white film on dishesHave you noticed your dishes have a white film or still have dirt on them after you run the dishwasher? Why your dishwasher is not working properly, and the simple fixes to get cleaner dishes. 

Why is there a white film on dishes?

You probably don’t pay much attention to what you put in your dishwasher to clean the dishes. Perhaps you buy the cheapest product on the shelf or a dishwashing detergent you’ve been using for years.

The dishwasher detergent is one product you want to pay attention to because it plays a big role in how clean your dishes get after running your dishwasher.

With a toddler running around the house, I don’t have time for dirty dishes. For years, my dishes come out dirty. It started changing in 2010 when the formulation of dishwasher detergent changed.

dishwasher detergent white film
In 2010, phosphates were banned from dishwasher detergents. Phosphates control your water hardness and keep food particles suspended so they don’t get caked on your dishes. Plus, the phosphates cut through the food and grease and remove spots and film. Cleaner dishes were the end result.

So when phosphates were banned, dishes didn’t clean as well. The dishwasher left behind a white film and spots.

While the phosphate ban makes it harder to get clean dishes, they were removed for a good reason.

Phosphates allow algae to grow, and that impacts water quality. In the Great Lakes Region, algae blooms allow invasive species like carp to thrive. The algae also impacts the taste of water.

Since phosphates disappeared, the white film keeps building on dishes and glasses. The film that you see is a build-up of minerals. That’s why this problem is worse if you live in a community with hard water.

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Luckily, there are easy fixes to remove the film from dishes and prevent it from happening again. You can try one or all of the solutions.

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How to remove white film on dishes

  1. Change the dishwasher detergent

    First, read the owner’s manual or look for a sticker on the dishwasher to see which detergent you should be using. Most of the newer dishwashers tell you exactly which product to use. If you talk to a dishwasher repairman, they tell you to follow those directions.

    If you see a white film along the edges of your dishwasher seals or along the door panel near the detergent dispenser, then you know the detergent is an issue. If it’s leaving a film on the inside of your dishwasher, you can imagine why this is also happening to your dishes.

  2. Add a rinse aid

    I know it’s another product to buy, but it helps your dishes. You’ll see less film and fewer spots.

  3. Clean your dishes better

    While the detergent makes a huge difference, you also need to clean your dishes more. Remove food debris so it doesn’t get stuck on the dishes.

  4. Use Citric Acid or vinegar

    GE Appliances also recommends cleaning with Citric Acid, Lemi Shine, or a vinegar rinse. GE sells a Citric Acid kit and Lemi Shine. Both are out of stock giving you a clue as to the scope of this problem. You can also buy Citric Acid at the store. Vinegar is probably worth trying first as it’s significantly cheaper than your other options.

    If you use Citric Acid, pour it the detergent cup and close the cover. Load the dishwasher up with your filmy glassware. Do not put silverware or other metal items in the dishwasher. Then run a cycle.  The dishes should be clean.

    GE says if you use a vinegar rinse, pour 1 cup of vinegar in the detergent area. Then run the dishwasher.

The American Cleaning Institute has a list of other problems and solutions. This list includes problems like plastic distortion, pitting, odor, and tarnish.