How to Prevent Cloudy Dishes From the Dishwasher


Gerry asked: How do I clean dishwasher clouding from glass?

Dishwashers are a modern convenience that many of us can’t live without. But when you open the door at the end of the cycle only to find your dishes are cloudy, it can be a bit discouraging. There are several situations that can result in cloudy dishes. Work through the list and see if any of them may apply to your certain situation.

Possible Causes and Solutions for Cloudy Dishes

  1. Mineral Deposits – In areas with hard water or well water, mineral deposits can build up over time leaving a film on the glassware. To fix this, utilize a water softener, such as Jet Dry. You can test for mineral deposits by soaking the glass in white vinegar for 5 minutes. Vinegar will remove the minerals, so if the cloudiness is removed, this may be your problem.
  2. Clogged Drain – As dishwashers remove bits of food and other grime from the dishes, it drains the water through a screen. Over time, the gunk can build up, causing the dishwasher to cycle through dirty water. Check the filter and drain area to ensure there is no food or build-up left behind. Clean it out promptly if there is to ensure that the water being used on the dishes is clean and fresh.
  3. Dishes Too Clean? – Dishwasher detergent requires some dirt and food to work correctly. If you are washing the dishes prior to placing them in the dishwasher, the detergent may have nothing to neutralize the acidity. This can lead to scratching the surface of the dishes, giving them a cloudy appearance.
  4. Water Temperature – The temperature of the water in the dishwasher needs to be at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is too cold, the detergent will not be dissolved correctly and will leave a residue on the dishes. If the cloudiness can be washed away when washing them by hand, this may very well be the problem. Turn on the faucet and hold a thermometer under it to see how hot the water will get. Another way to ensure there is hot water at the beginning of the cycle is to run the hot water for a few minutes prior to starting the machine.
  5. Too Little/Too Much Detergent – While most of us just toss in the tablet or fill the detergent compartment, if you’re having problems with cloudy dishes, it may be time to look at just how much detergent is really needed. If you have softer water, you can often use less and hard water areas require more. Consult with a professional to test your water and see what the right amount is for your situation. Or, if you don’t have the resources for a professional evaluation, just use trial and error until the dishes come out film-free.
  6. Gel Detergents – Gel detergents are popular, but not the most effective. They have a tendency to leave a residue on the dishes that can cause cloudiness. Try switching to a powder or tablet and see if the conditions improve.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • For cleaning important china and/or dishware, always hand wash for best results.
  • If the cloudiness is the result of etching, it cannot be removed.


  1. Terry says:

    The problem of clouding of glassware in dishwasher is that since, for good reason, phosphates were removed from detergents, the new replacements are not as effective in getting clear glass, even with extra “rinse agents”. The answer is to conservatively use phosphates occasionally to “clean” the clouds. Buy TSP from a hardware store, used to clean grease off driveways and in some painting prep work. Fill your sink, use a generous amount, submerse your cloudy glasses. If the glasses are not truly etched but just stained, they will come out sparkly again. I don’t know how many glasses I have tossed out over the years before discovering this by buying expensive Finish Glass Magic and doing research on the ingredients (which, by the way, are NOT listed on the box). The TSP by itself works fine without the other ingredients. Occasional use a couple times a year to clean glassware is a good compromise to taking it completely out of cleaning products. Better than tossing more glassware into the landfills. I think there is often an over-reaction to ecologically-damaging agents, but an occasional use is OK. I agree with removing phosphates from all the washing machine and dishwasher drainage from every household, but I don’t agree with an all or nothing approach. There is a compromise with occasional use. In the US we tend to go the all or nothing route.

  2. George says:

    After a lot of trial and error and vinegar and trying every detergent know to man, I found that if I cut back the amount of detergent by 1/3 to 1/2, the problem of film left on the dishes has gone away and has not reoccurred in over five months.

  3. R Henderson says:

    What is TSP? What does it stand for? It says to clean glasses that are cloudy when they come out of the dishwasher with TSP.

  4. Melanie says:

    TSP is the abbreviation for Trisodium Phosphate, a strong cleaning agent often found at hardware stores.

    Source: Wikipedia

  5. Paulie says:

    Can you use TSP in the dishwasher itself to help clean the dishes during the regular cycle?

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