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8 dishwasher cycles explained

Dishwashing cycles use different temperatures, times and energy to offer the appropriate clean for your dishes. Deciding on which dishwasher cycle to use depends on what you’re washing and how dirty the load is. For example, a Normal Cycle should be your go-to for lighter, day-to-day messes, while a Sensor Cycle can help you get the right clean for any load.

Keep in mind that cycle availability, water and energy usage varies across dishwashers, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations. Read on to learn more and find the dishwasher cycle that fits your cleaning needs.

Person places dirty dishes on top rack of dishwasher Person places dirty dishes on top rack of dishwasher
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1. Normal Cycle

A Normal Cycle can be used to wash and dry most everyday dishes without heavy soil. It cleans average amounts of leftover mess, without using extra water, heat or extended time to get the job done. 


Estimated wash and heated dry time: 2:43 to 3:09

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2. Quick Wash Cycle

Using more water, energy and heat for fast results, a quick wash cycle, sometimes called a 1-Hour Wash, can be completed in around an hour depending on your dishwasher model. This is a good choice for quickly cleaning up a load of lightly soiled plates, bowls or other essentials you need in a hurry.


Estimated wash and heated dry time: 1:33 to 1:48

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3. Sensor Cycle

The Sensor Cycle automatically selects the right dishwasher wash and dry settings for your load, depending on temperature, soil level and load size, using only the amount of water and energy needed. It’s a good option for loads with mixed items, varying levels of soil or just about any combination. 


Estimated wash and heated dry time: 2:23 to 3:26

Cycle tip: On average, newer dishwashers run longer cycles than most older models, but use less water and energy to get the same level of performance. Learn more about how long dishwasher cycles run and why.

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4. Heavy Cycle

The Heavy Cycle on your dishwasher, sometimes called the heavy duty or pots & pans cycle, uses extra water and higher temperatures to tackle hard-to-clean items. This is best used for heavily soiled pots, pans, casserole dishes and grimy tableware.

Learn more about how to load pots and pans in your dishwasher for optimal cleaning.

Estimated wash and heated dry time: 2:44 to 4:16

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5. Prewash Cycle

Prewash cycles, like Whirlpool brand’s Soak & Clean, allow you to soak dishes with dried or baked on food. This helps save time, since you won’t have to worry about presoaking dishes before adding them to the dishwasher. Some dishwasher models also feature a rinse only cycle, which can be used to rinse dishes right after use to keep food from drying on before a full cycle is run.

Estimated wash and heated dry time: 6:23 to 8:07

Cleaning tip: Get the best clean for your dishes and optimize cycle performance by properly loading and positioning items in your dishwasher. Learn the best way to load a dishwasher to help you get clean dishware and cookware with every load.

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6. Delicate Cycle

The lower temperature of a delicate cycle, also known simply as a glass or light cycle, is best used for fine dishware, crystal or fragile items. The reduced temperature helps avoid damage from high temps or strong bursts of water knocking items over.

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7. High Temp Cycle

Use the High Temp Wash option on your dishwasher to cut through tough baked-on food or greasy residue on your dishes. This is accomplished by raising the main wash temperature to a minimum of 130°F. This higher temperature helps improve wash and dry performance when paired with the use of rinse aid.

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8. Sanitize Cycle

Some dishwashers feature a sanitize cycle or Sani Rinse, which raises the main wash and rinse temperature to sanitize dishes and glassware. Learn more about the dishwasher sanitize setting.

Selection tip: Dishwasher options can be added to certain cycles to further customize cleaning. Keep in mind that adding options may increase the cycle time or energy use. Explore Whirlpool® dishwasher models that feature options like 1-24 Hr Delay, Hi-Temp Wash, Heat Dry and Sani Rinse Options.

Clean dishes in a dishwasher Clean dishes in a dishwasher
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Heat Dry

The Heat Dry Option uses a heating element to generate hot air that is then circulated around your dishes to quickly evaporate water and help speed up the drying process. Keep in mind that choosing this option will add around 30 minutes to the length of the cycle, depending on your dishwasher model.

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Extended Dry

The Extended Dry Option either increases the final rinse water temperature or lengthens the time that Heat Dry is active. This option, with the use of rinse aid, provides better drying performance and helps reduce those pesky water spots on your glassware or dishes.

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