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SPOTLIGHT
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Protect glassware and save money

Published on -3/14/2013, 10:52 AM

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Cloudiness or filming on glassware after it has been in the dishwasher can be a problem. This might happen after several washings and appears as white streaks, spots or film. This problem is most common in hard water and can be prevented or delayed by using hot water, more detergent and a rinse additive.

The hard-water filming often can be removed by soaking in vinegar, a strong solution of dishwasher detergent or a deliming product.

You'd think that soft water would solve this problem, right? It does, however, soft water can create a different dishwasher problem on glassware. This problem is called "etching." In the beginning stages, it appears as an iridescent look -- shades of blue, purple, brown or pink seen when the glass is held at an angle in the light. As the condition worsens, the etched item will appear frosted or cloudy as the surface of the glass becomes permanently damaged.

I love my water softener and, on the whole, it enhances my quality of life by making cleaning easier in my home. However, I've noticed some of my older, frequently used glass items have developed that cloudy, streaky look. So, I set out to learn more about this problem and what can be done to prevent it.

I was surprised to learn that the techniques to prevent etching in soft water dishwashing are nearly opposite those needed in hard water. In fact, some of the things we might try for hard water filming might actually make etching worse in soft water dishwashing. But the good news is the techniques used to prevent etching can provide other significant benefits in addition to protecting glassware.

To prevent glass etching in soft water, try these steps:

* Do not pre-rinse dishes before loading them in the dishwasher. Pre-rinsing removes food and grease residues and leaves nothing to react with the concentrated alkalinity of the dishwasher detergent, which is so harsh on glassware. Scrape or wipe off excess food, and let the dishwasher do the rest of the cleaning.

* Use less dishwasher detergent. In soft water, less detergent is needed to accomplish good cleaning. Omit detergent in the pre-wash cup, if your dishwasher has one. Fill the regular detergent dispenser one-fourth to one-half to three-fourths full, depending on the softness of your water, size of load and type of food soils in your dishwasher. Use the least amount of detergent to accomplish good cleaning, with 1 tablespoon as the minimum amount recommended.

* Do not use the concentrated dishwasher tablets, power-packs or pods in soft water. They provide more "cleaning power" than might be needed in soft water, and they do not allow you to adjust the amount of detergent to fit your needs.

* Lower the water temperature so the dishes are washed at approximately 140 degrees. Hot temperatures aggravate the etching problem. Do not use a water-heating option such as Power Scrub or Sani-Wash, especially if the dishwasher load contains lots of glassware items and a minimum of food soils.

* Use the no-heat Energy Saver dry cycle, if your dishwasher has one.

These suggestions will help to protect your glass items from etching damage in the dishwasher. Better yet, they will save work and time and money and energy. Now that sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Linda Beech is a Kansas State University Research & Extension agent in Ellis County specializing in family and consumer sciences. lbeech@ksu.edu

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