what exactly do my different dishwasher cycles do?

Posted by smol on

Many of us just use the same dishwasher cycle every time we run our machine, but have you ever wondered what all the other programs are for? For example, which cycle uses the least amount of water? And just how long should each dishwasher cycle last? 

Most dishwashers have around 3 main cycles to choose from; a basic/normal cycle, an intensive cycle and an eco program. BUT some machines now also offer additional options or cycles and it can feel a little confusing. 

does each cycle really make a difference?

Well, yes. The program that you choose impacts the results you get. Depending on the program that you choose, you’ll be using different water temperatures and different water amounts as well as varying rinse times and drying times. This all makes a difference on how long it takes to wash your dishes, how much the cycle is costing you and how good of a clean you end up with.

let’s start with the basic 3 

Of course the names may vary depending on your machine but if you have a dishwasher you’re likely to have a normal, an intensive and an eco cycle.

your normal cycle is… 

  • An everyday cycle designed daily washing-up
  • Going to use water temperatures of between  55ºC and 65ºC
  • Perfect for plates, cups and cutlery
  • Going to last around 1 to 2 hours

your intensive cycle is… 

  • Especially good for heavily soiled items that would usually need soaking
  • Going to use higher water temperatures of around 70°C
  • Also going to use more water and energy (so will cost more)
  • Going to take 2 hours or more
  • Not a great option for glassware or delicate china

your eco cycle is… 

  • Great for everyday lightly soiled items
  • Going to use around 20-40% less energy and water (so costs less)
  • The most environmentally friendly option for washing your dishes
  • Going to take around 3 to 4 hours to run.

For most of your daily dishwashing requirements these are probably all you would need… however many machines have additional programs that are worth a quick look.

the half load 

This is useful if you don’t have much to wash BUT BEWARE! It can use up to 90% of the water and energy of a full load. This makes it a poor option if you want to save energy and money. Much better to wait til the machine is full and run your usual program.

the quick wash 

Handy for lightly soiled items that are needed in a hurry! In fact some only take 30 mins. However to get results in less time your machine will probably use more water and also cut down on drying time. It should get most items clean… but they’ll probably emerge a bit wet.

delicate glassware 

Perfect for glassware and china that can be sensitive to higher temperatures, these cycles are usually set to 40°C. Lower temps reduce the likelihood of chips or breaks. When you’re loading china and glass always ensure they don’t rest on one another - this also helps protect them from damage.

the pre-rinse 

This won’t clean your dishes like a full program and doesn’t use any detergent but it’s useful if you intend to leave things in your machine for a while before running it. If you’re planning on washing your dishes immediately then don’t bother with this - it’s going to waste water and energy as most programs start with a general rinse anyway. 

Always scrape food residue into the bin before your items go into the dishwasher though. 

the auto or sensor wash 

This is another everyday cycle to choose on many modern machines. It detects how dirty the items are in your machine and adjusts the water temperatures, wash length and water amount accordingly. If your machine has this setting - it’s a good replacement for the normal program.

go eco for the everyday 

Of course we’d recommend the eco cycle for your everyday use. Yes, it’s going to take a little longer but the savings on your energy bills and your lower carbon footprint more than make up for this we think. And with modern detergents like smol all-in-one dishwasher tablets you won’t need to worry about cleaning performance. Your dishes will come out as clean as your conscience.

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