Sparkling clean glassware may make this extra purchase worth it!

If you are lucky enough to have purchased a high-end dishwasher recently, you may have noticed something odd lurking in the door—a little receptacle marked “add salt.” This is not the salt you use to add flavor to your dishes, but a special cleaning salt to help your dishwasher get your dishes to shine.

Dishwasher salt, which is sold in stores and online by companies like Finish Salt or by dishwasher manufacturers like Bosch or Miele, is there to help soften water and prevent those pesky spots that show up on dishes if you happen to live in a so-called hard water area. Your water is considered “hard” not when it’s frozen, but when it has high levels of calcium and magnesium in it. Hard water is harmless to humans, but can wreak havoc on things like home water heaters and pipes and when the calcium and magnesium combine with dishwashing detergent, it can turn the soap into clump, which makes your dishwasher less efficient and causes that unsightly, spotty residue on your wine glasses.

Dishwasher salt is designed to counteract that. According to Realtor.com, large-grained dishwasher salt is made up of pure sodium chloride, which bonds (remember that from chemistry class?) with the calcium and magnesium in the water, making them harmless. The result of this “softening” process cleaner dishes, a longer-lasting dishwasher, and spot-free glassware.

Putting salt in your dishwasher might seem strange at first, but dishwasher salt is actually an excellent tool for keeping your unit operating at maximum efficiency,” Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance, explained in an interview with Realtor.com.

If your dishwasher does come with a salt dispenser, it’s easy to use. There are even how-to videos on YouTube giving step-by-step instructions on how to refill them and while it’s nothing like topping up your table salt and pepper shakers, it’s simple enough.

So if your dishes have been lacking that sparkling-clean feeling and your favorite water glasses look practically polka-dotted, dishwasher salt may be the solution to your problems—but to prevent other problems be sure to tell your husband and your kids not to add any table salt to the dishwasher.