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Dishwasher Cycle Settings Explained

March 19, 2024

How often do you use the dishwasher? Because it’s much better than washing your dishes by hand.

For one thing, it’s much more hygienic as it’s capable of using super-hot water, which will remove most of the contaminants that are on your dishes. Not only that but using the dishwasher will also save you money in the long run as it uses less water.

There’s more than one dishwasher cycle to choose from as well, each of which has its specific function.

How many dishwasher cycles are there? What do each of them do? Which one should you use for your dirty plates?

For the answers, be sure to keep reading. We’ll be going through everything you need to know below.

Dishwasher Cycles Explained

Dishwasher Cycles ExplainedDifferent dishwasher cycles vary in terms of water temperature, duration, and the amount of water they use.

Ideally, you want to use just the right amount of heat and water that you need so that you’re not wasting energy (and thus money) when you’re running a wash cycle.

For example, you might not need to run a normal cycle if you’re just washing a few slightly dirty plates. In cases like that, you can just use a quick wash cycle.

Different Dishwasher Settings and Their Functions

Here are some of the most common dishwasher cycles and what they’re designed to do.

Normal Cycle

A normal cycle can be used to wash everyday dishes without using extra heat or extra water as long as they aren’t excessively dirty (ie. there aren’t any caked-on messes).

While it depends on the exact dishwasher, this cycle generally uses water between 130 and 140F. As for the cycle time, it ranges anywhere from 2.25 hours to 3 hours.

Sanitize Cycle

dishwasher sanitize cycleThe sanitize cycle, as suggested by its name, is used to sanitize dishes and glassware. More specifically, it puts the heating element on high, which increases the water temperature to remove contaminants. This makes it ideal for cleaning utensils that have come into contact with raw meat such as cutting boards and knives.

Not only that but it’s also great for sanitizing baby items.

Certain dishwashers also come with a Sani-Rinse cycle, which adds an extra high-heat rinse cycle, which significantly raises the final rinse temperature, to sanitize the dishes.

The sanitize cycle can add upwards of 1.5 hours to a normal wash cycle.

Pre-Wash Cycle

The Prewash cycle is designed to remove baked-on food from dishes; it does this by soaking the dishes in water before putting them through a wash cycle.

This option is ideal for dishes that need a little bit of extra elbow grease to get sparkling clean.

Quick Wash Cycle

The quick wash setting, sometimes called the one-hour cycle, is exactly what it sounds like – it cleans your dishes much quicker than other wash cycles. This makes it a good option when you need to clean up your dishes and utensils quickly or if you’re in a hurry.

However, there’s a catch. To achieve fast cleaning results, it typically uses more energy, water, and heat.

Tough or Heavy Wash Cycle

The heavy wash cycle uses additional water and higher temperatures to eliminate hard-to-clean stains. This setting is best used for heavily soiled pans, pots, and baking dishes.

Cycle time ranges from 2.5 hours to 4 hours.

High-Temperature Wash Cycle

The High-Temperature Wash Cycle is the best option for removing greasy or baked-on food debris. It does this by raising the water temperature to a minimum of 135F.

It’s particularly effective if used with rinse aid, which helps improve wash performance.

Delicate Wash Cycle

dishwasher delicate wash cycleThe delicate cycle on your dishwasher uses a lower temperature to wash your dishes. Not only does the lower temperature prevent damage but it also prevents items from being knocked over by strong bursts of water.

This setting is ideal for fragile items such as fine or crystal dishware.

Sensor Cycle

Some newer dishwashers come with a sensor cycle, that allows the dishwasher to detect and choose the optimal cleaning cycle for your dishes.

The sensor will automatically adjust the cycle time, water temperature, and water usage, for the best results. This means it will be able to choose the right wash and dry settings even if the dishwasher is filled with items of varying levels of soil.

Delayed Start Option

Some dishwashers come with a delay setting that allows you to start the cleaning cycle at a later or earlier time.

For example, you can set it so that it will automatically run during off-peak energy hours. That way, it won’t interfere with your and your family’s hot water demands. For example, it will leave enough heated water for bathing.

The Drying Process

dishwasher drying cyclesDishwashers come with different drying options that allow you to dry your dishes and utensils safely. Here’s what you need to know.

Heat Dry Setting

The Heat Dry option uses the heating element at the bottom of the dishwasher to dry your dishes. More specifically, the element generates hot air, which circulates through the machine, evaporating any leftover water.

Not only will your dishes be dry but it’ll also eliminate any spotty or hazy film on your glassware. Some also believe heat drying is more hygienic as the high temperature may help remove remaining contaminants.

This option is the quickest way to dry your dishes but can add 30 to 40 minutes to the overall cleaning cycle, depending on the model of your dishwasher.

Extended Heat Dry Setting

The Extended Heat option will provide better drying performance. Depending on the dishwasher model, it will either extend the duration of the heat dry cycle or increase the final rinse temperature.

Air Dry Setting

The air-dry option will allow your dishes and utensils to dry without any additional heat. Dishwashers with this option typically draw in air from the room and circulate it inside the machine.

In terms of cycle duration, it can add 60 to 90 minutes to the overall cycle time.

Dishwasher Cycles Explained – FAQs

How long is a typical dishwasher cycle?

Dishwasher cycles can last anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours. The exact duration will depend on the specific cycle that you choose.

For example, a quick-wash cycle will be much shorter than a heavy-wash cycle.

The drying option that you select will also affect the overall drying time. For instance, choosing the extended-heat option can add up to 50 minutes to the overall duration as it extends the drying time.

Why do new dishwashers take so long?

Modern dishwashers are more energy efficient compared to earlier models. Not only do they use less water but they also use less electricity to run a cleaning cycle.

However, there’s a catch – because they use less energy and water, the cycle times are typically increased, meaning it’ll take longer to run a cleaning cycle.

How can I make my dishwasher run quicker?

You can reduce the duration by choosing a shorter cycle. For example, you can use the quick-wash or 1-hour wash setting.

Keep in mind, however, that it may not be enough if you’re dealing with heavily soiled dishes.

How can I prevent water spots on my glasses?

dishwasher water spots on glassesMake sure you’re using the correct amount of detergent. Using too much will leave a soapy residue on your dishes, which often manifests as a chalky, white substance. Not only will it give your glasses a dull appearance but it can also give them a gritty texture.

Using rinse aid can also help. It will lower the surface tension of water, making it easier for grime and residue to slide off your dishes.

For those who live in an area with hard water, it’s also a good idea to clean your dishwasher twice a month with ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaning Tablets. That will prevent hard water deposits from building up inside, which can transfer onto your dishes and glasses.

How much energy does the average dishwasher cycle use?

Modern dishwashers use about 1200 watts of electricity and three to four gallons of water per cycle. Keep in mind, however, that the exact electricity and water usage will depend on the model of your machine.

For specific information on your appliance, refer to the product manual.

How can I boost my dishwasher’s performance?

Make sure to load the dishwasher properly. This means removing solid debris from the dishes before putting them in and placing larger items on the bottom rack and smaller dishes and cups on the upper rack.

It’s also important to clean the machine regularly. We recommend using ACTIVE Dishwasher Cleaning Tablets every 30 days for the best results.

Don’t forget to clean the dishwasher filter as well, ideally once every 3 to 6 months.

What items shouldn’t be put through a dishwasher cycle?

Certain items should never be placed in the dishwasher. Some examples include cast iron, wooden utensils, fine china, ceramics with hand-painted designs, and antiques.

The same goes for aluminum cookware, including pots and pans. When exposed to high temperatures, the aluminum will oxidize, causing the metal to darken permanently. Instead of placing them in the dishwasher, clean them by hand with warm water and dish soap.

Wine glasses should also be hand washed as they can become cloudy from mineral deposits in the dishwasher. In some cases, they can also become etched from the chemicals inside the machine.

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Ethan Clarke

Ethan Clarke is a seasoned expert in appliances and household waste systems. Referencing his extensive experience as an appliance repairman, Ethan shares his invaluable knowledge through detailed maintenance & troubleshooting manuals. Ethan’s insights help homeowners understand and maintain their appliances efficiently, ensuring longevity and optimal performance. He’s here to provide practical, easy-to-follow advice for all your appliance needs.

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