The very first time I rented an apartment in Munich, I flooded it. A part of it. Just the kitchen, really. It wasn’t all that bad – after a few minutes I couldn’t even really tell which part was washing machine water and which part was my tears.
It was an expensive, wet and fitting introduction to Kalk.
Kalk is the silent enemy that will fuck your shit up if you let it. You won’t even see it coming until your underwear floats into your room. Once you do learn about it though, it will answer a lot of essential questions like “why your taps have turned all misty” and “why you constantly find white chunks in your tea”. But before I get into all that, let’s start with the basics:
What is Kalk?
Yeah, it doesn’t sound anywhere near as foreboding in English, so I’m going to stick with the German. Kalk. Kalk. KALK! The water in Munich is hard, which means it has high mineral content. These minerals – particularly calcium – like to leave a fine sediment on everything they touch. This sediment builds up. Once there’s enough of it, your dishwasher blows up.
The hidden salt drawer in your dishwasher
The what now?
Listen, maybe you’re from a part of the world where the water is also hard. Maybe you already know about the odd little trapdoor at the base of German dishwashers and maybe you didn’t look completely disoriented when your Minga friend nonchalantly asked you to pour salt into it. We aren’t all created equal. Where I come from the water is soft and the dishwashers come without salt hatches, so this was news to me.
For those of you who are also new to dishwasher salting (I’m assuming that’s the official term for it), let me help you out. The base of your dishwasher, right by the spinny thing, has a little trapdoor. If you don’t want your dishwasher to blow up or flood everything in sight, you need to buy dishwasher salt (Spülmaschinensalz) and pour it inside before you turn it on. Do this every three or so cycles.
What about the washing machine?
Good question. Glad you asked. There are special tablets for your washing machine (they go in with the washing powder every two or three washes). You can double down on these by running vinegar (Essig Essenz) through your machine once in a while. Don’t take the necessary precautions and your kitchen will turn into a kind of indoor pool, except instead of lanes, there’ll be a wet fridge, instead of diving boards, there’ll be wet cupboards and instead of laughter, there’ll be the inescapable sound of your mind berating you for your inability to function as an adult.
Any other appliances I should worry about?
Yes! All of them! Have you not been listening to me? Kalk is everywhere and it is out to get you. You need to get special liquids (Kalkentferner) or vinegar (Essig Essenz) for your water kettle and coffee machine, tabs (Entkalkungstablette) for your toilet and Antikalk spray for everything else – showerheads, taps, plugs, basins, tiles, shower rods, anything that touches water. And don’t even think about filling up your iron or humidifier with tap water. You’ll need distilled water (Destilliertes Wasser) for that.
The official LMBB Kalk PSA
You may think that tap water is innocent. It isn’t. Kalk is out there. So remember:
- DO buy every Kalkentferner product out there
- DO use every Kalkentferner product out there
- DON’T blow up your washing machine
Agnes Stockburger is a writer, editor and published author. In her glory days she wrote for the likes of Australian Broker, SheKnows and Yahoo!7. These days you’re more likely to find her sticking Duplo blocks in the fridge and the milk in the mailbox because OMG her kids will NOT sleep. She has lived in Munich for six years, has two dirndls and gave birth in German. Twice. This obviously qualifies her to write about the local culture with impunity.
Illustration credit: Yolanda Ng is a cross creative who is a professional fashion designer, stylist, street style blogger for VON ZWEI and a photographer at Corner Store Photography. She is also the Creative and Marketing Director for LMBB.