Major Appliances

Cloudy Dishes and Cups in the Dishwasher? Here’s Why

If you’re unloading your dishwasher and finding that the items are cloudy then something is most likely wrong. 

There are several reasons why this could be happening. This article will explore the common causes and present some ways you could resolve the issue or even avoid it.

Common Causes

What actually causes dishes to be cloudy?

What actually causes dishes to be cloudy?

Weak Water Pressure 

There is no way to properly clean a load without strong water pressure.


Etching can cause glass material to disintegrate over time. It is a form of corrosion that can scratch and produce small pits on items while they are being washed. The bad news is that etching is impossible to remove. 

Hard Water in Water Supply 

There are two consequences to hard water:

  • It can stain items. 
  • It can leave mineral deposits on items.

Many municipalities have been making an effort toward regulating water softeners in their water supply. Laws that went into effect in 2010 were designed to limit how many phosphates were allowed in residential dishwasher detergents. While it’s hard to argue against this type of regulation, it’s important to note that fewer phosphates could produce a white film on the items in your dishwasher.

Dishwasher detergent manufacturers have also been trying to limit or remove phosphates in their products.

There are other problems associated with hard water including causing build-up to form in water lines, which can shorten a dishwasher’s lifespan, and reducing the appliance’s ability to run optimally.

What actually causes dishes to be cloudy?

Steps to Troubleshoot Common Causes


  • Carefully attempt to rub off the cloudiness.  If this doesn’t help, then etching is most likely causing the problem.
  • Etching can not be removed. All you can do is avoid it, and the best method for that is to consistently use liquid rinse aid. 

Keep in mind that the following suggestions for dish detergent can also be applied to avoid etching.

Dish Detergent

  • Store detergent in a place that is cool and dry.
  • Consider that you may have to add extra detergent if your water supply has heavy soil and/or hard water.
  • At least one tablespoon of detergent per load should suffice.
  • Stay away from any detergent that isn’t fresh dishwasher detergent.
  • Use only detergent that comes in the form of a pack or pod. Don’t forget to follow the direction offered in the manufacturer's instructions.
Dish Detergent

Hard Water

You can use liquid rinse aid to potentially stop film and spots from happening. 

Dish Detergent

Always keep the rinse aid dispenser full.

Home Water Pressure

Typically, home water pressure should be 20-120 psi. 

You can test your home’s water pressure by following these steps:

  • Under the faucet closest to your dishwasher, place a 1-quart (0.946 litres) container.
  • Turn on the faucet and time how long it takes for the container to fill with water. There is a good chance that you have low water pressure if it takes longer than nine seconds.
Dish Detergent

A booster pump can improve water pressure. A plumber is the best way to confirm the need for a booster pump and to also install one if needed.


When you load your dishwasher and turn on the wash cycle, you should expect that everything will come out clean and clear.  

If items are cloudy, this article should guide you through the process of troubleshooting this issue and getting your dishwasher cleaning as intended.