At some point, it has happened to all of us一 you load your dishwasher, run the wash cycle, and open the door to see that your dishes don’t look particularly clean. You repeat the process with the same result. There are water spots, white stains, and a cloudy film, especially on your glassware. All this is because of the hard water of your water supply which takes a toll on both your dishes and dishwasher.
Hard water contains a high quantity of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium, that leaves a residue on appliances and dishes. Using a dishwasher detergent specifically designed for hard water will soften the water and break down the residue and deposits, so that your dishes are sparking clean. We hope our review of the 11 best dishwasher detergents for hard water will go a long way in helping you to figure out the best one for your dishwasher. But before that, let’s have a look at the different types of dishwasher detergents for hard water so that you can make an informed choice.
Types Of Dishwasher Detergent For Hard Water
- Gel detergents
Similar to dishwashing soap, they dissolve quickly, are less abrasive, are ideal for delicate dishes, and are the most budget-friendly choice. Unfortunately, they have the least cleaning power because they don’t contain enzymes and bleaching agents as these ingredients don’t blend well in a liquid.
- Powder detergents
Powder detergents are yet another cost-effective option and clean well as they have a combination of enzymes and bleaching ingredients. They are often more effective than gels in cleaning dishes, and are ideal for homes with very hard water as it doesn’t come premeasured, so more detergent can be added if necessary. But using excess powder detergent can leave some residue. Also, powder absorbs moisture and may clump during storage. As the ingredients of powder detergents are activated by water, this would affect its cleaning performance.
- Single-load tablets or pods
Tablets are in the form of a concentrated dishwashing powder, while pods usually come in the form of gel packs. They are premeasured and are directly placed in the dishwasher, so there is no requirement of measuring, or chances of spilling. Their easy storage, concentrated formula, and deep-cleaning ingredients make them very popular as they do an excellent job of cleaning dishes. However, as they are premeasured, they have less flexibility than powders and gels. Also, you need to ensure that your hands are dry while handling them, or they can start dissolving.
11 Best Dishwasher Detergents For Hard Water
1. Best With Lemon Fragrance:Cascade Platinum Plus Dishwasher Pods
Packed with power boosters, these dishwasher pods will get your dishes sparkling clean. You are not required to pre-wash the dishes before running the dishwasher, even if it has food stuck on it for 24 hours, and can save up to 15 gallons of water. It’s formulated with dawn dish soap that is a powerful grease fighter and contains sodium carbonate, nonionic surfactants, and enzymes. These ingredients dissolve, lift, and rinse away food from your dishes even in the quick wash cycle. The ingredients of this hard water dishwasher detergent also stop residue from building up in the dishwasher which can clog and shorten its life, and clean the dishwasher along with the dishes. Check out this YouTuber’s review of this product.
- Lemon fragrance
- Contains 70 pods
- No pre measuring required
- No mess
- Suitable for soft water too
- May irritate eyes or skin
2. Best Greasing:Dawn Ultra Platinum Dishwashing Liquid
With 4 times more grease cleaning power than the non-ultra Dawn dishwashing liquid, this dish detergent for hard water can even remove 48-hour old dry and crusted food from your dishware. It comes as a set of 3 bottles of 24 ounces each and includes 2 non-scratch scrubber sponges as well. It has a cleansing, refreshing rain scent that leaves your dishes and glasses smelling fresh and clean. This powerful dishwashing liquid can get through a lot more dishes with less detergent, making it more economical. You can also check this video out for a brief review of the product.
- Septic tank-safe
- Can be used to clean greasy laundry stains
- Cleans greasy tools and wheels
- Safe for cleaning kitchen cabinets
- May leak if not stored properly
3. Best Ammonia-Free:Finish Gelpacs
With a refreshing orange smell, these pre-measured and convenient-to-use dishwasher pacs remove the toughest stains from your dishes and gently scrub them sparkling clean. Each box contains 3 bags filled with 28 gel packs each, so there are 84 gelpacs which are good for 84 loads of dishes. The gelpac contains pre-soakers that start their action immediately, and removes tough, crusted, burnt, and greasy food residue from your dishes almost instantly. It doesn’t need to be unwrapped, and its quick dissolving cleaning powder has an orange fragrance that leaves your dishes smelling fresh and clean. This hard water dishwasher detergent can be used in any brand of dishwasher, including countertop ones. If you need more convincing, feel free to take a look at this YouTuber’s video on the merits and demerits of the product.
- Economical formula
- No residue
- 3 times more concentrated cleaning power than regular gel
- May stick together upon opening
4. Best Cruelty-Free:Method Dishwasher Packs
The mineral and plant-based stain lifting power of these dishwasher packs is extremely powerful, and cuts through grease and leftover food in no time. Even 48-hour old encrusted food doesn’t stand a chance with these dishwasher packs, and your dishes are left sparkling clean. 45 individual dishwasher sachets come packed inside a resealable pouch, and are good for 45 dishwashing loads. This dish detergent for hard water features a powerful rinse aid action that helps dishes and glasses retain their sparkle.
- No dyes
- Free of phosphates
- Free of chlorine bleach
- No parabens
- No phthalates
- May leave a slight residue on dishes
5. Best With Biodegradable Ingredients:OxiClean Triple Action Dishwashing Booster
With this bottle of 18.4 ounces triple action dishwashing booster, you never again have to worry about stuck food particles, cloudy glassware, streaks, and spots on your dishes ever again. If you have hard water or extra dirty dishes, just add it to your regular dish detergent, and it dissolves food and the cloudy film on your dishes like magic. This dishwasher detergent for hard water is an innovative combination of a dishwasher cleaner, cleaning booster, and rinse aid to fit all your dishwashing needs, and ensure that your dishes are crystal clear and clean. Your dishwasher too will look like new as it will break down the hard water and limescale buildup.
- Contains no phosphates
- Safe for septic tanks
- Biodegradable ingredients
- Safe for non-stick surfaces on pans
- Not recommended for use on crystal dishware and crystal glasses
6. Best Paraben-Free:Nellie’s Dishwasher Powder
This 2.2 pound tin of dishwasher detergent for hard water has about 80 scoops in it, and is made of simple and natural plant-based ingredients which give you extremely clean dishes. It is formulated with ingredients like sodium chloride, sodium carbonate, citric acid, sodium sulfate, sodium percarbonate, sodium metasilicate, cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium silicate, and protease that are environmentally-friendly. It works like magic in hard water and can remove the toughest food stains by powering through them. It comes in a reusable tin that supports the environment and cuts through grease, leaving every dish spotless.
- No animal testing
- Safe for septic tanks
- Comes packed in a plastic bag inside the tin
7. Best Fragrance-Free:Amaze Premium All-In-One Dishwasher Tabs
With built-in rinse aid technology, these 32 detergent tables completely eliminate the need of added detergent boosters, rinse aid, machine cleaners, and dishwasher salts. This dishwasher detergent for hard water works extremely well for short wash cycles and in hard water conditions. There is no need to unwrap the tablet, as the covering film easily dissolves in the dishwasher. The enzymes in this detergent are tough on grease and stains, and prevent limescale buildup, ensuring that your dishes are shiny and without spots or residue. Convenient to use, there is no hassle of measuring or spilling, and as they are lightweight compared to liquid based products, they are more cost effective and convenient to transport.
- Safe for septic tanks
- Some tablets may not dissolve completely.
8. Best Phosphate-Free:Lemi Shine Dish Detergent Booster
You can now completely prevent hard water spots and a cloudy film on your dishes and glasses through the power of citric acid that balances the pH of hard water. Made with biodegradable surfactants and naturally derived enzymes, this 38-ounce package of dish detergent booster gets your dishes sparkling clean. Stains, limescale, iron, calcium, and other mineral deposits don’t stand a chance with this product. This dishwasher detergent for hard water also cleans and deodorizes your dishwasher, and fights grime, germs, and hard water buildup, leaving your dishes and dishwasher with a fresh lemony smell.
- Safe for septic tanks
- Free from bleach and ammonia
- Includes a dishwasher cleaner
- Not recommended for silver, painted glassware, and non-stick cookware
9. Best Wrapper-Free:Finish Dishwashing Detergent Booster
Finish Booster is a convenient solution to your hard water problems, and ensures that you have squeaky clean dishes and an equally clean dishwasher. You no longer have to worry about white spots, water marks, residue, and a cloudy film on your dishware. This dishwasher detergent for hard water also removes odor from your dishes and dishwasher, thanks to its crisp, lemon fragrance. You can enhance your dishwasher’s performance with hard water with this booster when coupled with a dishwasher detergent. It completely removes bleachable stains, like tea and coffee stains, and leaves your dishes sparkling.
- Tackles tough stains
- Fights mineral buildup
- Safe for septic tank systems
- Some feel the fragrance could be milder.
10. Best Economical:Bubble Bandit Dishwasher Detergent
This 60-ounce bag of automatic dishwasher detergent for hard water contains natural phosphates. It contains the maximum amount of phosphate permitted for food use, and most of the inert fillers are eliminated to avoid unnecessary volume and weight. Extremely powerful, it just requires 2 to 3 tablespoons of detergent in each wash cycle. This dishwasher detergent will not only clean your dishes of food stains, grease, white spots, and water marks, it will clean your dishwasher as well. You never have to worry about limescale buildup and a white film on your dishes again. Every bag of this detergent is good for up to 60 wash cycles, and you can be sure of spotless dishes.
- No dyes
- Very economical
- Safe for septic tank systems
- May clump in the soap dispenser
11. Best Versatile Formula:Glisten Dishwasher Detergent Booster & Freshener
This bottle contains 16 ounces of magic as it removes spots, as well as the cloudy film from glassware, created by hard water. It features a citric-based formula that attacks the spots, stains, and film on your dishware and leaves them squeaky clean and crystal clear. It not only cleans but also disinfects your dishes from escherichia coli and salmonella choleraesuis.
This dishwasher detergent for hard water brings long-lasting freshness to your dishwasher and removes tough spots from glassware and dishes. It eliminates foul odors caused by buildup and food and leaves your dishes and dishwasher smelling lemony fresh. It removes limescale, rust, grease, and soap scum from your dishwasher, extending its life and improving its cleaning performance. The powerful formula of this detergent cleans and disinfects even the difficult to reach areas.
- Versatile formula
- No harsh and abrasive chemicals
- Safe for plumbing and septic tank system
- Some may find the fragrance too strong.
Now that you have been through our review of the 11 best dishwasher detergents for hard water, let us give you a few tips so that you can choose the best one for your use, and which will keep your dishes and dishwasher safe.
How To Choose The Right Hard Water Dishwasher Detergent
Dishwasher detergent for hard water can be in the form of powders, gels, and single-load pods and tablets. Powders contain enzymatic and bleaching ingredients, and are very effective in cleaning dishes till they are sparkling. Gels are very budget-friendly, dissolve well in water, and are less abrasive, but not as effective in cleaning as they don’t contain bleach or enzymes. Single-load pods or tablets are a more expensive option and have less flexibility than powders and gels, but they have deep cleaning additives, concentrated formula, and an easy-to-store design.
The best dishwasher detergents for hard water would usually have citric acid, sodium-based ingredients, and several enzymes. Sodium citrate and sodium carbonate react with and replace magnesium and calcium ions which harden water and leave behind residue. Citric acid binds with the minerals in hard water to naturally soften it. Enzymes dissolve food particles and stains stuck on dishes by breaking down fats, proteins, cellulose, and starches, so that the water can easily wash them away. Together, these ingredients soften the water and break down hard water deposits so that your dishes are sparkling clean.
Dishwasher detergents come in a range of scents which are either naturally or chemically derived. This is not a priority with many as the scent doesn’t linger on the dishes. Most dishwasher detergents have a fresh and clean fragrance. Some have essential oil fragrances instead of chemically derived scents. Unscented options are also available and are a sensible choice for those who are allergic to scents.
If you are worried about yourself and the environment, eco-friendly dishwasher detergents cause less harm as they contain natural, biodegradable, and plant-derived ingredients. They not only clean your dishes well but also have less impact on the environment. Some dishwasher detergents don’t use phosphates which can damage ecosystems, and use enzymes instead. Dishwasher detergent tablets and pods offer the most concentrated and compact option as they require less storage space and also use less packaging. Buying products that come in recycled or recyclable cardboard packaging is also a good option.
- Cutting power
Your dishwasher detergent should be powerful enough to remove spots of grease oil and grease in detergent. Choose a detergent that has a higher molecular level than the molecular level of the hard water.
- No residue
No one wants white spots and residue on their freshly washed dishes which is caused by the density of hard water. Select dishwasher detergents that have a higher molecular density to that of your hard water supply.
How Does Hard Water Affect Dishwashers?
When water passes through soil and rocks, it picks up minerals like calcium and magnesium, which is what makes your water hard. It creates a limescale buildup in the connecting pipes and dishwasher when these minerals get deposited in your dishwasher. It also leaves a white coating, spots, or marks on dishes. Hard water contains metals like iron, copper, arsenic, and lead which react to air and cause corrosion.
This damages water valves, reduces water flow, and creates leaks in faucets. It forms rust in the dishwasher, a small amount of which gets transferred to the dishes. As rust increases, it starts falling which causes clogging and the dishwasher stops working. It creates interruptions in the water flow, increasing the likelihood of air being introduced in the plumbing system.
The effects of hard water are not just on your dishes but on your dishwasher as well, drastically bringing down its longevity. There is a very simple and easy solution to this problem─ dishwasher detergents for hard water. They contain water softeners that alleviate this issue and prevent residue from settling on your dishes and the pipes of your dishwasher. You will no longer have water marks or white spots on your dishware, and your dishes will be sparkling clean. We hope our review of the 11 best dishwasher detergents for hard water will help you find the one that suits your dishwasher the best, so that you never have to worry about the cleanliness of your dishes again.
For more information please see the list of Best dishwasher soap for hard water