How To Help Your Dishwasher Run More Efficiently and Troubleshooting Tips

By Terry Mehilos | Aug. 02, 2023 11:21 am PST

Does it feel like your dishwasher takes an eternity just to complete one measly cycle? You’re not alone. Many of us wonder why our dishwasher takes so long to finish washing the dishes.

Modern dishwashers often take a long time to complete a cycle because they use less water. Using less water to clean dishes takes more time.

Another reason dishwashing cycles run longer is because the dishwasher takes a long time to heat water for washing and rinsing.

It’s not unusual for the “normal” cycle on a dishwasher to take up to several hours to finish. Check your owner’s manual for normal cycle times for your model.

Keep in mind that most dishwashers have a “Quick Wash” or 1-hour wash cycle available. If you want your dishwasher to finish the cycle quickly, choose that type of cycle to wash your dishes.

If you’re convinced that you dishwasher is taking way too long to complete a cycle, read on to get tips on how you can help your dishwasher operate efficiently.

Is My Dishwasher Running Too Long?

Compare actual run times of cycles with the estimated cycle times in your owner’s manual to see whether your dishwasher is taking way too long to complete cycles.

If your dishwasher is taking hours longer than estimated cycle times described in your owner’s manual, it’s time to take action to fix the problem.

Why does my dishwasher cycle take so long?: Troubleshooting Tips

There can be several reasons why your dishwasher cycle takes a long time. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help solve common problems that can cause longer cycles.

Check the water temperature

Low water temperature is a leading cause of long dishwasher cycle time. When water supply temperature is significantly less than 120 degrees, it will take much longer for the dishwasher to heat water to the target temperature for the cycle.

Follow these steps to check the temperature of water going into your dishwasher:

  1. Run the hot water from your kitchen sink faucet for 1 minute.
  2. Fill a glass with hot water.
  3. Measure the water temperature in the glass using a cooking thermometer.

If the temperature is less than 120 degrees, carefully increase the temperature setting on your water heater. Make small, incremental increases and don’t set your water heater temperature above 120 degrees. That should protect you from burns in the bath or shower.

See if you’ve added functions to your cycles

Options such as High Temperature and Sanitation can add lots of extra time to cycles. Many dishwashers default to the last cycle chosen when you start the dishwasher. Check your cycle settings when starting the dishwasher to keep from accidentally choosing option setting that add extra time to the cycle.

Look for clogs and build-up

Clogs in sump filters can inhibit cleaning and cause longer cycle times. Some dishwashers use sensor to detect wash water cleanliness. When debris build-up clogs filters and wash water stays dirty, the cycle will continue until sensors detect clean wash water.

Clean clogs and debris build-up from sump filters regularly to help prevent long cycle times.

Remove mineral deposits

Hard water deposits in spray arm holes can limit spray coverage and cause the dishwasher to take longer to finish the cycle in models that sense water cleanliness.

Clean mineral deposits from the holes in spray arms using a bamboo skewer so that water flows freely through the holes to clean dishes.

Inspect motors, thermostats and sensors

Faulty components inside the dishwasher can cause long cycle times. When the wash motor or diverter motor isn’t working properly, dishes won’t get proper spray coverage and the cycle will last longer. If thermostats aren’t detecting temperature properly and sensors aren’t working right, you’ll may also see the dishwasher running longer than it should.

You’ll typically need to have a service technician inspect the motors, thermostats and sensors in your dishwasher. Schedule dishwasher repair service and we’ll send a Sears Technician to your home to examine and fix your dishwasher.

How can I run my dishwasher more efficiently?

Using a dishwasher efficiently can help save time, water, and energy. Additionally, dishes will get cleaner and the dishwasher will last longer when you use it wisely.

Use these expert tips to maximize the efficiency of your dishwasher.

Load the dishes properly

Properly loading the dishwasher will help the appliance to clean the dishes thoroughly and efficiently. Follow these loading tips to get the best use of your dishwasher.

Scrape off excess food

Large food particles can clog up filters in the dishwasher sump – inhibiting water flow and cleaning efficiency. Scrape off excess food before loading dishes. You don’t need to thoroughly pre-rinse dishes unless they have stubborn or dried-on food stains.

Remove labels from jars and bottles

Labels can fall off during washing, clogging the screens and pumps inside the dishwasher. Water won’t circulate and spray properly when paper labels

Don’t overload the dishracks

Dishes need space around them so spray water can circulate. Overcrowding dishracks will prevent spray from reaching some parts of the dishes. You’ll wind up wasting water by having to wash dirty parts of dishes after the cycle finishes when you overload the dishwasher. Follow the owner’s manual guidelines for maximum loading capacity of your dishwasher.

Organize dishes properly when loading

Load your dishes strategically to make the most of the available space. Here are guidelines on how to load each dishrack.

Top dishrack

The top rack is best suited for cups, glasses and lightweight plastic items.

Place cups and glasses in the rows between tines — not over them, which can cause glasses to break.

Put all your plastic dishes and storage containers on the upper rack — some plastics can melt if they’re too close to the heating element at the bottom of the dishwasher tub.

Wedge the lids of storage containers between the tines and a glass to prevent the lids from coming loose and falling to the bottom of the tub. Or, use no-flip clips to hold lids or larger plastic items such as cups, bowls or storage containers, in place during washing. These clips fit the tines on most dishwasher model, regardless of brand. Order plenty of clips and use them to keep all your plastic items in place.

Larger cooking utensils also should go on the upper rack, with spoons facing down so they don’t collect water.

Lower dishrack

The bottom rack is best for plates, pots, pans and casserole dishes. Glasses and mugs that don’t fit in the top rack also should go here.

Load plates with the dirty side facing the center, with enough room between each plate to let water reach both sides.

Angle pots, pans and casserole dishes with the dirty surface facing down. If your dishwasher is a Kenmore with TurboZone spray jets, face heavily soiled dishes toward the TurboZone jets and select the TurboZone option for the cycle.

You can load bowls in either rack, but you usually need to load larger mixing or serving bowls in the bottom rack if they’re too big for the top rack.

Load taller items like cookie sheets on the outer edges of the bottom rack, making sure not to block the detergent dispenser.

Silverware basket

The silverware basket often fits in or on the bottom dishrack but it may reside in the top rack on some models.

Use the slots in the covers to keep your silverware separated for best cleaning.

Load knives and sharp utensils such as skewers into the slots facing down and all other items facing up.

If your silverware doesn’t fit into the slots, flip the covers up and mix silverware types to keep them separated. Alternate the direction of spoon handles up and down so that spoons don’t nest together with other spoons—the same goes for forks. Load all knives and sharp objects with the blades and points facing down.

Choose the right dishwasher cycle

Most modern dishwashers have multiple cycles to choose from, such as normal, eco-friendly, quick wash, and heavy-duty. Select the cycle that best matches the level of dirt and the type of dishes you are washing. Choosing shorter cycles for lightly soiled dishes can help save water and energy.

Many dishwashers have energy-saving options that can help reduce water and energy consumption. These options typically involve lower water temperatures and extended wash times. Refer to your dishwasher’s user manual to identify and enable these settings.

To save energy, turn off the Heated Dry option. In many dishwashers, dishes will dry without using the heating element.

Use the right detergent

Follow the directions in the owner’s manual for your dishwasher regarding the best type of dishwashing detergent to use for your model. Some manuals recommend that you use pods while others tell you to use liquid or gel detergent. Older dishwashers may still recommend that you use powdered detergent. If you use powdered detergent, store it in a dry place like an upper cabinet shelf instead of under the sink so that it stays fresh. When powdered detergent gets old or wet, it gets clumpy and doesn’t clean as well.

Pods, liquid, and gel detergents typically work best in your dishwasher. You don’t have to worry about them getting old or wet and clumping up.

Make sure that you use rinse aid in your dishwasher. Rinse aid reduces spots, which can make your dishes look dirty. Even if you use detergent tablets or pods that include rinse aid, you should still use liquid rinse aid. The rinse aid dispenser in your dishwasher dispenses the right amount during the final rinse cycle so your dishes turn out spotless. Pods and tablets may not release rinse aid at the right time.

Clean and maintain your dishwasher

Regular cleaning and maintenance of your dishwasher will help it run and clean dishes efficiently. Follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual for cleaning and maintaining your dishwasher.

Schedule professional dishwasher cleaning and maintenance yearly. Having your dishwasher professionally cleaned and maintained every year will ensure that it works at peak efficiency and lasts longer. The technician will also be able to see problems that need correcting so that there’s less chances that you’ll face unexpected dishwasher breakdowns during the year.

In summary, keeping your dishwasher in top shape will help it last longer and work more efficiently — saving you money. You’ll also help the environment by using less water and energy to clean your dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dishwasher Use

How can I make sure the dishwasher gets to the right temperature?

Check the water temperature of fill water by running the kitchen tap for 1 minute then filling a glass with water. Measure temperature of the water in the glass using a thermometer. The water temperature should be around 120 degrees. If not, carefully adjust water heater temperature.

Check the heating element to make sure it’s working properly. Have a Sears Technician examine and repair your dishwasher if the heating element isn’t working or you detect that water isn’t heating properly.

What is the best time to run the dishwasher?

Running the dishwasher during off-peak hours, usually at night, is often recommended to take advantage of lower energy rates and reduce the load on the power grid during peak times during the day. However, consider your personal preferences, lifestyle, and local energy rates when determining the best time for you.

How many cycles do dishwashers have?

Most dishwashers have 6 to 8 wash cycles. The most common dishwasher cycles include:

  • Normal Wash
  • Heavy Duty or Pots & Pans
  • Quick Wash
  • Rinse Only
  • Sanitize
  • Eco Cycle

Some dishwashers may have additional specialized cycles or variations, such as a steam cycle, express cycle, or auto-sensing cycle, depending on the model and brand.

What’s the best way to clean my dishes?

Here are some tips to help you achieve the best washing results from your dishwasher:

  • Scrape excess food from dishes and load them according to the guidelines in your owner’s manual and the tips provided above in this article.
  • Use liquid detergent or pods for best dishwashing results. Also use rinse aid so water drains off dishes and they dry properly without water spots.
  • Select the right dishwasher cycle for the type of load that you’re washing. Use the guidelines in your owner’s manual to pick the right cycle on your model.
  • Clean and maintain your dishwasher regularly. Have your dishwasher professionally cleaned and maintained by a Sears Technician every year so it stays in top shape and continues washing your dishes efficiently. Having your dishwasher cleaned and maintained properly will prevent drainage issues, filling problems and any other failures that may plague your dishwasher.

How often should I run my dishwasher?

You can and should run your dishwasher daily when you have enough dishes to fill the racks every day. You may even need to run it more than once a day. The dishwasher is designed to handle daily use.

Leaving the dishwasher idle for more than a few months at a time can allow water seals inside the appliance to dry out and crack. If you seldom use your dishwasher, it’s best to run it at least one every couple of weeks.

Can I open my dishwasher mid-cycle?

Yes. You can carefully crack open the door and allow the spray to stop and drain a bit then open the door fully while the cycle is running.

After shutting the door, restart the cycle according to the guidelines in your owner’s manual.

Sears Home Services Can Help Fix Your Dishwasher Issues

Sears Home Services is your best, most-trusted option for dishwasher repairs and maintenance. Manufacturer-trained Sears Technicians can service any major brand of dishwasher, no matter where you bought it. We have access to original manufacturer repair parts to correctly complete guaranteed dishwasher repairs.

With more than 2,500+ appliance repair techs nationwide to serve you, Sears has a local dishwasher repair technician in your area. Next-day dishwasher repair service is available in many areas.

Sears technicians average 11 years of appliance repair experience. In fact, our technicians repaired over 300,000 dishwashers in the past year. You can trust our dependable and experienced technicians for your dishwasher repair.

Schedule dishwasher repair service and we’ll send a Sears Technician to you home to fix the problem.

Trust Sears for all of your appliance repair needs.

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