Most of the latest dishwasher models come with a water softener unit.
Naturally, to have this feature in your dishwasher weighs on your pocket.
From using extra electricity to cycle time, maintenance of such a dishwasher is not that easy.
Many buyers wish to skip the feature and want to have a dishwasher without the unit.
But the question is can you really skip it? Are water softener dishwashers not worth it?
A dishwasher water softener is always worth it if you have a hard water problem.
Hard water stains your dishes very badly. The built-in water softener in your dishwasher will make the hard water soft so that you can have shiny dishes without all the white spots, films, and stains.
If you are skipping the water softener unit in the dishwasher and hard water is a big issue in your locality, then despite using expensive dishwasher detergents your dishes will end up stained.
Table of Contents
- What is hard water?
- How to find out your tap water is hard?
- Why do I need a dishwasher water Softener without having hard water issues?
- When not to buy a dishwasher water softener?
- How does a dishwasher water softener make hard water soft?
How to Know if You Need a Water Softener Dishwasher?
85% of the United States belongs to the hard water area. Many major countries like U.K, Canada, India, also have a significant percentage of land that falls under the hard water zone. If you are lucky, your locality might not have this issue.
Hard water leaves traces. However, those areas with extremely hard water conditions might feel the effects more than areas with comparatively lower hard water problems.
What is hard water?
Before coming to your home, if the water travels through the ground for a longer period, then on its journey it picks up minerals like Calcium and Magnesium.
When substantial amounts of minerals like those get dissolved in pure water or H2O, it is known as hard water. Hard water is not unhealthy but leaves bad stains behind, which are nearly impossible to clean. No doubt serving those stained dishes will be a nightmare if not the hard water is dealt with, hence a water softener dishwasher can be useful.
How to find if you have a hard water issue?
You really need to know the quality of the water, where you are living. It helps in so many ways, I can’t even explain. But for the start, it surely will help you to invest your hard-earned money on a worthy dishwasher. Knowing the exact water hardness level is also crucial to put the dishwasher in the right salt setting.
In some advanced dishwashers like the Bosch 800 Series 24 inch Dishwasher, the machine has intelligent sensors that continually scan and check the progress of dishes throughout the cycle, so even if you don’t know how to set the right salt value, your dishes will come out shiny and properly cleaned. This advanced dishwasher saves a lot of water, detergent, and dishwasher salt hence prove to be a better investment lifelong.
In a lesser advanced water softener dishwasher, to get the best cleaning result, you need to put it in the right salt setting. And to set the right salt value, you need to know the exact water hardness level. Only then your dishwasher will give you nicely cleaned and spotless dishes.
I was searching the internet, contacted my municipality, and asked some experienced folks, for ways to know if I am living in a hard water area or not. Because, if you are unaware of the water hardness level in your tap water, then you can’t decide whether you need to invest in a Dishwasher water softener or not.
So, here are some ways, I found out through which you can check if you are living in a hard water area.
Step – 1: The easiest way – Checking for the symptoms:
Yes, your hard water will leave some serious symptoms behind. All you need to do is to look for them. First, check your faucets, drains, and showerheads for an accumulated white crust. See this image for reference.
Other symptoms include:
- Dry skin, rough hair
- It will take more soap or shampoo to make suds
- Very hard to clean and scummy showers and tubs
- Dishes with white film and spots.
If you find any or all of the symptoms in your house, then to reconfirm or to know the exact water hardness level you may follow the next step.
Step 2: Testing kit: (Very Crucial point, do read it carefully)
To check the exact measure of your water hardness level, you can easily use a kit. Go to the nearest home improvement shop and ask for a water hardness test kit ($20 – $30), or order this kit on amazon.
How to use the kit?
- Fill a glass with cold water from your tap.
- Put the test strip inside for a few seconds.
- As the strip changes color, compare the color with the chart of hardness level given in the kit.
The hardness level will be measured in grain per gallon or gpg. According to this source, the average water hardness level in the United States is about 13 grains which is deemed as ‘very hard’ and anything over 14 grains is considered ‘extremely hard’. But the hardness range starts from 7 grains. So, even if your result is coming 7 grains, then also, you will need a water softener in your dishwasher.
Why do I need a Dishwasher water Softener WITHOUT having hard water issues?
When I bought my dishwasher, there was no one to tell me this crucial thing.
Still, I am surprised to see that no other blogs have addressed these issues and given any solution. Anyways, I am sharing my experience of how I misjudged the worthiness of a dishwasher water softener while living in a soft water area. I hope this will come of any help.
I don’t own my house. Also, I move a lot. Hence with my locality the hardness level in my water changes. So, when I bought my previous dishwasher (portable dishwasher without a softener), I was getting fine results. I was happy with its performance.
After a few years, I changed my accommodation. It was in the hard water area and then I realized the biggest buying mistake. A dishwasher is a lifetime investment and you need to keep in mind your future accommodations too while buying one.
Tip: If you own your house and/or certain about staying there for years where no issue of hard water is found, then, no need to invest in a water softener dishwasher.
- If you are a mover or living in a rented house and
- unsure whether your municipality will provide you with the same quality of water or not in the future, then it is always wise to have a dishwasher water softener.
Benefit: Spending some extra bucks to buy one of the best built-in water softener dishwashers for you will ensure you nicely cleaned dishes even if the water hardness level changes frequently.
But not any water softener dishwasher is worth buying.
Going with an advanced dishwasher that is designed to save water, electricity and sense the progress of dish-cleaning without much human intervention, like the Bosch 800 Series 24 inch Dishwasher, will be the best choice.
Rather than investing in an ordinary dishwasher water softener, it is wise to invest in a dishwasher that has sensors to scan how much dirt is left on your dishes. It will use the exact amount of detergent, dishwasher salt, and water, which in return will save you money. So always invest in an advanced dishwasher and reap the benefits for years.
The number one mistake buyers usually do is to buy a dishwasher before having the right amount of information. Every buyer has separate needs. Thus knowing all the right questions to ask yourself before buying will land your hands on the worthy dishwasher and you will be able to judge the importance of a dishwasher water softener.
You don’t need a dishwasher water softener when…
I don’t know if you have heard about the water softening unit for an entire house or not but many people in the US know about it and using it. On the other hand, I started to learn about it more and more over the previous few years.
I never knew about the hard water issues in the United States (85% of the land in the US, comes under the water hardness range), until I bought my previous dishwasher without a built-in water softener hence suffered a lot. Whereas, my neighbor has a big water softening unit installed, which softens the water of the entire house. He is completely aware of the hard water situation in our locality and clearly using the unit to its full potential.
1. This unit helps you to get soft water directly via your taps. Clearly, if your tap is serving you soft water then buying a dishwasher with a water softening unit is useless. You can invest in a normal dishwasher which will cost very little.
2. Hard water also affects your clothes by staining them. So, having a washing machine with a softener is essential for those who live in a hard water area. But now that you have an entire water softening unit installed, you can work with a normal washing machine.
3. You need more shampoo and soap to form lather in hard water. Hard water stains your bathtubs, taps, bathroom floor, shower head, etc. So, getting soft water from your bathroom taps will help you to keep these issues at bay.
A water softening unit for your entire house is costlier than a dishwasher water softener.
It will need extra space because these units come in large sizes. If you don’t own your house then setting up this unit can be a problem if your landlord has an objection.
Investing in a water softening unit for an entire house, maybe costly and not a convenient option for many. In case, you have this unit or planning to have one after judging all the pros and cons, then you definitely don’t need a water softening unit in your dishwasher.
Another important tip: Before buying a water softening dishwasher, I will suggest you to, know a little bit about the working process of a water softener. This will help you to make a wiser buying decision and use your dishwasher to its full potential.
How does a dishwasher water softener make hard water soft?
When calcium and magnesium dissolve with pure water they make your water hard. And hard water leaves stains in your bathroom floor, showerheads, glassware, dishes, and cookware by building up calcium deposit.
So, to clean the dishes as spotlessly as possible, your dishwasher needs soft water. A built-in water softener removes those hard ions of Ca++ and Mg++ and swaps them with Na+ ions to make the water soft.
- There are some resin particles in your dishwasher that are coated with sodium ions.
- When hard water comes into contact with the resin particles, the ion swapping takes place.
- One Ca++ ion displaces two Na+ ions from the resin particles.
- The swapping process continues until the water is left with no hard ions.
- But if the water level is too hard then the resin particles may quickly run out of enough sodium ions to swap. That is why you need dishwasher salt or NaCl to regenerate the resin beads.
I have described the working process very briefly. To know it in a detailed step by step manner, please refer to this article: How Does a Dishwasher Water Softener Work?
Mind it, table salt will not do the work because it is much finer and will block your dishwasher causing major damage. Dishwasher salt has a larger granule size which is perfect for the swapping process. That’s why always buy the best dishwasher salt in the market.
Special Mention: Many dishwasher buyers and users ask me a very common question,
‘Do I need dishwasher salt if I have a water softener in my dishwasher?’
I help them to understand the fact that –
‘A dishwasher water softener will not run properly without the dishwasher salt. We need dishwasher salt because we have a water softener in our dishwasher.’ I have mentioned this thing in the swapping process. When the resin beads ran out of sodium ions, they need the proper amount of salt to make the water soft. That’s why setting your dishwasher at the right salt value is crucial. If you are wondering how to find the right salt value for your uncleaned dishes then read this very helpful article.
Take away from this entire article:
Be it in the United States, the UK, or in Asian Countries like India, hard water is an existing problem around the globe. If you are experiencing the symptoms of hard water in your house, then having a water softening unit in your dishwasher is crucial. The unit is not a luxury item but a necessity to get cleaner and spotless dishes, as without the water softener your dishwasher will be unable to provide you with better service.