Why do you use salt in a dishwasher?

When operating a dishwasher, there are underestimated additions that play a significant role. One such application is the use of dishwasher salt. It might seem strange but you need to add salt to the dishwasher for great performance.

So, why do you need to add salt to a dishwasher? Salt ensures that your dishes continue to come out clean after every dishwasher run. This is because it prevents the buildup of limescale in the filter. The dishwasher salt contains sodium chloride. It binds Calcium and Magnesium ions in hard water through ion exchange.

Where do you put the salt?

The dishwasher salt goes into the softener unit of the dishwasher that is located at the bottom section of the dishwasher.

You’ll have to remove the bottom rack and adjust the rollers to locate a dishwasher cap. This is where the softener unit is housed. Once you identify the cap, unscrew and remove it. This is the reservoir where the dishwasher salt is added.

Make use of a measuring cup and funnel if you need to for accuracy when pouring- it makes the process easier. Pour in the salt carefully to avoid spillage on other sections of the dishwasher. If spillage does occur, make sure to wipe it off.  

After adding the salt, screw the cap back in as tightly as possible to protect your machine. If the cap is not properly secured, it may lead to entry of detergent which may cause breakage.

Take note, often times, the dishwasher salt reservoir under the cap is filled with water. There’s no need to worry about this, just put in the salt and it will displace any water present. The dishwasher salt getting wet doesn’t alter its performance.

Once everything is back in place, conduct a pre-wash without loading the machine. This will clean out any salts spilled in the dishwasher.

What quantities of salt to use?

The amount of salt to add in your dishwasher varies with its size. You’ll be guided by the size of the compartment under the cap.

Some people ensure that the section is filled to the brim. Yet, we recommend to leave a one-centimeter gap between the salt and cap. This leaves room to properly screw the cap back in and avoid overfilling.  

Using this recommendation also helps to cut down wastage of the salt. This ultimately reduces your costs in the long run.

What type of salt to use?

There’s a special dishwasher salt created specifically for these machines. It’s made from Sodium Chloride.

The particles of dishwasher salt are coarse and larger when compared to other salts. This is to ensure that uptake by the water is gradual and does not cause blockage.

Please note that you shouldn’t make use of normal salt, sea or rock salt. Their particles are finer. They’ll wash off and end up blocking the dishwasher softener unit.

There are two brands of dishwasher salt that we’d recommend- Bosch Finish and Good Habit. We’ve used them and find that they work well for most dishwashers.

How often should you put salt in a dishwasher?

The number of times you should top up the dishwasher salt depends with the hardness of your water. Moreover, most dishwashers have ways of giving notice of the salt levels.

Modern washing machines have an indicator light. This blares up when the machine is running low on the salt. For older versions, there’s a float indicator.

Machines with an indicator light are easier to track compared to the float indicator. When the indicator light is on, it means that the salt levels are low and need a top up. For the float indicator, you need to manually check where the salt level is.

It’s recommended to check on the salt level on your dishwasher every month. Other indicators that your machine may need more dishwasher salt include;

  • Stained and streaky plates and cloudy glasses after a wash
  • Longer dishwasher runs than usual
  • Mineral buildup in the dishwasher filter

Do I need dishwasher salt in soft water area?

Living in a soft water area is a blessing. One gets to avoid the issues that come with using hard water with a dishwasher.

That being said, we still do recommend using dishwasher salt in a soft water area. One, the salt will help to tackle any mineral that may come up over time.

Two, the presence of dishwasher salt enhances the performance of your dishwasher. Set the water hardness level on your machine to zero, minimal amount of salt will be used up. Also, you won’t have to deal with the annoying indicator light.

Not sure whether you live in a soft or hard water area? You can easily find this information from your local or city council. As an alternative, inquire from your water service provider if your source is not the council.

Hard water has a high content of minerals such as limestone, gypsum, and chalk. According to USGS, the measure of water hardness is classified into 4 main categories;

Water TypeConcentration
Soft0-60 mg/L
Moderately Hard61-120 mg/L
Hard121- 180 mg/L
Very HardAbove 180 mg/L
The mg/L are the quantities of Calcium carbonate in the water.

Do I need dishwasher salt if I have a water softener?

If the water coming into your house passes through a water softening unit, you don’t need to use salt in your machine.

This is because you’re guaranteed that any minerals in the water are taken care of by the system. Thus, the water entering the washing machine is mineral free. It won’t affect the cleanliness of your utensils.

Keep track of your water softening system to ensure that it’s performing as required.

Dishwasher Salt VS Rinse Aid

There’s a major difference between dishwasher salt and a rinse aid. They both play a crucial part in a dishwasher.

Their differences are in their function and composition. So, what’s the difference?

Simply put, a rinse aid is a product that helps dishes to dry faster. It contains surfactants that reduce the surface tension of water. This makes it roll of the dish surfaces faster. With the rinse aid, the water separates into thin sheets. This also prevents any spots from forming on your dishes once the cleaning cycle is complete.

As stated before, dishwasher salt works to reduce the hardness of water. This promotes cleaner and sparkling dishes. Its function is to kick start the softening unit of the dishwasher.

Both the dishwasher salt and rinse aid go into different compartments. The rinse aid is discharged by a dispenser while the dishwasher salt by the softener unit.

For machines without a dispenser for the rinse aid, a basket can be used instead. It’s hung on the upper rack of the dishwasher.

Wrapping Up

Dishwasher salt prevents the accumulation of limescale. This enhances the effectiveness of cleaning your dishes. This way, the dishes come out sparkling clean without spots or cloudiness.

Dishwasher salt contains Sodium Chloride but is separate from ordinary, sea and rock salt. It’s specifically made for the dish washing machines. The salt goes into the softener unit located at the bottom.

Ensure that your dishwasher always has the salt for great performance. The amount of salt used largely depends on the hardness of water and the number of runs you make.

Finally, dishwasher salt and rinse aid are separate products. Each one has a different role to play and work in the dishwasher at different locations.

1 thought on “Why do you use salt in a dishwasher?”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *