How to Remove Lime Deposits in Dishwashers

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What we call dishwasher "lime deposits" is not actually lime but a combination of substances left behind by hard water and detergents. In order to remove lime scale, we must understand that it is a combination of calcium carbonate and other minerals found in local water and the dirt and grease that is "floated off" dishes by detergents. This catches on surfaces, including water supply passages and dishes. Many chemicals that are strong enough to remove lime scale can also damage internal parts or surfaces.

Things You'll Need

  • Vinegar or lemon juice
  • Soft brush
  • Needle or hat pin
  • Plain salt or baking soda
  • Soft cloth
  • Powdered or tablet dishwasher detergent
  • Change the detergent you use. Powdered dishwasher detergent is more efficient in removing grease and oil than gels. Decreasing the gunk left on surfaces may help slow lime scale buildup.

  • Put a quart of vinegar or lemon juice in the bottom of an empty dishwasher and run it up to the "dry" cycle once a month to keep up with accumulating scale. Extended exposure to mild acid and hot water dissolves most scale.

  • Clean circulator arms with vinegar or lemon juice and a vegetable brush or toothbrush. Let the acid sit on the scale before scrubbing. Use a needle or hat pin to pierce clogged holes, then rinse by running a cycle with vinegar.

  • Use plain salt or baking soda to scour surfaces with a sponge or rag. Rinse with boiling water or run a cycle with an empty dishwasher. Do not run the dry cycle.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check to be sure that your dishwasher is using hot water. Dishwasher detergent needs water between 125 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit to function properly---and to carry away soap scum.
  • Water softeners remove minerals that cause lime scale. If you don't have one in your home, maybe your dishwasher has a softener. If it does, make sure that it is always filled with the recommended softener salt.
  • Never allow the dry cycle to run when cleaning your dishwasher. Wipe it out with a clean dry rag. The heat will cook on loosened scale residue.

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