Dishwasher Running For Too Long? Here’s 5 Reasons Why


Is your dishwasher running for too long?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I know how frustrating it can be to have this happen, especially when you’re concerned about the impact this may have on your utility bills.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place to get this issue fixed.

Dishwasher cycles usually range from 1 to 4 hours. However, the run time varies depending on different factors, such as the selected cycle, the soil level of your dishes, dishwasher efficiency, water hardness, and even the age of your appliance.

Read on to learn why your dishwasher is running for too long and how to fix it!

Why trust us? This article was written in collaboration with James Blackford, our appliance repair expert. James has over 16 years of experience as an appliance technician, works as a Master Technician for SquareTrade, and runs his own appliance repair company.

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 do dishwashers take so long?

The following reasons are probably why.

#1 Your Dishwasher Is Newer… And Slower

Is your dishwasher quite new? You might be surprised to learn that newer dishwashers take more time to run than older models!

In my experience, the main reason new dishwashers run for a long time is that the motor is smaller and more energy efficient than old dishwashers.

This means the motor doesn’t have enough power to run the upper and lower spray arms at the time, so there’s a component known as an “actuator” that alternates the water supply between the upper and lower racks. Unfortunately, this takes a lot longer to do the job!

There are actually 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.

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:

  • Dishwashers and sinks typically share a hot water line, so briefly place your hand under the running water in your sink to check the temperature. If it feels excessively hot, and you need to pull your hand away after just a few seconds, the temperature is probably within the desired range (120 degrees). This temperature is ideal to dissolve soap and dry your dishes faster. You can also use an external thermostat to measure the temperature.
  • Use the right washing detergent to prevent performance issues such as excessive sudsing that can lead to leaks.
  • Clean the dishwasher with a tablet cleaner or vinegar at least once a month.

#2 The Dishes Are Very Dirty

Modern dishwashers include sensors, commonly known as “Auto Wash”, “Smart Wash”, or “Auto Sense”.

These sensors will detect the level of soiling on the dishes and adjust the cycle duration accordingly. 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
  • Put your dishes on a “heavy” or “intensive” wash cycle when the plates are very dirty

#3 The Water Heats Slowly

The average dishwasher cycle reaches temperatures of up to 160° F. How long it takes for your dishwasher to reach this temperature depends on the speed of the water heater and 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.

#4 The Dishwasher Is Energy-Efficient

Does your dishwasher have an energy star rating? You can find these ratings on some modern dishwashers.

These dishwashers can help us do our bit for the planet and save up to $35 a year on our electricity bill, but they can come at a cost.

Modern energy-efficient dishwashers wash slower than normal dishwashers, as they use less water and 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

#5 You’ve Got 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.

Remember the sensors we discussed earlier (Smart Wash, Auto Sense, or Auto Wash)? Well, mineral deposits could build up in the sensors’ lens and affect their accuracy, which can cause the dishwasher cycle to take longer than usual.

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 and sanitize your appliance every 6 months.
  • Place a cup filled with 1/4 regular vinegar on the top rack. As your dishwasher fills with water, the cup will gradually release vinegar during the wash, which will help to tackle any buildup and keep your dishwasher clean.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of table salt to the soap dispenser before adding the soap to both compartments. If you live in an area with hard water, this will clean more efficiently, help maintain the dishwasher and make the glasses more sparkly and pretty.
Add salt to your dishwasher's soap compartment
If you live in an area with hard water, try adding salt to the soap dispenser.

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’s 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 is a good rough estimate for cycle times. It will vary depending on how dirty your dishes are, how quickly the water heats up, whether your dishwasher is energy efficient or not, and water hardness.

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

Yes, 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. 


That about covers it! Here’s a quick summary of everything we’ve discussed so far:

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

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!


Hi there! I’m Craig, and I’m the founder of Appliance Analysts. When it comes to appliances and anything electrical, I’ve always loved opening things up, figuring out how they work, and fixing them. This website is where I share free advice from myself and our experts to help our readers solve their appliance/HVAC problems and save money. Read more