances are that you have never noticed that your dishwasher has a rinse aid compartment or dispenser. You simply put the rinse aid into the dispenser when cleaning dishes and it will be released during the final cycle.

Alternatively, if your dishwasher lacks this compartment, you can purchase a rinse aid basket and hang it under the upper rack. Some rinse aids like Finish Jet Dry comes in a box with 2 baskets in it so you don’t have to buy them separately.

4. Water softener

To avoid the white calcium deposits or limescale on your dishes caused by hard water, you need to add a water softener.

The water softer is meant to reduce the amount of calcium and magnesium in the hard water, which softens the water.

Some dishwashers have a compartment for the softener located at the bottom inside the dishwasher.

When buying a water softener, check to see whether or not your dishwasher has a compartment. This is because some softeners such as the Finish Dishwasher water softener salt can only be used in dishwashers that have a built-in container.

In the absence of a softener compartment, the Finish Hard water Booster powder will come in handy. Simply put 2 tablespoons of the softener into the bottom of the dishwasher put the detergent in its cup and start the cycle.

5. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the dishwasher

It is important that you clean your dishwasher regularly to prevent the build-up of minerals, grease, food residue, and detergent.

A highly recommended product to use is this dishwasher magic cleaner and disinfectant. It is very effective at removing rust and buildup in the dishwasher that may be caused by hard water, grease, and detergent.


To conclude, there are several ways to get rid of white film on dishes in dishwasher. You can start by changing the detergent to one that contains citric acid or get a booster like Lemi Shine. Another way is to use vinegar to dissolve the mineral build-up as well as to get rid of the odor.

A rinse aid can also be used to prevent white residue on dishes. And a water softener can help to remove calcium and magnesium in hard water and soften it. Most importantly, remember to regularly clean and maintain the dishwasher to prevent grease, food residue, and mineral build-up.


    1. Hi Therese
      The white film on shower doors is usually due to mineral build-up from the water (especially hard water). The solution is to always wipe down the door with a soft cloth after a shower.

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