I did some googling and discovered that my problem was either a filmy coating from hard water or etching from soft water. Since this happened instantly and not gradually over time, my guess was that I had hard water. Just to be sure, I did the vinegar test. I simply sprayed some plain white vinegar on a rag and rubbed the cloudy film away. This confirmed that I indeed had mineral buildup from hard water.
What is hard water?
Hard water is water that has high mineral content. It is generally not harmful to one's health. A result of hard water is a lack of suds when soap is agitated in water, so the harder your water, the more soap you will generally need to use to get things clean - things like your hair, your laundry, and your dishes.
Next, I needed to know just how hard. Often when you buy a dishwasher or washing machine, the manual will recommend how much soap to use based upon the hardness of your water. Our landlord left the manual for the dishwasher with us... the manual from 1990!!!
We have city water, so I googled the name of our city + "water quality report" and I looked for the most recent year. It gave me a number of 161 mg/L. I found a chart online that helped me translate this because my dishwasher manual only listed grains per gallon:
Water Hardness Scale
Grains per gallon
|less than 1.0||less than 17.1||soft|
|1.0 - 3.5||17.1-60||slightly hard|
|3.5 - 7.0||60-120||moderately hard|
|7.0 - 10.5||120-180||hard|
|over 10.5||over 180||very hard|
So there you have it. We have water on the higher end of the "hard" classification, so we would need quite a lot of soap to do the job. According to my dishwasher manual, we need about 3 Tbs. of detergent. I have found that I get the best results when I fill both the pod for the wash and the open pod for the pre-wash.
All of that detergent gets expensive, doesn't it?
Not thanks to a homemade detergent recipe I found on Pinterest!! Hop on over to "Being Creative to Keep My Sanity" for a great dishwasher detergent recipe that works well for hard water.
I was amazed when I saw that I already had most of the ingredients and that is what encouraged me to just give it a try. I already use many of these things for making my own laundry soap or other cleaners. You will need:
- Washing Soda
- Citric Acid (found with canning supplies)
- Epsom Salts
- LemiShine rinse aid (in my picture above)
In order to cut the recipe in half I used a kitchen scale because I have one. I think you could successfully eyeball it if you need to do so. If you are unsure of the amount of citric acid, I did the math and a half recipe = about a quarter of a 7.5 oz. container. = 12 Kool Aid packets.
Because of the level of hardness of our water, I used the entire container of LemiShine in my recipe, so adapt for your water accordingly.
So I was a little skeptical at first, but my dishes are coming out wonderfully clean and the soap is all dissolving well. (It didn't always when I used store bought dishwasher detergent.)
If you have soft water, the DHM of The Common Room has been using this recipe with success for quite some time.
*A note on Borax - Borax is a wonderful all natural cleaner, but that does not mean it is safe for children! It is toxic if ingested and can burn eyes and skin, so you will want to keep your borax and your dishwasher powder stored safely away. Store bought dishwasher powders are also toxic, so hopefully you have been doing this anyway.