How Long Does a Dishwasher Run – and Why So Long?

Researched & Written by Craig

Are long dishwasher run times making you wonder if you’ll ever see your dishes again?

You’ll find out why your dishwasher seems to be on a go-slow in this article! 

The average dishwasher cycle is 1-4 hours. The run time depends on the cycle and the following:

The run time will be longerThe run time will be shorter
The dishes are very soiled
The water heats slowly
The dishwasher is energy-efficient
The dishwasher is old
You have hard water/limescale

Every washing cycle has different run times. Which cycle do you usually set your dishwasher on? You can find out why the cycles take so long in the following section of this article. It will also show you some handy tips that could help you to speed yours up! Check it out!

Dishwasher Clean

How Long Does a Dishwasher Run – and Why So Long?

Does your dishwasher seem to run, and run, and run, non-stop?

You’ve been to the corner store, dragged the vacuum around the house, done the ironing, and it’s still going. All this may have you wondering, why is my dishwasher running so long?

The following reasons are probably why.

The Dishes Are Very Dirty

Modern dishwashers include sensors. These sensors will extend a wash cycle if they detect that the contents are still dirty. So that means the dirtier the dishes, the longer the cycle. 

Is your dishwasher full of plates from breakfast and lunch? Then they may only be smeared with butter, milk, and sandwich crumbs. In this case, the dishwasher sensors may default to a shorter dishwasher cycle. 

But what if your dishwasher is full of ironed on spaghetti bolognese stains, or is full of greasy pots and pans? Then a modern dishwasher’s sensors will whack those dishes on a longer cycle.

Depending on how ingrained the dirt is, you may not be seeing those plates again until sunrise.

Ok, so it’s not that bad. But you get the point.

What can you do to shorten the length of your dishwasher cycle? Take a look at the following tips.

  • Scrape your dishes well before putting them in the dishwasher
  • Rinse the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher
  • Put your dishes on a “heavy” or “intensive” wash cycle when the plates are very dirty

The Water Heats Slowly

The average dishwasher cycle reaches temperatures of up to 160° Fahrenheit. How long it takes for your dishwasher to reach this temperature depends on the following:

  • The speed of the water heater
  • The temperature of the water coming into the machine

Some dishwashers have an Auto Hot Start cycle. This cycle could extend your dishwasher run time up to 20 minutes as it heats the water ready for washing. 

So, how can you make your dishwasher run faster? 

  • Avoid using programs such as “Auto Hot Start”. A normal dishwashing cycle will heat the water as the cycle progresses.
  • Run the hot water in the sink for 2 to 3 minutes before starting a dishwasher cycle. This will give the dishwasher a headstart with some hot water and shorten the cycle.

The Dishwasher Is Energy-Efficient

Are you thinking about buying an energy-efficient dishwasher? Buying energy-efficient electronics helps us to do our bit for the planet. Not only that, but it also does a whole world of good for our pockets. But bear in mind that modern, energy-efficient dishwashers wash slower than normal dishwashers. 

Environmentally-friendly dishwashers and dishwashing cycles do the following:

  • They wash with less water
  • They wash at lower temperatures

The water reduction and lower temperatures are great. But, of course, when you reduce the quantity of water and its temperature then something has to give. And in this case, it’s the speedy wash time. 

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. So here are a couple of things you can do that could speed up the cycle of your dishwasher.

  • Scrape your plates well before you start the cycle
  • Rinse the plates before you put the dishwasher on

The Dishwasher Is New

Does your dishwasher have an energy star rating? You can find these ratings on some modern dishwashers. These dishwashers can help you save up to $35 a year on your electricity bill. There are quite a few differences between modern and old dishwashers. Here are some of them. 

Old Dishwashers New Dishwashers
They run for less time than modern dishwashers.

Their average run time for a normal cycle is 1 hour.

They use more electricity and water.
They run for longer than old dishwashers.

Their average run time for a normal cycle is over 2 hours.

They use less electricity and water.

Yes, you read correctly. Newer dishwashers take longer than older dishwashers to run the average cycle.

What can you do to make your new dishwasher faster? Well, my first inclination was to return my new machine and haul the old one out of the skip. But here are some far more practical steps:

  • Run the hot water in the sink before you start the dishwasher
  • Use the right washing detergent
  • Periodically clean the dishwasher on a cycle with white vinegar

You Have Hard Water or Limescale

Do you live in a hard water area? Hard water can cause a build-up of minerals and limescale in your dishwasher. This build-up could interfere with the sensors in your dishwasher. The interference could make them default to a longer wash cycle than necessary. 

But don’t despair, you won’t have to put in soft water filters in your plumbing to fix this problem. Here’s what you can do:

  • Use dishwasher cleaner tablets on a monthly basis
  • Periodically clean the dishwasher on a cycle with white vinegar
Close-up Of Person Hands Putting Dishwasher Soap Tablet In Detergent Dishwasher Box

Dishwasher Cycles and Their Run Times

The amount of time your dishwasher will take to run also depends on the cycle you put it on. Here is a list of some of the most common dishwasher cycles and their average run times.

Dishwasher CycleAverage Run Time
Auto Clean CycleThe run time for every cycle is different. It is determined by the sensors and how soiled your dishes are.
Quick Cycle20 minutes or less
Normal CycleBetween 1 and 3 hours
Heavy CycleBetween 2.5 and 4 hours
Eco-CycleBetween 2.5 and 4 hours

This a good rough estimate for cycle times but it will vary depending on the following:

  • How dirty your dishes are
  • How quickly the water heats up
  • Whether your dishwasher is energy efficient or not
  • Whether your dishwasher is new or not
  • Whether you live in a hard water area or not

Can You Stop a Dishwasher in the Middle of a Cycle?

You can stop a dishwasher in the middle of a cycle!

Contrary to popular belief, if you open your dishwasher mid-cycle, your kitchen will not be transformed into a scene from Titanic. Fortunately, dishwashers do not fill up with water as they wash the dishes. This means that you can open yours mid-cycle and slip in that last, rogue dirty plate without fear of opening an aquatic park in your kitchen. It also won’t do any damage to your machine.

So what will happen if you stop your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle? It really depends on which phase the dishwasher is in when it stops. But here is what you can expect when you open it:

  • A whole load of steam
  • A couple of splashes of water
  • If your machine is halfway through a drying cycle you may have to press the start button again. Only do this if it doesn’t automatically start drying again when you shut the door. 

Conclusion

A dishwasher that runs for a very long time is frustrating. It’s especially irritating if you cannot get things clean from lunch in time for dinner. A machine that runs for a long time could also be a drain on your electricity and water bill. I hope this article has shown you different ways that you can reduce the run time of your dishwasher.

If this article has helped you, then why not check out some of our other articles and free guides? You could even sign up to our email list! 

Have a great day!

-Craig