The soft water dishwasher detergent etching problem is an issue that occurs immediately after purchasing a new home, or moving into a newer apartment with built-in appliances such as dishwashers and clothes washers.
These appliances often leave behind objectionable stains on dishes and clothing when ran using the soft water available in these residences.
The reason these appliances leave these stains is the additive in dishwasher detergent that prevents spotting, or etching of glasses and dishes.
While this works great for hard water, it causes etching when used with soft water because there are no minerals present to react with the additive.
What Causes Soft Water Etching?
In places that have a higher concentration of calcium and magnesium in the water, it is naturally harder.
When using dishwasher detergent in hard water, this additive has something to react with, preventing etching on dishes.
However, when there aren’t enough minerals present in soft water to react with the additive, it ends up reacting with something else, leaving etching on plates due to the reaction.
Also, the lack of minerals means that each load of dishes will cause a little bit more etching, which can lead to expensive repair or replacement costs.
What Is Dishwasher Detergent Etch?
Dishwasher detergent may contain phosphates, but it also contains etchants, such as calcium and magnesium.
When the phosphate and etchant mix together in a hard water area, they form a precipitate that helps to remove particles from your dishes.
However, in soft water areas, the etchant does not have enough minerals to react with the phosphate and therefore forms a different substance.
The substance formed by dishwasher detergent and soft water is called dishwasher detergent etch. Dishwasher detergent etch often leaves a white film on the dishes, particularly glasses and silverware.
What Can Be Done to Reduce or Fix Etching?
There are a few ways you can reduce and fix the problem of etching in soft water. Install a water softener system if your area has issues with dishwasher detergent etch or hard water build-up.
If you would rather not add another appliance to your home, you can also install a water filter to your faucet that removes minerals before the water enters your home. You will need to replace this filter often, but it is much cheaper than purchasing and installing another appliance.
Finally, if neither of these options are appealing to you, you should switch the dishwasher detergent you use in your home. There are several dishwasher detergents available that do not contain phosphates, like Ecover Zero.
How To Clean Etched Dishes?
Before your dishes leave the factory, manufacturers coat them with a protective coating to prevent etching during regular use.
Most home dishwashers do not have strong enough jets of water to wash this coating away. However, if you notice that your dishes are becoming etch after only a few washes, it may be time to re-apply this factory coating by hand.
Simply take a sponge or cloth dipped in vinegar and water solution and gently scrub the surface of the glass or dishware to remove any etching marks left behind from the dishwasher.
Unfortunately for homeowners, there are no easy fixes for the problem of etching when using a dishwasher in soft water areas.
A water softener system or filtration system may be needed, depending on the degree of etching in your dishes.
While this can be costly to install and maintain, it is still more cost-effective than having to deal with replacement or repair costs for any appliances that have become damaged due to the effects of etching.