It is a known fact that water contains calcium and magnesium in varying degrees depending on the location of your residence. These two chemicals are responsible for the hardness of the water. Unless the water is softened it is likely that your consumption of detergents, soaps, and shampoo will never go down. Hard water also causes some skin conditions and affects the clothes washed in it. Very hard water blocks pipes, due to scale formation, it also is responsible in the jamming of water jets in washing machines and dishwashers, and several other appliances like steam irons and boilers do not function at peak efficiency or get damaged due to it.
Dishwashers are especially vulnerable to hard water. Dishwashers that use hard water are not able to clean the dishes well and also use a lot of detergent. Streaking of dishes and cloudy glasses and plates is common with dishwashers that use hard untreated water. This streaking and cloudiness is caused due to the presence of calcium and magnesium in water. For this very reason several dishwasher manufacturing companies now offer an inbuilt water softener with their machine. Such machine consume less power (electricity), clean dishes well and also use less detergent for the same.
Dishwasher softeners use granular salts. Each or most dishwashing machine has float indicator that tells the user when the salt needs to be topped of. Machines that do not have the float indicator or machines where the indicator is difficult to see should be added salt granules till it cannot take in anymore. The inbuilt water softener uses this salt to replenish itself. Generally a top off once a month is sufficient.
Please note that common salt or table salt should not be used. This type of salt has additives which may in fact increase the hardness instead of reducing it. Special granular dishwasher salt is available in the market and it is recommended by the manufacturers.
Some dishwashers also come with a removable water softener unit. Although this is convenient it does take some understanding to operate it. Some dishwasher detergents also have salt content to make the water soft. Although these are welcome additions a built in water softener is always the best option.
For shiny utensils, crystal clear glasses and dishes always use a dishwasher water softener and never forget to top off the salt reservoir of your dishwasher.