Close-up of dishes washing during cycle

How to Clean Cloudy Glasses from Your Dishwasher

Pulling a glass out of a dishwasher that has just washed and noticing a milky, cloudy coating can be confusing. Running it through another cycle usually won’t fix the problem, but there are ways to restore hazy glassware to a crystal clear state without having to wash it twice. Read on to learn more about what causes glassware to get cloudy, how to clean cloudy drinking glasses and what you can do to help prevent it.

Person placing glasses on third-level rack of dishwasher Person placing glasses on third-level rack of dishwasher

What Causes Drinking Glasses to Get Cloudy

A cupboard full of cloudy glassware can result from two unique causes: hard water buildup and mineral deposits or etching. Hard water deposits are made up of minerals like magnesium and calcium that cling to dishes, leaving behind a milky residue that doesn’t usually wash off in the dishwasher. Etched glasses have small scratches and dings most often brought on by interactions with soft water and can’t be repaired.

Instructions for Cleaning Cloudy or Foggy Drinking Glasses

Restoring drinking glasses that are cloudy from hard water mineral buildup is a quick and straightforward process. Simply gather milky glasses, soak them in a vinegar solution, hand wash them and dry thoroughly to get rid of buildup. See the steps below to learn more about how to make cloudy glasses crystal clear again.

  • White vinegar

  • Dish soap

  • Warm water

  • Sink or deep dishpan

  • Dish towel

  • Microfiber cloth

  • Sponge

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Step 1: Test for Causes

Start with a spot check to determine if your glasses are foggy due to etching—which can’t be fixed—or hard water buildup that you can remove. Soak a small rag or dish towel in vinegar, then rub a portion of the glass with the rag. A glass that’s milky from hard water buildup should become clearer with each wipe.

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Step 2: Soak in Vinegar

Set cloudy wine glasses, tumblers or drinking glasses on their sides in the sink or large dishpan. Fill the sink or dishpan with enough vinegar to completely coat each glass and leave them to soak fully immersed for 15 minutes.

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Step 3: Hand wash

Remove the glasses from the dishpan and hand wash them using dish soap and warm water.

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Step 4: Dry

Dry glasses as soon as possible using a microfiber cloth, as air drying could lead to the formation of water spots. 

If your favorite glassware doesn’t clear up by following the steps above, they may be damaged by etching that can’t be reversed. Read on to learn more about etching and how to help prevent cloudy drinking glasses from the dishwasher.

Close-up of glassware during wash cycle Close-up of glassware during wash cycle

What if Cleaning Doesn’t Make Cloudy Glasses Crystal Clear Again?

Acid-based cleaning solutions can help tackle glasses that are foggy due to hard water buildup, but etched glasses are likely beyond repair. Etching creates tiny scratches that cause glasses to look foggy and can happen in any dishwasher, impacting inexpensive and quality glassware. 

Etched glassware most often results from washing in soft water and gets even worse with too much dish detergent. Compare different dishwasher detergent types to see which is best for you. Though etching can’t be reversed, there are some ways to help prevent it from occurring.

How to Prevent Cloudy Drinkware from the Dishwasher

You don’t have to settle for cloudy or milky glassware, even if you continue washing glasses in the dishwasher. To help prevent etching or hard water buildup:

  • Add a rinse agent to each cycle

  • Wash with a water temperature below 140°F

  • Avoid excessive pre-rinsing

  • Use less detergent with soft water and follow packaging instructions

  • Regularly clean your dishwasher to help prevent mineral buildup

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