Types of Dishwasher Cycles and How Do They Work?

A dishwasher has multiple washing cycles with different temperature settings. Each washing cycle performs a specific function according to your load. Other than this, washing cycles save your energy, time and are also water-efficient.

Now, the question arises how will you decide which washing cycle is to select? So, the answer is; the selection of an appropriate washing cycle depends on the following factors.

  • What you are washing
  • How filthy your load is

Dishwasher Cycles

A dishwasher starts its cycle by draining the remaining liquid left after the previous cycle through a discharge pump. Then water enters from the sides to fill the water tank or reservoir. In most dishwashers, in-built setting warms the water to aid in sanitization. After the water reservoir gets filled, the water pump starts to spray water and soap over dishes, and the washing cycle continues.


More or less, every dishwasher has the same washing cycles. The names may vary depending on brand, but the working of each cycle is the same. The following cycles are found in every dishwasher.

  • Normal/Daily Wash
  • Automatic/Sensor Wash
  • Heavy Duty/Intensive Wash
  • Fast/Quick Wash
  • Delicate/Glass Wash
  • Eco Wash
  • Pre-Wash/Rinse
  • Sanitize Wash

Working Details of Dishwasher Cycles

Each washing cycle has a specific cleaning and washing task to perform. Some wash cycles run at high temperatures for sanitization, while some are suitable for glass dishes. The details of these washing cycles will help you understand their working better.

Normal /Daily Wash

Normal wash is also called the daily wash cycle in some dishwashers. As the name suggests, this wash cycle is best for washing routine loads. Most people use this cycle in their routine and don’t bother to try out other washing cycles. For normally soiled dishes, this cycle is perfect to use. But for baked food dishes and heavily soiled dishes, it’s not recommended.

This wash cycle doesn’t use high temperature or extra-long wash time. Thus, it is only suitable for normally soiled dishes.

Normal wash

Automatic/ Sensor Wash

Automatic wash is the newest feature that is found in recently launched dishwashers. Only one button controls the washing cycles in such dishwashers. An automatic wash cycle detects the level of messiness and dirt on your dishes. After evaluating, it will select the wash cycle’s temperature, duration, and intensity.

The general temperature range of this wash cycle is 45-65 degrees centigrade. This wash cycle will select the temperature according to the dirt on your dishes. Some dishwashers may have this cycle under the name “Sensor” or “Pro-wash” cycle. This cycle is suitable for mixed load and soiled dishes.

Heavy Duty/Intensive Wash

It’s pretty much clear from the name that this wash cycle is suitable for intensive dirty plates and dishes. Heavy or Intensive wash cycle uses more water and energy than normal wash cycles. It cleans out the baked-on foods and other stubborn stains on dishes that would typically need soaking. The optimum temperature for this cycle is around 75 degrees centigrade. But it varies in different dishwashers.

Not every dishwasher has this cycle, but those offering a heavy-duty cycle may have this with another name. “Pots and Pans” and “Chef” cycles are other names of this intensive and heavy-duty cycle.

Heavy duty cycle

Fast/Quick Wash

This rapid wash cycle washes your entire load within one hour. The Fast or Quick wash cycle uses extra water and high temperature to clean dishes as soon as possible. It decreases the cleaning time, but the actual time depends on your dishwasher’s model and brand.

Some dishwashers like Smeg offer this category a 16 minutes ultra-quick wash cycle. This wash cycle also has some other names like “Quick,” “Turbo,” “Express,” and “Rapid Wash” cycles.

Delicate/Glass Wash

Delicate dishes require extra care during washing. Glassware, fine china, and other crystal utensils require special care and gentle handling. The delicate wash cycle has a lower temperature, around 40 degrees centigrade. Moreover, in this cycle, the intensity of spray on the dishes is kept gentle to avoid knocking down the dishes.

Before placing your fragile dishes into the dishwasher, check whether they are dishwasher safe or not. This dishwasher cycle cleans out your sensitive dishes gently. You can also find this cycle under “Light Wash” in some dishwashers. This is best for normally soiled and fragile dishes.

Eco Wash

Eco wash cycle is an environment-friendly washing cycle that utilizes less energy and water than other dishwashing cycles. This cycle uses a low temperature of around 45 degrees centigrade; hence the washing duration will be longer up to 180 minutes. Besides this, the eco wash cycle skips using heat to dry the utensils. Instead, it prefers to air dry the dishes to save energy.

In this wash cycle, water, temperature, and time are adjusted to save energy. You can find this cycle with other names like “Eco-Program” and “Energy-Save” in various dishwashers.


Almost every dishwasher offers a pre-wash or rinses cycle. In this cycle, water is sprayed on the dishes to loosen the food particles. It’s not an actual wash cycle; instead, this cycle only helps to keep residues away from your dishes. Some of the manufacturer recommends not using detergents in the pre-wash cycle.

The rinse cycle is helpful when you only have a few dishes to wash and doesn’t need a full wash cycle. This washing cycle also has other names, like “Pre-rinse” and “Hold and Rinse” wash cycle.


Sanitize Wash

Sanitize wash is a high-temperature cycle that offers deep cleaning or sanitization. This dishwasher cycle is best for sterilizing baby bottles and cutting boards. Moreover, this cycle raises the efficiency of main wash cycles by increasing temperature to sanitize glassware. Some dishwashers have this cycle under the name “SaniWash.”

Dishwashers have a variety of washing cycles to offer. After getting the knowledge about each cycle, you can now choose the washing cycle according to your requirement and preference.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long do dishwasher cycles run?

Most dishwasher cycles run between 1.5 hours to 4 hours in general. But it depends upon how dirty your dishes are and which washing cycle you select. The quick wash cycle takes less than an hour to clean dishes at high temperatures.

2. Can you open your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle?

Yes, you can open your dishwasher in the middle of the cycle. It can interrupt your cleaning process but is not messy at all. Upon opening, it could be a little splashy but definitely not cause flooding in your kitchen. Moreover, you will have to press the start button again to continue your cycle after closing the lid carefully.

3. Which is the best dishwasher cycle to use?

For routine load cleaning, “Normal Wash” is the best cycle to opt for. This wash cycle doesn’t use extra water, high temperature, or longer periods to wash dishes. For light and medium soiled dishes, this cycle is perfect. While for heavily soiled dishes, you will have to go for other options.

4. How long is a dishwasher eco-cycle mode?

The Eco-Wash is water and energy-saving cycle that runs at slightly lower temperatures than other cycles. It approximately takes 180 minutes to complete washing at 50 degrees centigrade and rinsing at 55 degrees centigrade. This wash cycle is suitable for normal to medium soiled dishes.

5. How to reset the wash cycle on a dishwasher?

You can reset your washing cycle by pressing the start or reset button on the dishwasher’s control panel. But if your dishwasher doesn’t reset after that, you will have to reboot your dishwasher. Turn off the power of your machine to reboot it, and then set your desired washing cycle.


  • Stephen Powers

    Appliance repair guy from Washington. I am majorly experienced in dishwashers, water filters and refrigerators, AMA on my twitter account.

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