Dishwashers are the ultimate kitchen assistants—whether you’re cleaning up after a Thanksgiving feast or a Tuesday night dinner, these appliances help make short work of your plates, glasses and silverware. But sometimes dishwasher cycles can last longer than you’d expect. Is this normal, or a sign that something is wrong? 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.

How long does a dishwasher cycle take?

While it depends on the cycle you choose, most dishwasher cycle times can last anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours. The average dishwasher run time can vary based on sensor readings, how dirty your dishes are or how long it takes to heat water between cycle phases.

Whirlpool® 3rd Rack Dishwasher with the door open and dishes inside

Has the average dishwasher run time increased?

If you used to have an older dishwasher, you may remember that it likely took less time to wash your dishes than your newer dishwasher. That’s because of advances in technology, as well as changes in federal energy and water use guidelines.

Today’s dishwashers use less water and energy than older models, making them more efficient than dishwashers in the past. That means they need to run longer to get the same level of performance and allow sensors to assess whether your dishes are being properly cleaned.

Person placing a mug in the 3rd rack of a Whirlpool® Dishwasher

How do I know if my dishwasher cycle times are too long?

If you have a new dishwasher, you may notice that your first cycle runs for a fairly long time. This could be due to sensor calibration, so don’t interrupt this cycle! Instead, let it run its course. This will help your sensors adjust to ensure good performance. Check out the explanation of dishwasher cycles for their typical cycle times and uses. 

If subsequent dishwasher cycle times seem to take longer than necessary, there are a few possible explanations. First, it may be due to your dishes. If your dishes are especially dirty, the dishwasher sensors will default to a longer wash cycle to ensure they’re cleaned properly. If you have hard water, limescale or mineral buildup, this could interfere with sensors and cause them to default to a longer setting. Using dishwasher cleaner tablets on a monthly basis can help clear away this build-up.   

If you’re still concerned about your dishwasher’s cycle times, try running several of them and timing how long they last. Compare your results to the cycle times listed in your user guide. If there are major discrepancies, you may need to contact a technician to service your appliance. For Whirlpool® appliances, you can schedule service online or by phone: 1-800-253-1301 Monday–Friday, 8AM-8PM (EST).

Interested in an upgrade?

Make the most of your time by investing in a dishwasher with a 3rd rack that helps you free up space in the racks below.

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