Sipping ice-cold sparkling water or a nice rosé from a cloudy glass certainly takes away from the experience. While that milky residue probably isn’t anything harmful, it’s still a bit gross. And anyone who regularly deals with cloudy glassware ― despite running it through hot water and plenty of soap in the dishwasher ― knows how frustrating the problem can be.
So if you’d love to get rid of that hazy look to your glassware once and for all, here’s what you need to know.
First Things First: Is It Residue Or Etching?
There’s a good chance that cloudiness on your glassware is due to residue left behind by detergent or hard water. But it could also be due to etching, which is not something you can reverse.
Etching happens when the surface of the glass has eroded, and tiny scratches or pits in the glass will cause it to look milky or sandblasted. Sometimes, the beginning stages of etching will appear iridescent. Etching can be uniform or splotchy.
Causes of etching include using too harsh of a detergent, washing in water that’s too hot or running the glass through too many pre-rinse cycles. So how can you tell if your glasses are etched? Try gently scraping off the haziness or wiping it off with something acidic, such as vinegar. If the haze is still there, it’s due to etching.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do once your glasses are etched. But if that film scrapes or wipes away, good news: You can change the way you clean your glassware to prevent etching in the future. Read on to find out how.
Try A Different Detergent
If your glassware is regularly coming out hazy, you may be using too much detergent, according to Sarah Bowen, an interior designer and co-founder of the U.K.-based home site Spruce Up. It’s a good idea to check your dishwasher instruction manual to see how much detergent you actually need to use.
Next, Bowen suggested checking that your detergent is actually fresh.
“Old, powdered detergent can leave hazy marks on your glassware,” she told HuffPost. “I recommend pouring fresh powdered detergent into a Ziploc bag, sealing it and rolling it tightly to keep the powder fresh.”
Alternatively, try dishwasher pods. Though they tend to be more expensive than powdered detergent, Bowen said using pods may end up being cheaper in the long run since you won’t be tempted to overdo the amount of detergent you use.
Address Hard Water
If your detergent doesn’t seem to be the problem, the haze on your glassware could be from the actual water. If your local water source has a high mineral content, it’s considered “hard” and can leave behind what’s known as limescale.
To remove limescale buildup from glass, Bowen said you can soak your glassware in white vinegar or lemon juice. However, you’ll also want to treat your dishwasher with limescale remover to prevent future buildup. Some commercial products are designed for this purpose, such as Lime-A-Way, Jet-Dry or CLR cleaner. If you don’t have any of those on hand or want to go the natural route, you can also run an empty dishwasher cycle with a large cup of vinegar or lemon juice in place of detergent.
Ultimately, however, the only way to prevent future hard water buildup is to treat it at the source.
“The true way to fix it is to invest in a whole-home water softener, which will extend the life of all of your water appliances and pipes,” said Sean Busch, CEO and co-founder of Puracy, a natural cleaner company.
Just be sure that if you go this route, the detergent you use is the right match for your water softness. Otherwise, you risk etching. Look for mild, clear soaps without additives, dyes or perfumes. You can also cut the amount of soap you use by half.
Hand-Wash Delicate Glassware
As tempting as it is to toss every item into the dishwasher, delicate glassware in particular should only be hand-washed.
“Everyday wine glasses and sturdy drinking glasses can be put in the dishwasher, but delicate glassware, handblown/painted glass, milk glass and crystal should be washed by hand to avoid breakage, yellowing or etching,” Katie Sadler, brand manager and kitchen expert for Whirlpool, told HuffPost.
Load And Clean Your Dishes Properly
Knowing how to load your dishwasher the right way also helps. Stacking dishes too close together or blocking spray arms with bulky items will prevent glassware from being rinsed thoroughly.
And though you should scrape off chunks of food before loading dishes (food particles can contribute to etching), avoid fully rinsing them. Many dishwasher detergents rely on enzymes to latch onto food and eat it away, Busch said.
“When the enzymes are working hard, the rest of the detergent works better,” he said. Not to mention, you will save water.
It’s also important to clean out your dishwasher filter every dozen uses or so, which takes less than a minute, Busch added. This ensures that any particles left behind aren’t recirculated during your next load and that your dishwasher cleans and drains properly.