Best Dishwasher Detergent For Hard Water

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Living with hard water can be a chore. That’s why we set out to find the best dishwasher detergent to deal with hard water stains. Most dishwasher detergents don’t do much to deal well with hard water spots and limescale buildup.

We researched online for the most effective and best detergents to use in your dishwasher and found that Cascade Platinum ActionPacs was the most effective at cleaning dishes and dealing with hard water stains. A reasonable runner-up was the Finish Quantum Max Powerball dishwasher detergent.

If you have particularly difficult hard water problems you may need to supplement your dishwashing arsenal from time to time. For this, we highly recommend Finish Power Up Booster Agent as an addition for tackling extra hard water problems. This product is specifically designed to knock out limescale buildup.

Continue reading to learn more about our picks and dishwashing detergents.

Our Top Overall Pick
Cascade Platinum ActionPacs
Why We Like It
Eliminates Hard Water Film & Haze
Removes Stuck-On Or Burnt-On Food Amazingly Well
Cuts Through Grease With Ease
Excellent Price Per Wash
Best Alternative
Finish Quantum Max Powerball
Why We Like It
Eliminates Hard Water Film & Haze
Removes Stuck-On Or Burnt-On Food Amazingly Well
Cuts Through Grease With Ease
Best Eco-Green Choice
Grab Green Natural Automatic Dishwashing Detergent
Why We Like It
Eliminates Hard Water Film & Haze
Cuts Through Grease With Ease
Works well without the need for harsh chemicals
Best Additive
Finish Power Up Booster Agent
Why We Like It
Eliminates Hard Water Film & Haze
Allows you to keep using your preferred dishwashing detergent
Additional Information

Things To Keep In Mind

What is hard water?

Hard water is normal water with an elevated amount of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Hard water isn’t bad for you, and actually can be beneficial but it can cause problems with pipes and equipment that uses water. A quality dishwasher detergent for hard water will soften the water and not only keep minerals from sticking to clean dishes but will protect your dishwasher and associated pipes.

How to remove hard water stains from glasses in a dishwasher?

The buildup you see on your glasses is called limescale. If you’re having trouble with this buildup and dishwasher detergents or other products aren’t helping, you can try soaking your glasses in vinegar. Vinegar is a light acid and will break down the limescale and leave your glasses looking fantastic.

Which type of dishwashing detergent is best?


Powdered dishwasher detergents are reasonably powerful and do a good job of getting your dishes clean but they are typically more expensive than gels and similar to pouch dishwasher detergent products. Pouch and tabs are usually more effective.


Gel dishwasher detergents typically perform the worst out of the bunch. They are inexpensive but you don’t get your money’s worth for their performance in our opinion. If you’re looking for a good detergent we recommend at least stepping up to a powdered product.

Pouches or Tabs

One of the benefits of pouches or tablets is that they are pre-measured so you don’t need to worry about not using enough or wasting any by using too much. Also, these pre measured packages perform better than both powders and gels. Fortunately they typically cost about the same as powders. We recommend these packs over the other two options on the market.

What is the correct way to put silverware in the dishwasher?

In general silverware should be put into the silverware basket with the handles facing up to protect your hands from getting poked or cut. If your utensil bin is starting to get crowded then flipping your spoons so that they are handle side down is a great option to help free up some space.

How to deal with hard water buildup in your dishwasher

If you have hard water stains and buildup inside your dishwasher you should use a dishwasher cleaner regularly to remove the buildup.

Hard water mineral deposits can trap food particles on the interior of your dishwasher. When this happens, it can cause your dishwasher to begin to smell. The trapped food particles can’t be flushed down the dishwasher drain and begin to decay within the dishwasher itself.

A quality cleaner used regularly will break down the mineral deposits and release the decaying food waste to flow down the drain.

If you’re using a quality dishwasher detergent like the ones recommended hard water mineral deposits shouldn’t be a problem. Dishwasher detergents are powerful enough to not only clean dishes extremely well but will also keep your dishwasher clean too.

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Can I use vinegar as a rinse aid?

No, for a couple of important reasons. Vinegar is a strong acid and will break down the rubber seal or gasket on the rinse aid reservoir.

Another good reason not to use vinegar as a rinse aid is because it simply isn’t very good as a rinse aid. It doesn’t work nearly as well as a purpose-made rinse agent. It can get the job done but just not as well.

It’s much more appropriate to use a proper rinse aid than to potentially damage rubber seals in your dishwasher.

How Does Hard Water Affect Dishwashers?

In addition to hazy, film-covered dishes and silverware being a problem when washing dishes with hard water, mineral deposits build up over time with regular use in your dishwasher.

Hard water buildup is an accumulation of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, etc. that create a layer on top of the interior components of your dishwasher. This problem is more than just unpleasant to look at. It can interfere with the proper functioning of components of the dishwasher which can cost money.

Another unfortunate common problem with hard water buildup in dishwashers is a rotting smell. Food particles tend to not get flushed down the drain inside the dishwasher and will get stuck in or on the mineral deposits. Eventually, the food particles begin to decay and produce a foul odor.

Our Top Pick

Cascade Platinum ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent For Hard Water

Cascade Platinum ActionPacs are our number one pick. Our research found that reviewers and customers generally rank Cascade as the best dishwashing detergent and the Platinum ActionPacs as the best that Cascade offers.

Cascade advertises the fact that you don’t need to do a pre wash when using their Platinum ActionPacs. The phosphate-free cleaner uses sodium carbonate, nonionic surfactants, sodium silicate, and enzymes to break down foods and loosen even burnt-on food.

This particular product from cascade is highly praised by those with hard water for helping to eliminate spotting. Since it is a more powerful dishwashing detergent be sure and read all precautions as you don’t want to put some items that may not react well to the harshness. For most items, you’ll have no issues and should end up with far better results than the detergent you’re currently using.

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Best Alternative

Finish Quantum Max Powerball Dishwasher Detergent For Hard Water

Finish is a very popular and well respected brand and the Finish Quantum Max Powerball Dishwasher Detergent is their top of the line product.

It does a very good job of cleaning and preventing spotting based on customer feedback. It did have more negative feedback than the Cascade Platinum ActionPacs and for that reason, along with the higher price, we bumped it to second place.

If for some reason you can’t find the Cascade ActionPacs then the Finish Quantum is a great alternative choice.

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Best Eco-Green Choice

Grab Green Natural Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly choice for cleaning your dishes in the dishwasher, look no further. Grab Green has solved the problem. While they may not be quite as effective as their chemical-laden alternatives, they do a more than admirable job.

Grab Greens automatic dishwashing detergent is naturally derived, cruelty-free, eco-responsible, and made in the USA. They also believe in true transparency and list every ingredient in their all-natural dishwashing detergent.

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Worth Considering

Finish Power Up Booster Agent

Dishwashers vary in their abilities so a dish washing detergent may not be able to do the job all on its own. That’s where the Finish Power Up Booster Agent comes in. It’s a booster you add to the prewash bin in your dishwasher and it helps clean the hard water stains and buildup off your dishes.

One thing to keep in mind is that the prewash bin in dishwashers are not manufactured to a standard size so it may not be large enough for the proper amount of booster agent. The directions suggest an alternative method of measuring out 2 tablespoons of the booster into the bottom of the dishwasher. If your prewash bin won’t hold 2 tablespoons we recommend going this route.

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Other Resources

Helpful Links

Wrapping Up

Best Dishwasher Detergent For Hard Water Spots And Haze

Hard water really makes a mess of dishes and if you have particularly hard water you can end up with glassware that ends up looking more like china than glass due to insane levels of buildup. Fortunately we found the best dishwasher detergent for dealing with hard water stains is Cascade Platinum ActionPacs. Customers generally found it worked wonders for them and we’re sure it will do the same for you too. We hope this article has been enlightening and solved your hard water dilemma. Good luck!

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