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Remove Hard Water Build-Up From Dishes Without Scrubbing

In the last few months we've been having major problems with hard water build-up on all our dishes. It's caused by a combination of things...really hard water, a cruddy dishwasher, trying to use up the last of that horrible homemade dishwasher detergent (which I obviously don't recommend), and having a weird rinse aid compartment in said cruddy dishwasher that won't let me add any rinse aid. 

I was just living with crusty, filmy, cloudy dishes until we had an unplanned family dinner at our house a few months ago. I was mortified that I had to serve my in-laws on such horrid dishes!

I vowed then to find a solution, preferrably one that was cheap and easy, because that's how we roll around here. And once again it was my mom to the rescue. She suggested soaking the dishes in hot water and vinegar. It totally worked!

I pulled out all my embarrassingly crusty dishes and silverware, filled up one side of the sink with hot water, added about a cup of vinegar and let the dishes soak overnight. By the next morning, all signs of hard water residue had disappeared. Like magic! All I had to do then was rinse the vinegar off and my dishes were restored to a respectable state again. And I didn't even have to scrub! I tell you, it was a cleaning miracle

Of course I didn't think to take pictures of the plates before. But luckily I had a few things that somehow evaded that first vinegar soak, so here are two examples, although they are not nearly as magical as those first dishes were. They went from SO crusty to SO clean it was just shocking. These dishes will have to give you the idea. Remember, there was not even one bit of scrubbing involved here...

Jennifer V.
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  1. I put 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar in each load, no filmy dishes! A dishwasher repair guy once told me it's a good idea to run vinegar through the dishwasher every so often to help clean out excess soap and hard water mineral deposits.

  2. When we lived in St. George we had a huge problem with this. Was reading someone's blog and they suggested using Lemishine dishwasher soap. It worked so great. We would use regular dish soap the majority of the time and then use the Lemishine once a week or so. Not only did it get all the hard water off of the dishes but the inside of the dishwasher as well. I found it at Walmart.

  3. I also use vinegar in my dishwasher. i just keep the "rinse aid" compartment full. Works great with the dishes and keeps the dishwasher from getting scummy.

  4. Wow, that's an amazing difference. It's wonderful what a natural, healthy substance can do to clean dishes!

  5. Vinegar is a miracle with so many things - dishes, laundry, tub cleaner, shower head cleaner, etc. If it were possible, I would add a gallon of vinegar to my water heater and let it sit for 24 hours to "clean" it out and then empty it. It would add years to its life.

  6. I use Lemishine in my dishwasher. It sure has made the difference in my dishes.

  7. Meggan and Cheryl,

    I have used Lemishine before and it does work very well. But it's kind of expensive! That's the only downside.

  8. I've been using vinegar in my dishwasher for years and it works great. I just keep a big bottle under the sink and pour some in the dishwasher right before I start it each time and it works great. Don't even measure.

  9. Hi in your opinion do you think this method would work for a huge roasting pan ...It has baked on black crud all around the outside of it ...I have scrubbed it to a light grey instead of jet black BUT with the next days cooking use it is back to baked on black sighhh

    1. Sprinkle baking soda in and fill with water. Put it on your stove, use a couple of burners if needed, and simmer for several hours until the water has mostly evaporated. Dump the water and use one of those square little scraper things for stoneware. It looks terrible, but it will scrape right off and you can throw in the trash. Otherwise it sort of dissolves if you scrape while running water over it.

  10. ragarm43--

    I am not sure how vinegar reacts to metal if you soak it for a long time. You could give it a try, but I really don't know what will happen. You might want to try ammonia instead.

    Good luck. Let me know how it goes!

  11. I also had the same issue with homemade dishwashing powder. We have very hard water, so just throwing a cup of vinegar in each load didn't do the trick. I would use vinegar to clean off the worst dishes by hand, but I found filling half of one of the soap dispensers (I have two) with lemi-shine or dishwasher magic does the trick. The packets of lemonaid powder didn't have enough citric acid to help. If I could find straight citric acid, I bet it would do the same thing, since that is the main ingredient in both Lemi-shine and Dishwasher Magic.
    I was so happy when I ran out of the powder-too frugal to waste even the horrible soap :)

    1. Look for "sour salt" in the spices at your grocery. It's pure citric acid. Great for canning tomatoes too

  12. @Pamela A kindred spirit! I hated the homemade soap, but I still plugged away at it until it was gone. haha.


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