How to Prevent Cloudy Glasses After Dishwashing

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There are a few possible causes of cloudy glasses in your dishwasher, and there are several methods to prevent this cloudiness, depending on the cause.

Here, we’ve outlined the three most likely causes of cloudy glassware in a dishwasher, and how to resolve or prevent these issues.

๐Ÿ“Œ Key Takeaways:

  • Hard water, etching, and humidity are all common causes of cloudy residue on glasses after washing in a dishwasher.
  • You can prevent cloudy glasses in a dishwasher by installing a water softener, using more or less detergent, altering your water temperature, and wiping the glasses straight after unloading them.

๐Ÿ”Ž 3 Common Causes Of Cloudy Glasses And How To Prevent Them

Below are the common causes of cloudy glasses and how to prevent them.

Hard Water

The most likely culprit of cloudy glassware in a dishwasher is hard water.

There are three main problems with using hard water in your dishwasher. The first is that hard water minerals don’t react properly with dishwasher detergent, so you’ll probably need to use more detergent to create enough soap for cleaning.

Plus, hard water deposits linger on surfaces and don’t wash away as quickly or easily as soft water. As a result, you may notice a film of soapy water on your glassware after washing, giving them a cloudy appearance. You’ll probably find that this effect of hard water is worsened when you use more dish detergent.

Hard water minerals also form scale deposits on glassware, so you might notice water spots after washing that make your glasses look cloudy and unclean.

Hard water stains in wine glass

How To Identify

How do you know if hard water is the cause of your cloudy drinking glasses in the dishwasher?

The best way to be certain is to test your water. You can buy a hard test for around $15-$20 online, and this will give you a water hardness reading, either in grains per gallon (GPG) or parts per million (PPM).

Water testing with tap score

You can also try soaking a cloudy drinking glass in white vinegar. Wait five minutes, then empty the vinegar solution and check the glass. If the cloudiness and deposits are no longer present, you probably have hard water.

โœ… How To Resolve

There are a few different ways to resolve or prevent a water hardness issue that’s making your glassware cloudy. These are:

  • Buy a dishwasher with a built-in water softener. Many popular dishwasher manufacturers now sell dishwashers with built-in water softeners, which will soften your dishwashing water and prevent mineral spots or hardness deposits.
  • Install a water softener system. If you want to avoid the effects of hard water in your dishwasher and the other appliances and fixtures in your home, install a water softener at your main water pipe’s point of entry into your home. Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium minerals, preventing them from leaving deposits on surfaces.
  • Use more detergent. Using more detergent will create a better lather with soap, reducing the likelihood of mineral deposits on your glasses. However, it won’t prevent cloudy glassware as a result of leftover soap residue, so you’ll probably need to experiment until you achieve the optimal amount of soap to reduce mineral spots while minimizing soapy residue.
  • Wash your dishes in the ideal water temperature. Most dishwasher detergents are designed to be used with hot water at around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower and the water may have even more difficulty lathering with the dishwashing soap, resulting in excess mineral deposits on your glassware after washing.
  • Use a rinse aid. You can use a solid or liquid rinse aid to help water rinse cleanly off dishes and glasses rather than lingering after a washing cycle. Rinse aids are typically added individually per dishwasher cycle.
  • Dry glasses with a microfiber cloth straight after unloading. Air drying your glasses will increase the likelihood of water spots, so remove the water as soon as you’ve unloaded them from the dishwasher.

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Etching is another possible cause of cloudy wine glasses in your dishwasher. Etched glasses have tiny scratches or pits that can’t be removed with cleaning.

There are a few potential reasons why you might have etched glasses, including:

  • Normal wear from a wash cycle, especially if you use and wash the glasses every day
  • Washing glasses in very soft water.
  • Using very hot water in your dishwasher.
  • Using too much detergent.
  • Using the wrong type of detergent.
  • Excessively pre-cleaning your dishes before washing.
Etching in wine glass

How To Identify

The best way to identify whether or not you have etched glasses is to hold them up to the light. What looks like cloudiness from far away will likely be distinguishable as small scratches and indents when viewed up close in good lighting.

You can also do the same vinegar test that you did to detect hard water. If you still have cloudy or milky glasses after pouring out the vinegar solution, they’re most likely etched rather than stained with hardness minerals.

โœ… How To Resolve

If you have etched glassware, you can’t do anything to reverse the etching. However, there are a few ways that you can reduce the likelihood of etching:

  • Don’t rinse your glasses and dishes completely clean before loading them in the dishwasher. Dishwashing detergents are deliberately designed with harsh salts that break down food particles and oils on dishes. If you thoroughly clean your dishes and glasses before loading, the dishwashing detergent will have a harsher effect on the dishes themselves.
  • Switch detergents. Certain detergents are harsher to dishes than others. Try using a different detergent from your usual choice, such as a phosphate-free detergent or a detergent that has a lower, milder pH.
  • Reduce your detergent use. Using less detergent is another way to reduce the likelihood of etching. This is especially the case if you have soft water – no need to use lots of detergent as your water will react begged with dish soap without needing to add extra to the machine.


Cloudy drinking glasses from a dishwasher might not be caused by anything complex – the source of the problem may simply be humidity.

Dishwashers use warm water during a wash cycle. If you open a dishwasher right after it’s finished, you’ll probably notice steam escaping from the dishes.

Some of the steam may be trapped underneath your glasses, causing them to turn cloudy.

Cloudy glass due to humidity

How To Identify

You can identify cloudy glasses caused by steam by examining the glasses up close.

If the glasses have a filmy, steamy sheen, and pressing your finger on the glass leaves a clear spot, you likely have steamed-up glasses.

โœ… How To Resolve

The best way to get your steamed-up glassware squeaky clean after washing is to clean them with a microfiber cloth or leave them to air on a a drying rack with plenty of cool air flow.

You could also try reducing the washing water temperature to reduce the amount of steam produced in a wash cycle.

๐Ÿงผ How To Clean Cloudy Drinking Glasses

It’s not always possible to prevent any sort of cloudiness in your glasses in the dishwasher. So, how can you clean cloudy glasses after washing?

We recommend simple wiping the glasses with a soft microfiber cloth. This will remove any leftover moisture and soap scum, and prevent mineral spotting.

If you have delicate glassware pieces, be careful when handling and cleaning them.

Woman wiping glassware

You might also like: How to Get Rid of White Particles in Water – Causes and Remedies

๐Ÿ”š Final Word

You should now have a good idea of what might be causing your cloudy glassware after washing them in a dishwasher, and how to make cloudy glasses crystal clear.

Unless you have etched glassware, you should be able to remove or prevent most causes of cloudiness either before, during, or after a wash cycle. If you want to avoid mineral spotting or soap residue specifically, install a water softener upstream of your water heater.

  • Jennifer Byrd
    Water Treatment Specialist

    For 20+ years, Jennifer has championed clean water. From navigating operations to leading sales, she's tackled diverse industry challenges. Now, at Redbird Water, she crafts personalized solutions for homes, businesses, and factories. A past Chamber President and industry advocate, Jennifer leverages her expertise in cutting-edge filtration and custom design to transform water concerns into crystal-clear solutions.

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