You probably use the Normal Wash cycle on your dishwasher for regular loads, as well as the Heavy Duty cycle for tougher jobs. But have you ever taken a look at your dishwasher’s sanitize cycle? Learn more about the sanitize cycle on your dishwasher by reading through these common questions and answers. 

A dishwasher third rack loaded with cups and bowls

How does a dishwasher sanitize cycle kill 99.999% of food soil bacteria?

Dishwasher sanitize cycles use hotter water and longer wash times to kill 99.999% of food soil bacteria. They’re required by the National Sanitation Foundation to heat water to a minimum of 150°F, although some dishwashers may go above that. A sanitize cycle will typically increase the heat during the main wash and finish with an even hotter final rinse.

Sanitize settings can add up to 1.5 hours to your cycle. On the dishwasher console, they will sometimes be labeled as a “Sani-Wash” or “Sani-Rinse” add-on to existing cycles, and should be accompanied by a light that will tell you if the load has been successfully sanitized. The Sani-Rinse option on a Whirlpool® dishwasher will eliminate 99.999% of food soil bacteria and can be added to a normal, sensor/auto or heavy cycle. There’s no need to load the dishwasher differently or go through any separate steps to run a sanitize cycle.

Wine glasses being sprayed in a dishwasher

Should I use detergent with the dishwasher sanitize cycle?

Yes. During the Sani-Rinse option, the hot water does a good job cleaning, but detergent is always needed to lift stuck on food and grease off dishes.

How often should I use the sanitize setting on my dishwasher?

The sanitize cycle is great for tough loads and occasional deep cleaning, but not necessary for everyday washes due to the extra time, energy and water they use. Using a sanitize cycle as directed by your dishwasher, or at least once a month, could help kill 99.999% of lingering food soil bacteria a normal wash didn’t get.

Sparkling clean stainless steel inside a dishwasher

Should I use the sanitize setting to clean my dishwasher?

While a sanitize cycle will kill food-soil bacteria, you'll want to use a dishwasher cleaning product to get rid of any streaks or residue on the inside of your dishwasher. Products like the affresh® dishwasher cleaner usually recommend using a normal cycle rather than a sanitize cycle. Learn how to clean a dishwasher in three easy steps.


Looking for more ways to keep your kitchen tidy? Check out our collection of trash compactors today!

Find more info on cleaning dishes and laundry

Man loading a dishwasher in a modern kitchen

How long do dishwashers run?

We’ll explain why dishwashers can sometimes take a while to complete their cycles, and how to know if your appliance is performing at its best.

Stainless steel dishwasher in a modern kitchen

How to properly load a dishwasher

A properly loaded dishwasher also ensures more efficiency and better cleaning so you can save time and energy.

A woman putting away cleaning supplies in a laundry pedestal

Laundry and kitchen spring cleaning list

It’s the best time to tackle your forgotten kitchen and laundry tasks. Learn more about how to spring clean in this spring cleaning checklist.

Gold home heartbeat logo over image of a tablet with Whirlpool blog page displayed in the background

home heartbeat

Ready for more tips, home hacks and appliance guides?

Was this article helpful? Pass it on