Why Do Dishwashers Take So Long? (Is It Normal?)

Image of a dishwasher taking time to clean the dishes

Dishwashers make cleaning up easy, but they run for hours, especially the newer ones. So why do dishwashers take so long?

Dishwashers take so long because warming the water for cleaning and drying after dishwashing takes time. Dishwashers must also spray smaller amounts of water for longer to meet the new federal guidelines on energy and resource usage. The length of the cycle is also affected by how dirty the load is.

Let’s talk about this in more detail now.

How Long Do Dishwasher Cycles Take?

Dishwashers have more than one type of setting.

Most dishwashers have Light, Normal, and Heavy cycle options, which are chosen according to the load size.

Newer dishwashers include additional cycles as well, like Eco-Wash, Quick, Express, Auto-Clean, Delicate Wash, and Delay Wash cycles.

You can either choose the cycle from these options or allow the dishwasher to default to a suitable setting based on the load.

When you leave the cycle selection to the dishwasher, it adjusts the time duration according to sensor readings.

It will fix the time based on how heavy the load is and how dirty the dishes are.

On average, dishwasher cycles take anywhere between 1.5 and 4 hours.

The exact duration will depend on the chosen setting and the temperature and water settings for this cycle.

Express or short cycle settings are the fastest dishwasher cycles.

Depending on the make and model of the dishwashers, these cycles usually take between 20 and 45 minutes.

However, these cycles are only suitable for small loads.

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Why Do Newer Dishwashers Take Longer Than Older Dishwashers?

If you recently upgraded to a new dishwasher, you may have noticed that it takes longer than your older machine to complete dishwashing.

This is because manufacturers have changed the technical design to comply with new energy and resource use guidelines.

According to the latest federal guidelines for water and energy usage, all new appliances must be energy and resource-efficient.

This made appliance manufacturers rethink the design to produce the same outcome as older dishwashers but consume less water and electricity.

Now, dishwasher manufacturers had to use less water and electricity but deliver the same level of cleanliness.

So they had to go with longer run cycles to strike the right balance.

This is why newer dishwashers take longer to complete the same load.

Now, one thing to remember is that energy star ratings usually apply to normal cycles only.

Shorter cycles finish the task faster, but they usually consume more electricity and water.

When you choose them, you may notice that your dishwasher is louder because the spraying of water is with greater force.

Is It Normal For The First Dishwasher Cycle To Take Very Long?

It can take an unusually long time when you run a new dishwasher for the first time.

However, it’s normal as the sensors calibrate during the first cycle. Subsequent cycles will not be as long.

You can refer to the instruction manual or manufacturer’s website to find out the typical length of a dishwashing cycle.

You can expect slight variations from the specified timings based on the load, power, and water supply.

However, huge deviations indicate that something is off.

If this occurs, the device may be faulty, and you may have to contact customer service.

Factors That Affect The Operation Of A Dishwasher

The factors that affect the operation of a dishwasher are:

  • Heat,
  • Detergent,
  • Dishwasher design, and
  • Chosen setting.

The dishwasher is basically a robot. It cleans your dishes by scrubbing, washing, and rinsing any food residue.

The quality of results will depend on all the above factors. So let’s take a closer look at each of them.

1. Heat

Dishwashers use hot water to cut through food and oil residue.

Hot water also dissolves detergents and sanitizes them better.

You can wash dishes with cold water, but they will not be as clean as when cleaned with hot water.

So heat is an important factor for thorough cleaning.

Dishwashers take time to heat water to the required temperature of 150 degrees or more.

This affects the duration of a dishwashing cycle.

2. Detergent

Woman placing dishwasher detergent in the dishwasher

The chemical formula of a detergent affects dishwashing results to a great extent.

Specially formulated dishwashing detergents usually produce the best results.

Here again, you have different options like tablets, gels, and powder.

You can make the right choice based on the cycle you use and how dirty the dishes are.

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3. Dishwasher Design

All dishwashers use the same steps to clean dishes. It begins by filling up the inner container with water and heating it.

The device then mixes the detergent and sprays water on the dishes.

The cleaning process involves mechanical agitation and rinsing.

Next, the water drains away. The spray-rinse process repeats according to the setting.

Although the sequence of steps remains the same, the technology may differ by manufacturer and model.

Design differences in the spray arms and filtration system can affect the length and duration of the dishwasher cycle.

4. Chosen Setting

As we mentioned earlier, dishwashers have different settings.

The most common of these are Light, Medium, and Heavy.

These are suitable for everyday loads, and you can choose between them based on the number and size of dishes and how dirty they are.

An additional and very useful option is the Auto-Cleaning setting on modern dishwashers.

Dishwashers with this setting have sensors to determine the appropriate duration for cleaning and drying.

The sensor will evaluate the load and extent of cleaning required.

Accordingly, it will automate the cleaning process and leave you with sparkling dishes.

The good thing about the auto-clean option is that dishwashers will only use the exact amount of water and energy necessary for this setting.

So it’s an energy-efficient choice.

Additionally, it saves you the effort of judging which setting is necessary for each load.

Now, certain settings like Delay and Delicate Wash are special settings.

They’re not available on all dishwashers because these settings use special circuitry and advanced technology.

What Can You Do To Optimize Your Dishwasher’s Performance?

Modern dishwashers are highly energy and water-efficient.

However, you can still improve their performance with the following steps.

1. Scrape food bits from the dishes before placing them in the dishwasher.

It will be easier for a dishwasher to cut through the gunk and attack food and oil residue when there are fewer food particles.

So scrape the residual food bits from the surface before placing a dish inside.

However, you don’t have to rinse the dish as it will lead to more water usage.

2. Choose the right cycle setting.

The right cycle will enable you to reduce water and energy usage.

Read the user manual properly and understand what cycle setting is suitable for different loads.

If you are unsure of which setting is appropriate, opt for the Auto-Cleaning setting where the dishwasher will do the math for you.

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3. Arrange the contents properly.

Dishes will be thoroughly cleaned if the detergent and hot water reach all nooks and corners.

For this, you should separate the dishes properly and leave enough space between them.

Overcrowding will overload the machine and compromise the quality of cleaning.

Run a separate load if there are more dishes than the dishwasher can handle in a single cycle.

4. Clean the appliance after use.

Over time, gunk and dirt can get deposited on different surfaces of a dishwasher.

Common areas where dirt accumulates include the rubber gasket, soap tray, and dishwasher trap.

Clean these surfaces frequently to prevent build-up that will affect the quality of the device over time.

Regular cleaning and airing of the interiors will also prevent mold build-up, which is a common problem with cleaning appliances.