Many dishwasher cycle options are available… and this section of our buying guide explains some of the standard and specialty cycles for rinsing, cleaning and drying.
Most dishwashers come with at least 4 choices of washing cycle.
The reason is that a load of dinner dishes may require a cycle different from that required by a load of pots and pans.
It can be useful when buying a dishwasher to understand a few things about what goes on inside during the cleaning process.
Basically, a dishwasher works by pumping water up through the wash arm, which makes it spin. This slings the water for a few minutes all over the dishes. Then, the dirty water is pumped out and the process is repeated several times during the cycle. Generally, on about the third go round, dishwasher detergent is released.
Once the washing cycle is done, the rotating arm sprays clean water on the dishes to rinse away any remaining detergent or food particles. Finally, a drying cycle, using either air or steam heat, evaporates the residual water.Now to explain this in a little more detail…
Most dishwashers today feature a pre-wash cycle that will rinse off loose particles. Water pumps in through the spray arm to rinse the dishes and then the soiled water is pumped out and the process repeats two to five times prior to the main wash cycle.
During this initial dishwasher cycle, the tub is filled with water. A valve opens up and allows the water to flow. Most models feature a float switch that will turn off the valve if the level of water becomes too high for any reason to prevent overflowing.
Once the pre-wash is complete, the dispenser opens and the detergent is released as the main washing cycle begins.
The detergent mixes with the water, creating a cleaning solution that pumps through the spray arm. This causes the arm to rotate so all of the items in the machine are washed.
The water is heated to temperatures typically around 120°F to 160°F depending on your dishwasher or the program you select.
The action in this cycle is the same as in the pre-wash cycle, but the main washing cycle lasts much longer.
In some dishwasher models, the water is pumped into the tub through a self-cleaning filter. This ensures that the dishes are washed with clean water. Once the main washing cycle is complete, all of the water is pumped out of the dishwasher.
Some dishwashers feature an intermediate rinse cycle to remove any remaining residue from the surface of the dishes using cold water.
In the final rinsing cycle, the rinse aid is dispensed into the water, which is usually heated to quite high temperatures. This dishwasher cycle rinses off any detergent left behind from the main washing cycle.
One the dishes have been washed and rinsed, the machine will begin the heated drying cycle. A heating element heats up the tub to dry the dishes. Older model dishwashers used to have a fan as well as heat to dry the residual water from the clean dishes.
In addition to the standard cycles that are included on most dishwashers, many of today's models also include a number of cycles that are designed for specific tasks:
In some models, the same pump is used for washing and pumping out the water, while other models feature separate pumps.
The models that use the same pump for both functions have a drain solenoid that directs the water into a drain. Some dishwashers reverse the pump so it will pump backward through the drain as opposed to through the washing arm.
On the models with separate pumps, the dishwasher continues to wash until almost all of the water is gone. This maximizes the efficiency of the machine.
So that’s an overview of some of the dishwasher cycle and wash options available.
We encourage you to ask your appliance salesperson to explain the cycle options in the models you are considering. They can make quite a difference in the efficiency and performance of your dishwasher.