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How To Get Rid Of White Film On Dishes In Dishwasher – [year] Guide

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.

How To Get Rid Of White Film On Dishes In Dishwasher [Best Way]

The best way to get rid of the white film on dishes in your dishwasher is to change your washing detergent. You must buy a liquid detergent containing citric acid. Citric acid prevents mineral deposits from lingering on your dishes, especially if you only get hard water in your area. Alternatively, you could add some vinegar to your dishwashing cycle. 

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 are 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.

See also: Best glass top stove griddle

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 [Other Methods]

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 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

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 into 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 of 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.

6. Use A Combination Of Baking Soda And White Vinegar 

To try this method, please remember that you will need to run your dishwater twice. 

For the first run, fill a bowl with white vinegar and place it on the top shelf of the dishwater. Run the dishwasher as you normally would, ensuring that you don’t include any detergent.

After the first cycle is complete, open the dishwasher and sprinkle a few tablespoons of baking soda on the bottom of it.

Make sure that you sprinkle a little baking soda in the spray arm of the machine as well to remove the white film thoroughly. Run the dishwasher a second time. 

The baking soda and white vinegar eliminate odors, remove the white film build-up, and eliminate any lingering food particles. 

7. Thoroughly Clean Your Dishwasher’s Filter 

Even though you probably clean your dishwasher regularly, there’s a chance that you might have forgotten to clean its filter as often.

Since dishwasher models vary according to their brands, it’s essential to consult your dishwasher’s manual to help you locate where the filter is. 

Follow the manual’s instructions for removing the filter, then clean it using a plastic brush and liquid dishwashing soap.

If you haven’t cleaned the filter in a long time, soak it in a bowl of warm water for half an hour to loosen any debris, then scrub it with the plastic brush until it is clean.

Rinse it with hot water and let it dry. 

Causes Of White Residue On Dishes

Image Credit – Queen of Household

Here is a list of causes explaining why your dishes have white residue. 

1. Hard Water 

Hard water is one of the leading causes of white film on dishes that come from the dishwasher.

This is because hard water contains high amounts of mineral deposits, specifically magnesium and calcium.

When the water evaporates from the dishes, it leaves a white film that feels chalky to the touch. 

2. The Temperature Of The Water 

 If you find a white residue on your dishes, it’s probably because the water temperature in your dishwasher is incorrect.

The temperature inside a dishwasher must be pretty hot to remove all food particles and dishwashing soap properly.

However, if the water isn’t hot enough, the dishwashing detergent will not dissolve correctly, leaving a white film or residue behind on the clean dishes. 

3. A Phosphate-Free Detergent 

Some dishwashing detergents contain no phosphates, leaving a white film or residue lingering on your dishes.

Phosphates can help soften hard water and, as a result, eliminate the white film.

If you want to remedy this problem, it would be best to check the ingredients in the detergent before you buy it so that you can prevent a white film from developing on your dishes in the future. 

4. You’re Using Too Much Detergent

Even though using a larger amount of detergent than necessary might seem like a good idea, it isn’t.

Your dishwater can only remove a specific amount of soap, but if there is any excess, it will show up as a dry white film that can be hard to remove.

Therefore, do not add too much dishwashing soap to the dishwasher!

5. There Is A Limescale Or Salt Build-Up In Your Dishwasher

If you live in a place that receives only hard water, you’re probably dealing with a limescale or salt build-up in your dishwater that leaves white streaks or a film behind on your dishes.

In case you aren’t sure whether the white film is salt or limescale, all you need to do is run a finger across a plate.

If the white film comes off easily, it is salt, but if it doesn’t, it’s limescale. 

6. Your Dishes Need To Be Rinsed First

There are days when you eat greasy food that doesn’t wash off dishes after only a single wash.

Therefore, loading those dishes into the dishwasher might come out with a white film because the dishwasher didn’t wash them properly.

On such days, rinse your dishes thoroughly before loading them into the dishwasher. 


1. Why is my dishwasher leaving a white film on my dishes? 

There is a white film on your dishes because of hard water, salt, or limescale build-up or because you’re using too much detergent when running your dishwasher.

A white film might also develop on your dishes because you use a phosphate-free detergent. 

2. Why is my dishwasher making my dishes chalky?

This is because mineral deposits are present in the water that washes your dishes.

These minerals include magnesium and calcium. They are not unclean, but they can be challenging to remove if you do not treat the problem immediately. 

3. How do I get rid of white residue in my dishwasher? 

You can run your dishwasher twice, using white vinegar and baking soda.

You can also eliminate the residue by thoroughly cleaning the dishwashing filter with soap and water.

If none of these remedies work, add a hard water filter to your dishwasher.

4. How do I get the white residue off my dishes from the dishwasher?

You will need to change the detergent you are using in your dishwasher.

Make sure you purchase a detergent containing phosphates because phosphates cut through the mineral deposits in hard water. 


To conclude, there are several ways to get rid of white film on dishes in the 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.

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.

2 thoughts on “How To Get Rid Of White Film On Dishes In Dishwasher – [year] Guide”

    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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