To choose the best dishwasher water softener, consumers should purchase a fine salt that is designed for use directly with this type of machinery. Heavier salts risk damaging the fine motor parts and water jets inside the machine and can cause it to break easily. This type of salt is typically available in grocery or home improvement stores, though Internet ordering is available as well.
Hard water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium, both of which can leave scummy residue on dishes, pipes, and sinks that may come in repeated contact with it. When present in a dishwasher, hard water can reduce the effectiveness of the detergent used to clean the dishes. The soap reacts negatively with the water and cannot form a lather. Spots and scum remain on the dishes after the wash and rinse cycles have completed. In can also cause mineral deposits to form on the interior surfaces of the machinery and water jets if not treated with a dishwasher water softener.
The purpose of a dishwasher water softener is to remove the naturally occurring calcium and magnesium present in hard water so that they cannot form scale and scum deposits. This is accomplished by replacing the damaging minerals with sodium ions, and preventing them from attaching to the materials around them. The water is then considered soft and leaves dishes clean with no cloudy film. This type of chemical interaction is different from that which occurs with a rinse aid. Rinsing agents remove any additional food related particles and residue from dishes, but do not affect the chemical content of the water used to wash them.
The type of salt used as a dishwasher water softener should be very fine. The water jets and inner workings of the washer are small and can become easily damaged or clogged by salt particles that are too large. Some dishwasher machine manufacturers often recommend only one type of water softener for use with their products so as to avoid this type of harmful interaction. Consumers should begin by searching in local grocery and home improvement stores for salt particles that are designed for use specifically in dishwashers, and may also wish to read their machine's owners manual for recommendations. Table salt, ice cream salt, and kosher salt are all capable of causing permanent damage to the dishwasher and can void the manufacturer's warranty on the product if used to soften the water.
Citric acid may be used to clean the dishwasher it any hard water residue stains remain after a water softening treatment has begun. Lemon juice and white vinegar are also commonly used for this purpose, but typically do not contain the level of acidity needed to effectively remove these types of mineral deposits. Hard water deposits should cease once a dishwasher water softener has been regularly introduced to the wash cycle.