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What Dishwasher Water Softener Should You Use?

Robert opening his dishwasher.
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Water softeners remove the calcium, magnesium ions, and other minerals that are found in hard water. When these are removed, you will get what you call a “soft water” that is very compatible with soap and extends the life of plumbing. If you aren’t sure of why you should get a water softener for your dishwasher, you will know soon enough in this article.

Dishwashers need soft water to wash and rinse dishware; otherwise water stains will be left behind on the dishes and interior racks and walls of the dishwasher. There is a certain measurement on how “hard” water is, which is measured in terms of grains per gallon (GPG) or milligrams per liter (mg/L).

If you had your water tested take note that soft water measures only 1 GPG (17.1 mg/L) or less while hard water is around 7-10.5 GPG (120 - 180 mg/L).

What are the effects of hard water to your dishwasher?

The use of hard water has many other cons apart from the above mentioned water stains. These are:

  1. Hard water causes soap scum stuck and dried in the interior or the filter of the dishwasher.
  2. Hard water causes limescale buildup in the interior. Not only that, the plumbing connected to the dishwasher is also affected by this buildup. This is because the minerals found in the hard water precipitate inside pipes, which greatly reduces flow and eventually lead to clogging.
  3. Hard water reduces the ability of soap to lather, which results to the inability of the dishwasher to thoroughly clean your dishes.

There are many ways to soften the water used for your dishwasher. You can filter your house water by distillation or reverse osmosis or adding packaged chemical softeners, or running it through a machine that softens water. The methods you can use vary from dishwasher to dishwasher.

What is the best way to soften water for your dishwasher?

As previously mentioned, there are several methods you can try to soften the water used by your dishwasher. However, not all can be effective for your dishwasher. The first thing that you must do is measure the hardness of the water to know the appropriate action to take.

You may get this information from your local town hall water department if you use public water supply or your private well. If they can’t confirm the level of water hardness from your well, you may take a water sample to a local water-testing lab to test your water hardness.

If this can’t be done, there are commercially sold water hardness test kit that you can purchase such as the:

HM Digital TDS-EZ Water Quality TDS Tester

You may also not need to do anything of the above and just spend some time observing how your dishwasher performs. If you see that it’s not cleaning thoroughly, it leaves water stains on your dishware, and leave annoying soapsuds all over the machine, then you’ll immediately know that your water is hard.

Some water softening methods that you can use are the following:

  • Boiling the water – Although this isn’t really recommended for dishwashers due to the amount of water needed to be boiled and the fact that it wastes too much gas, you can use this instead for bathing, brushing teeth, etc.
  • Adding ammonia, lye, baking soda, or borax – This works great if you intend to add soap along with it so it is recommended for doing the laundry. This method won’t soften the water, but instead hinder soapsuds from forming.
  • Installing a mechanical water softener – This is the most efficient way especially if you want the entire water supply in your home to be soft. The downside is the cost of operation.
  • Using a specialized water softener – There are water softeners in the form of salts that can be really effective for dishwashers.

Key Takeaway: Remember to use the best method or option for you. If you intend to use a water softener only for the dishwasher, consider using salts to pour into the machine. If you want to have soft water all over the house, consider installing a mechanical water softener.

How to use salt as water softener for dishwasher?

Follow the step-by-step guide below on using salt to soften the water used by your dishwasher.

Step 1: Purchase the right water softener salt formulated for your dishwasher. Not all types of dishwasher use salts so ensure you have this tiny container built into your dishwasher where the salt will be lodged. An example is the:

Finish Dishwasher Water Softener Salt For Bosch Dishwasher 2-Pack 8.8 Lbs

Step 2: Find the location where you will lodge the salts by removing the lower rack of your dishwasher. The location of this container may vary so check your manual to exactly pinpoint it. Remove the lid that covers the salt container by unscrewing it.

Step 3: If adding salt for the first time, make sure to fill the salt container with water first. You don’t need to do this during subsequent refills. Afterwards, slowly fill the container with salt. Most containers hold approximately 4½ cups (1.0 kg) of salt. Check out the:

Miele : Somat Dishwasher Salt (B1640) 1.2kg

Step 4: Clear out the excess salt found on the rims of the salt container. You can spoon the salt out if you have put in too much. Replace the salt container lid and tightly screw it. You’ll know when you’ll have to refill the salt, as the sensor will update it on the control screen (if you have it).

Key Takeaway: The use of salt for softening the water used by dishwashers is a relatively cheaper option. It is also centralized to the dishwasher so you’re sure that it only uses soft water without you spending too much on other water softeners.


There are a lot of options to use for your dishwasher water softener. You can opt for the expensive but hassle-free mechanical water softener or settle for a cheaper water softener salt that must be refilled from time to time. Whichever you choose, it’s great as you’re maximizing the cleaning potential of your dishwasher.

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