There's no doubt about it: dishwashers save us a ton of time. We no longer have to spend up to an hour or more processing the day's dishes with a sink full of soapy water and a bunch of towels on hand. Washing your dishes in a dishwasher uses less water than hand washing and is also a lot more sanitary: today's dishwashers heat the water to 140°F or higher to blast away germs.
However, if you're dealing with a dishwasher not drying properly, it can be tempting to revert to the old ways! Before you throw in the towel or call a repair service, we have seven quick fixes you can try to improve your dishwasher's drying performance. If it's time to buy a new model, check out our dishwasher buying guide!
Newer dishwashers have moved away from the old heated dry method in order to conserve energy. The upside of this is that new methods like condensation and fan-assisted drying are less likely to melt plastics! The downside is that your dishes may not be as thoroughly dry as they used to be.
Sometimes the reason for a dishwasher not drying well is due to a simple issue that you can fix on your own. Although we offer repair services for the appliances we sell, we know that sometimes people want to do their own troubleshooting steps. So let's dig into a few quick fixes for a dishwasher not drying!
1. Unload the Lower Rack First
We often put our plastic containers and cups on the top rack. These items are more likely to collect pools of water that can spill on the items on the lower rack as you unload them. Plastics are harder to dry than ceramics, glass, and metals, so your dishwasher not drying problem may be due to a lot of plastics rather than due to a flaw in the dishwasher itself.
2. Use a Rinse Aid
"Rinse Aid" may sound like another product gimmick, but they can actually be pretty useful: they help water bead up and roll off of the items in your dishwasher during the final rinse, instead of the water "sticking" to your dishes. A Rinse Aid can also be helpful for issues like water spots on glassware and mineral scale due to hard water. If you have soft water, you'll need less.
You might see rinse aids promoted for reducing water spots on glassware, but they help with drying as well. There are a variety of brands available, from popular dishwasher detergent brand Cascade to earth-friendly Seventh Generation. Newer dishwashers often have compartments for rinse aids that you can fill up for multiple uses, and these dishwashers can even alert you when you're running low. Many manufacturers recommend using these products, and they may be worth considering if you're going crazy from your dishwasher not drying!
3. Choose a Cycle with a High Heat Final Rinse
Especially if you have a condensation dry dishwasher, one of the best ways to get water to condense off of your dishes and onto the dishwasher tub is to make the final rinse a hot one. Again, note that plastics resist drying because they cool down more quickly than other materials.
Look for heated final rinse options like SaniRinse, or heavy-duty cycles like Pots & Pans. You can refer to your dishwasher manual to choose the right cycle or option, since different manufacturers use different names for their cycles. Finishing the cycle with a hot final rinse will help make the condensation dry method more effective.
(Check out our free Dishwasher Buyer's Guide for more information on dishwashers - click below to download!)
4. Check Your Hot Water Heater Settings
If your dishwasher can't get up to those hot water temperatures it needs to make the condensation dry effective, the result may be a dishwasher not drying. For the best results, the water entering your dishwasher needs to be between 120-150°F. This is especially important if your dishwasher model is one that does not automatically heat the water to a certain temperature (some dishwashers will heat water to 140°F before starting).
You should also check that there is hot water available when you run the dishwasher. For example, if you like to run the dishwasher in the morning after everyone has showered, or in the evening when your hot water heater is set to turn off for the night, your dishwasher may not have hot enough water to do a proper wash and dry.
Making sure your hot water heater settings are correct can also help reduce cycle times, since your dishwasher will need to use fewer fill cycles to bring the water up to temperature. Some higher-end dishwashers will even pause the cycle to increase the water temperature. So if the water going into your dishwasher is at that 120°F sweet spot, you'll have cleaner, dryer dishes more quickly!
5. Try the "Flash Dry" Method
The emergency situation: you've been struggling with your dishwasher not drying, but you're having company over and want your nice plates freshly cleaned and dried. The "flash dry" method is easy if you get the timing right: just open the dishwasher door after the final rinse and drain. The cooler air outside will pull the hot, moist air out of your dishwasher to leave your dishes. This can take up to ten minutes depending on what items are in the dishwasher, but it's a lot better than hand-drying with towels!
Set a timer on your phone or oven if you want an extra reminder to flash dry your dishes after the final rinse and drain!
Fun fact: some Samsung dishwashers basically have this feature built-in, automatically popping the door open when the cycle is finished to help speed up the drying process. As of 2019, Bosch is incorporating a similar features into their dishwashers!
6. Avoid Overloading Racks & Free-Flying Plastics
There needs to be enough space between the plates and other items in your dishwasher for air and water to circulate freely and for the drying process to work as intended. Place cups, small bowls, and dishwasher-safe plastics on the top rack. Some dishwashers come with clips to secure lightweight plastic items - loading these items securely will help prevent them from flipping over and then filling up with water during the cycle.
Plates, silverware, and larger items generally go in the lower rack. Depending on where your dishwasher sprays water from, you'll want to make sure that any large or oddly shaped items are not blocking the spray arms from being able to move freely and reach all areas of the dishwasher.
Try not to overlap items, such as leaning plastic containers against each other, as this can impede proper cleaning and drying.
7. Check for a Manual Heated Dry Option
Although heated dry is becoming less common since it requires so much electricity, some dishwashers still come with this option. However, you may have to select it or turn it on manually! Check your dishwasher manual to see if this option is offered. Different brands and models will have different heated dry buttons and options. Some cycles will include heated dry, while others will not. For example, in Whirlpool dishwashers with heated dry, you'll need to manually select the Heated Dry option for the Quick Wash or 1-Hour Wash cycles.
Note that not all dishwashers offer a heated dry option anymore, so that's definitely a feature to ask about if you're shopping for a new dishwasher. An experienced salesperson can help you weigh the pros and cons of different drying methods and help you avoid the dishwasher not drying issue entirely!
That sums up our tips for dealing with a dishwasher not drying. If you're still having trouble with your dishwasher, we recommend contacting a local repair service to take a look. Sometimes the cause is simple, and sometimes it requires a professional to diagnose and fix it! And if you're looking for a new dishwasher, check out our reviews of the best dishwashers of the year!
Did any of these tips work for you? Do you have more recommendations for people struggling with this issue? Leave us a comment below - We'd love to hear from you!
Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in November of 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.