Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dishwasher Salt?!?

...and I thought I had seen it all!
I'm either the most clueless dishwasher user in the world, or this is truly a UK-only dishwasher phenomenon!  Regardless, after almost four years in this country, I'm still amazed at the things I learn on a daily basis.

We had a dinner guest over last nite, and in the course of pulling out a few wine glasses for drinks, Simon made the remark about how dingy the glasses looked.  Our genius guest asked us if our dishwasher was just out of 'dishwasher salt', to which we both just sat there with what can only be described as 'huh?' written across our faces.

Our guest proceeded to hop up off the couch, walk into our kitchen & open our dishwasher.  Where, in a matter of 2 seconds pointed out a covering in the bottom of the dishwasher marked 'Salt' (of course!) where you pour said salt.

Apparently, this is very common in the UK, but I've never heard about it until now.

Learn something new every day...


  1. Just checked my dishwasher and I have a covering that says salt also. Should I buy dishwasher salt and pour it in to get rid of those water spots on my glasses? How often are you supposed to refill it? I had no idea!!

  2. They don't have that here but I think they have the same ingredient in some of the powders! Very funny though. Reminds me of another American who thought the small cubes of dishwasher powder were individually wrapped candies, and was just about to pop one in her mouth when her husband asked her what she was doing!

  3. We used to do that in Germany as well. I believe the US comparison are the clear rinse additives which you refill from time to time. The purpose is to change water chemistry during rinse to avoid staining during the dry cycle.

  4. Ours has a liquid that we add for a 'clean, spot-free, rinse'. When it runs low it has a light that flashes to let us know. I would probably have gone around a UK supermarket looking for something liquid, not a salt!

  5. @AA/Jan...ours has a place for liquid too-which I've been using for ages(and hasn't made one difference). Will be curious to see how this salt-thing works. can't hurt (I think...)? No clue how much to use-still trying to get over the shock of even adding salt to the dishwasher altogether!

  6. Simon didn't seem to know about the salt either?? I guess you both learned something new, haha!
    Wishing you both a wonderful Christmas holiday! G

  7. So I tried this today and I definitely did something wrong because my glass items and silver items had a million spots on them. Hopefully it will get better over time. oops!

    Another funny expat experience for the books! =)

  8. @Ashley. oops. :) Seems like when we first added the salt, we had the same problem-but, after a few more runs of the dishwasher, the problem has auto-corrected. I wonder if we overfilled (maybe you too?..), and as it gets used, it fixes itself? Or something completely different. Who knows! :)
    @Gennifer...same to you (sorry for the delayed response!). Hope 2012 is going to treat you well here in the UK!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Hi Kristina, the dishwasher salt is not directly mixed with your dishwashing water.
    It is used to regenerate an ion exchanger device. This device binds/replaces the Calcium and Magnesium ions which results in soft water. The replacement are sodium ions, so your water gets a little bit saltier which does not harm the dish washing result.
    The capacity of this exchanger is reached eventually and it has to be regenerated. This is done with high concentrated NaCl (salt) water. It is done after a dish washing process, when the internal electronics calculated that it is needed. So when you added salt for the first time, nothing will change - it is user dish washer who has to initialize a regeneration cycle AFTER the next wash. High end dishwashers have a water softness probe which calculates the number of wash cycles the exchanger can withstand, the softer the water, the more wash cycles before regeneration.
    I am sure your dishwasher had a red light in the front stating that salt is missing - it tries to regenerate then after every wash cycle.

    "All in one" tabs do not use salt, they use phosphates (bad for the environment) to soften water or zeoliths.

    Water softening by ion exchangers is much better for the environment than phosphates, and you get absolutely clean glasses (with the expense of a higher construction cost of a dish washer, the exchangers are not among the cheapest parts).

    In Europe water seems to be much "harder" (containing more Calcium and Magnesium) than in the US, so ion exchangers are in every dishwasher in Europe.

  11. My wife was stationed at RAF Lakenheath in England. We bought a new house in Cambridgeshire. After about two years the dishwasher quit working. The repairman said, "It looks like some idiot didn't add salt to their dishwasher." My wife was from New England I was from the Pacific Northwest and neither of us had ever heard of adding salt.

  12. I was wondering the same thing about, where does the salt in the dishwasher go (now, living in the U.S.A.), or where can I even buy it? In Germany we use, for best results, a certain dishwasher salt, as well as the rinse aid.

  13. I'm wondering the same. I'm from England (coincidently my American hubby was at RAF Molesworth, so not far from the other poster). I'm living in the US but recently bought a dishwasher that has a salt compartment but I'm not sure where to buy it other than some overpriced ex pat store and I'm not sure if it's even needed as water here is less hard. The dishwasher came via Ikea but I guess it was still made for the European market. I wondered why this particular dishwasher seemed rubbish (other than being from Ikea!) but it took my dad visiting to remind me how dishwashers work back home & that there is a salt dispenser. Apparently if you have a Bosch in the US, it needs to salt but maybe that's just an excuse to sell overpriced salt?!