Tips for Removing Lime and Hard Water Buildup in the Dishwasher

Over time, lime can build up in your dishwasher. Vinegar is one way to remove lime. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Over time, lime can build up in your dishwasher. Vinegar is one way to remove lime. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

One common area in the kitchen that can quickly lose its sparkle and shine and often go unnoticed because of its hidden location is the inside of the dishwasher. Lime buildup is fairly common in regions where the water is considered "hard" because of high mineral contents.

As water is traveling below the ground, it can become exposed to various minerals found in soil and rock, including calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and rust – each of which can play a significant role in the quality of the water.

Lime deposits are derived from calcium carbonate, which leaves a scale of lime behind that can easily build over time. Your dishwasher is at a high risk for developing lime buildup and hard water stains because of its constant exposure to large amounts of hard water.

How to eliminate hard water in your dishwasher

To prevent the negative side effects of lime buildup, such as mineral lines on the dishes and rusting silverware, you should properly remove hard water stains in the dishwasher at least once per month by applying the following cleaning techniques:

Commercial products: One way you can effectively remove lime buildup from your dishwasher is by utilizing commercial home solution products, such as CLR, Lime Away or Jet Dry.

These products should come with manufacturer's instructions for proper use. Many common household products can also effectively remove hard water stains in your dishwasher without all the harmful chemicals that come from alternative cleaning solutions.

Natural remedies: With vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and borax, you can ensure an effective removal of lime buildup without having to spend extra money on special products.

To apply these natural cleaning solutions, add vinegar to the Jet Dry compartment of your dishwasher, so it will be released during the dishwasher cycle. You can also mix in a couple of teaspoons of baking soda or Borax to the regular dish washing detergent to help prevent lime buildup.

You can also include a small dish filled with lemon juice, vinegar or baking soda at the top rack of the dishwasher during a cycle. As the cycle runs, these cleaning agents will disperse evenly on the dishes and the dishwasher to effectively remove lime and mineral buildup.

Determining how much lemon juice, vinegar or baking soda you should include in the dish will depend on how hard your water is. To find the most accurate amount, you should start out with a few teaspoons and experiment depending on how effectively the amount works.

Hiring a professional to clean your dishwasher

Regular cleanings of your dishwasher or any area prone to hard water is the best way to prevent buildup. Michelle Van Rozeboom, of Los Alamitos, California, has a professional cleaning company come give her house a thorough cleaning every two weeks.

She says the cleaners "generally leave your home smelling great and looking better than good."

Professional house cleaners may have specialized tools and products to remove the lime buildup completely and prevent it from coming back. Need to find a house cleaner in your area? Join Angie's List for help finding house cleaners that have been highly rated.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on Jan. 25, 2012.


Our dishwasher has completely died, due to hard water. Is there anything we can do ourselves to fix it? We don't have the money for a repairman, and we really liked using it. It is portable, not a built-in.

Add comment


What is Angie's List?

Angie’s List is the trusted site where more than 3 million households go to get ratings and reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Stop guessing when it comes to hiring! Check Angie’s List to find out who does the best work in town.

Local Discounts

Daily deals up to 70% off popular home improvement projects from top-rated contractors on Angie’s List!